By: Sallieu Sesay
Men’s attitudes, behavior, and the general level of inequality between the sexes in terms of their intimate behavior and social relationships affect women’s ability to exercise choice and attain positive sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Male dominance physically, socially, and, most notably, in sexual relationships can put women at risk of unwanted sexual encounters, pregnancy, and infection. Better, more open and egalitarian communication between women and men, and mutually supportive reproductive health behavior are not only necessary to the achievement of widely held social goals (expounded upon at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development [ICPD] held in Cairo, Egypt and the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China), but lay a practical foundation for improvement in women’s reproductive health in all key areas, namely: sexuality, safe motherhood, fertility regulation, avoidance of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and childbirth, and children’s health.
In Sierra Leone, how many men can honestly say since they got marriage have been playing key role in supporting the reproductive health and rights of their families? How many men in today’s Sierra Leone can stand up tall and say they accompany their wives to clinic during pregnancy? How many men can proudly say they are always besides their wives when they become pregnant? How many men can stand beside their wives during labour? How many men seats with their wives after their bridal ceremony to consult them how many children they should have? How many men in Sierra Leone prevent their wives from contracting sexual infections, the same to women if the case might be.
The answers to these questions are up to you, because I can’t help you with them, but I would open your mind after reading this article to change your patriarchal mindset that the days of Men’s World is no longer feasible in this time of age. Women are as equal to men; please spear me the Biblical and Quranic ideology about women and men in terms of equality. All I know is in eyes of God and the in the Universal Human Rights Declaration, we are all equal as human beings. Let us navigate from the rhetoric and face reality. Women are not object of rights but subject of rights.
Our country’s figures on maternal and child mortality are very high. Reports have shown that every day in Sierra Leone up to 5 women do not survive childbirth and up to 30 babies die. That woman could have been your sister, mother, aunty, nephew, girlfriend or wife. That baby could have been your son, brother, sister, friend and cousin. It does not have to be like this. More need to be done. We can change this figures as men, as partners, as love and careering husbands.
The government can play its part, but we the men have a major role to play in order to keep our pregnant women safe and healthy during and after pregnancy. We can keep our babies and families alive with proper family planning, accompany ours wives to clinic, cultivate the culture of pregnancy preparedness, engage in protected sex and avoid unwanted pregnancy.
It is important to indicate that Sierra Leone has made significant progress in the Reproductive Health Sector in order to make progressive achievement in MDGs 4 and 5 though clouded with so many challenges as the country has fall shot to meet the MDGs 4 and 5 by 2015.
The country’s 2013 Demographic and Health Survey suggest that some progress has been made towards the provision of basic health services. Between 2008 and 2013, the total fertility rate dropped from 5.1 % to 4.9 % due to an increase in the use of modern family planning methods among married women which doubled from 7% to 16%. Antenatal care by skilled birth attendants increased from 87% to 97%; delivery by skilled medical personnel increased from 42% to 61%. Delivery at health facilities doubled from 25% to 56%. The number of fully-immunized children increased from 40% to 68%. The use of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNS) against malaria for under-five children doubled from 26% to 49%.
This statistics was also reiterated in the statement of the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Samura Kamara when he addressed the 69th United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the follow-up to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development held in New York, 22 September 2014.
The above gains are pointers to the fact that the Government is very proud of these improvements which the country has not been able to celebrate and sustain., as Sierra Leone is currently experiencing an acute drop in women and children accessing health care, which has drastically reduced antenatal and postnatal care and institutional deliveries in this ugly era of a dreadful disease called Ebola.
Furthermore, reports have also shown that multiple factors to the above causes is because women within the reproductive age make up about 60% of the Ebola victims, mainly due to their care-giving role within their families and communities. Challenges include a low literacy rate, fear, stigmatization, myths, cultural issues and a fragile health system.
How do we fix this as men in this Ebola crisis?
Women should not be treated like arbitrage commodities. Arbitrage is an economics term that is used to describe low and high price of the same commodity but has different prices in different markets. It is my belief that women all over the world should have one price in the sense of knowing what they want in their matrimonial homes; the choices they make in terms of when to have children; their right and dignity are protected; their health growth is supported by their male spouses, attach to them economic and social values. They should be heard and given the opportunity to make decisions about their growth not to subject them into the male dominance terrorism. “I AM THE MAN, WHAT I SAY STANDS”. If you are man and act like this it is not fear at all! Accompany our pregnant women to hospital and ensure that we monitor our postnatal wives by ensuring that our children go through their full immunization processes.
Let me conclude with this interesting analogy, how many men want their mothers to be beaten in front of them? I have the answer to this, the answer is none! No man wants his mother to be beaten. But we the men are beaten our children’s mothers in front of them but we take that as complement and as a best way to exercise muscles fatigue. If you do not know you are beating another man’s mother i.e. your child’s mother. Women are very difficult to deal with, but if we understand them better we will have happy and health homes which will in turn makes happy and productive country. Caring men are supper better partners in improving the reproductive health status in the country than many health workers.
By: Sallieu Sesay- Communications Officer Fambul Initiative Network for Equality Sierra Leone (FINE-SL). Sallieu is a Human Rights Journalist and he operates one of Sierra Leone’s leading online news website mysierraleoneonine.com