A New Cadre of Male Community Health Workers

Engaging men in reproductive health programming for the betterment of their family’s health and well-being

In Puntland, Somalia, men and women struggle to access sexual and reproductive health services due to patriarchal norms which promote male decision-making and limit women’s agency. Given this reality, men are also uniquely positioned to challenge these inequitable norms for the betterment of themselves and women’s health and equality. Somali Family Health Services Organization (SFHSO) aims to work closely with a cadre of new male community health workers to spread positive messages about birth spacing and fertility awareness to men and couples in Puntland, northern Somalia. Through skills-building, outreach to key men’s groups like clans and religious leaders, and gender-transformative lessons, SFHSO hopes to improve communication about fertility between couples, increase the uptake of quality and effective family planning services, and broaden community support and awareness of the importance of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies. Programs engaging men in reproductive health programming are rare in Muslim contexts, but SFHSO sees strong potential within Puntland for social transformation in part by working with male community leaders supportive of women’s right to access essential services and to choose how their partners are included in their sexual & reproductive health decisions.