Women in many African countries have played a leading role in family planning programmes. Today, there are growing calls for a shift in this trend and Nigerian men to urgently take the responsibility of championing use family planning.
It is believed that this strategy would enhance greater gender equity and sexual reproductive health objectives.
Indeed, some school of thought believe that men can be the strong foundation to achieving couple’s use of family planning and gender transformation.
In Nigeria, according to a Study, men who support family planning are five times more likely to have spouses who desire to use contraception. Involving men in family planning programmes can boosts spousal communication and improve gender equitable attitudes.
Similarly, a statistic by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2015 -A Global Contraceptive Prevalence based on the response of married women from ages 15 to 49 revealed low use of contraception by men. It further showed that only 21 percent of men went for direct male method – vasectomy, male Condom, withdrawal method, while other traditional methods were put at one percent.
In addition, the same data on the methods used by women showed that 75 percent of women used female methods- female sterilisation, pill, injectable, implant, IUD).
Further more, the data revealed the Global Prevalence of each option and the percentage needed. For withdrawal method, three percent, male condoms eight percent, Standard Days Method 0.6 percent and male sterilisation 2.4 percent.
This further showed that, men’s knowledge of family planning methods has increased in a number of countries and that male ages 35 to 45 have the most knowledge of contraceptive methods.
Similarly, in another report by Kerry Macquarie et al, 2015, Men with primary education reported knowing 9 contraceptive methods, while, men with higher education reported knowing about 11 more contraceptive methods than men with no education.
To this end, reproductive health experts have said in different forums that there is a need to close the knowledge gap of men in family planning education in order to increase contraception uptake in Nigeria.
Another 2015 National Demographic Health Survey, (NDHS) report revealed that men who are better educated, have more wealth, are monogamous, or live in the urban areas prefer smaller families.
Similarly, a review of NDHS surveys conducted between 1996 to 2006 found that a significant proportion of men in Saharan Africa approve of using contraception to a pregnancy.
In tandem with a growing need for smaller families , contraception is now becoming more increasingly recognised as a shared responsibility between men and women. However, men’s use of contraception remains low due to multiple barriers and challenges that keep them away from accessing and receiving the reproductive health information and care they need.
Experts believe that inequitable gender norms perpetuate stereotypes which exclude men’s role in sexual and reproductive health.
Since the signing into law, the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo made an explicit call for programmes and policies to educate and enable men to play a more active role in reproductive decisions, including, contraceptive method choice and use (Boender et al. 2004; Gribble 2003). ICPD noted that only a few government commit to engaging men and addressing gender norms.
As at 2014, only 22 percent of governments prioritised gender norms and made engagement. Neither does Nigeria’s national policies effectively engage men in supporting their partners to use contraceptive nor does it promote men’s use of male methods.
On the other hand, some countries have successfully integrated policies regarding men’s involvement in sexual and reproductive health. For example, in 2003, Cambodia integrated guidelines on reaching men as family planning users and supportive partners into its 2006 to 2010 national strategic framework for sexual and reproductive health.
Therefore, it is important for African countries, particularly Nigeria to take cognizance of their bulging youth population made of adolescent boys which cannot be ignored. A data by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Reference Bureau, 2017 shows that as at 2015 the youth population from ages 10 to 19 worldwide is 1.2 billion, while adolescent boys from ages 10 to 19 years is 623 million. The data further stated that nine in 10 of the global youth population lives in less developed regions, even as 107 births per 1,000 women from ages 15 to 19 years also occur in least developed countries.
Family planning experts therefore recommend that, it is important to set the stage for boys early to become future users of family planning, supportive and responsible partners. Recall that Nigeria plans to increase its Contraceptive Prevalence Rates (CPR) from 17 percent to 27 percent by 2024. It is time to act.