As a man in rural Ghana, Noah never thought to help his wife with housework or take an active role in raising his children. It’s just not expected of men in his community because gender roles are traditionally defined – men provide financially while women raise children and do domestic work at home and on the farm.
However, a lot changed for Noah when Plan International started a project in his community focusing on changing the birth story by improving access to quality sexual and reproductive health care and education for women, girls and children.
As part of this project, men were encouraged to take an active role in supporting women during pregnancy, childbirth and in the care of newborns. They are also encouraged to make household and health related decisions with their wives or partners, and to participate in household chores. Noah became the first man in his community to sign up for one of our Daddies’ Clubs.
Engaging men to become involved dads and husbands
Daddies’ clubs are community-led peer-to-peer support groups which encourage men to get involved in the health and well-being of their wives and children. Together, men sit down to discuss their views and opinions on everything from gender roles to parenting to keeping a happy marriage.
At the time when Noah joined our Daddies’ Club, he was a father of two and Gifty, his wife, was pregnant with their third child. As a result, Noah learned about the importance of accompanying her to the health facility for her check-ups during and after pregnancy. He also learned how to recognize signs of danger in the first months of a newborns life, as well as the importance of helping Gifty with household chores.
Initially, Gifty was surprised when Noah’s behavior started changing.
“I was not sure about him helping around the house. I asked him why he was doing this and he said he wanted to practice what he had been taught in the Daddies’ Club,” she says.
And even though Noah worked hard to implement what he was learning, he admits it took him some time to adjust.
“My upbringing was very different from how I bring up my children. It was not acceptable for men to help out in the home.” he says.
Leading change in the community
Today, Gifty and Noah are proud parents to 3 healthy children and Noah has become a source of inspiration for men in his community.
“Initially my friends called me names. They said my wife had cast a spell on me,” he laughs. “But now my friends come to me for advice. They see that my marriage works.”
Together, Noah and Giftty make decisions about their family and what’s best for their children. Noah believes that being part of the Daddies’ Club has helped him and many other men challenge their traditional attitudes and changed their ideas of what it means to be a good father and husband.
“Being a father is having children. But beyond that it’s about how you bring up your children – that’s how you become a good father,” he says.
Men and boys can help change the birth story
In many countries around the world, men are most commonly the ones tasked with making household and family decisions, such as how to spend money and when to have children.
Widespread norms around masculinity, and what being a man, husband and father means, can discourage men from participating in caregiving and from seeking out information on sexual and reproductive health, and at the same time leave little space for women to participate in decision-making at home and in communities. That’s why our work emphasizes the importance of men supporting women, before, after and during pregnancy.
Through Daddies’ Clubs and other peer-to-peer support groups, Plan International is working with over 3 million men and boys to engage them as agents of change, helping them pave the way for more equitable gender relations and to change the birth stories in their homes and communities.
If you believe that everyone has a role to play in changing the birth story, then sign your name below.
I stand with Canada to change the birth story because I believe that every adolescent girl, woman and child has the right to be healthy and to live a life free of discrimination.