“The Exclusive Male Extravaganza” – Developing Comfort of Male Advocates Regarding Sexual and Reproductive Health Advocacy

Living in a predominantly male society, it is always difficult to take decisions that are directed towards sexuality. Children have to ask father, wives have to approach husbands or sometimes grandmothers and mother-in-laws refer to their spouses for the sensitive issues relating to their son and his wife. Those of us who are in advocacy can testify that we have to talk to their fathers or elder brothers about the work we plan to begin. What if we involve these young men of society who are going to lead the sexuality related decisions later in their lives as heads or more significant people of the family?

Yes! It will work and we aim to implement it.

In one of the advocacy related outcome based sexuality training we felt that among the participants, there were no young men. As a young man from the same society, I was the advocate and trainer myself and become disappointed thinking how these issues could be worked upon without men from our own communities, where patriarchy and male dominancy is at its peak.

Keeping the results in mind, I advertised an exclusively male sexual and reproductive health outcome based training. Many emails were generated, social media advertisements carried and some young men who could be influential were personally invited. After all the recruitment process we had 14 participants (young men) for the final training.

Participants involved in different activities during the training

The two days successful training exclusively with men included basic sexuality related modules revolving around sexual and reproductive health issues and rights of adolescent population. These included modules of value clarification, gender health and sexuality, pubertal changes, rights based approach and sexual abuse/ harassment.

The basic aim was imparting knowledge, working on their attitudes and providing them the language to talk with various groups regarding sexuality. The ultimate goal was developing comfort regarding SRHR issues which could help them replicate their work smoothly.

Upon evaluation, we found there was a huge transformation in participants. They had a great increase in comfort level while talking about various components of sexuality and with the provided linguistic mastery they were able to communicate with various groups.

The specific data was derived from the comfort level scale provided to participants in the pre and post-test document in the training. Out of the total 14 we have shared the data and graphs of only 11 as the remaining data couldn’t be added because of incomplete information or issues regarding consent.

(Key: VUC = Very uncomfortable, UC = Uncomfortable, C = Comfortable, VC = Very comfortable)

Another great outcome that we observed was that knowledge about concepts of sexuality not only transformed the group of young men but the aim of disseminating that information with other young boys, parents and teachers (that can create an overall awareness to improve this taboo) was successfully achieved with more than 15 sessions in less than three months and many other that are periodically continued. We were really glad upon learning this as we felt we were able to create the desired change.

Snaps from few replications/activities held by participants post to the training

The insight that we had before the training was now more powerful – male inclusion in sexual health can improve sexual health matters at many instances in this male dominant society. Similar to female advocates, they can also involve themselves in awareness and advocacy related strategies and later in policy dialogues to put in more influence and improve SRHR matters in conservative areas. The long term goal is to add more young male advocates for a great pool of future sexual health advocates and leaders.

Sarmad Soomar