UN asks men: ‘Be partners in maternal health’
MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) asked men around the world to become partners in maternal health on Tuesday, a day before World Population Day.
In a statement, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA executive director, said men — in their personal capacity and through their position in society — can make a tremendous contribution to change the current situation in which one woman dies of childbirth complications every day.
“Experience shows that men’s involvement and participation can make all the difference. By discouraging early marriage, promoting girls’ education, fostering equitable relationships, and supporting women’s reproductive health and rights, progress is made,” she said.
“Today, on World Population Day, it is time for all men — as fathers, brothers, husbands, community and religious leaders, and government officials — to become partners in maternal health…Let us go forward with the message: No woman should die giving life,” she added.
In the Philippines, Rena Doña, UNFPA country assistant representative, lamented the “sad reality” of men’s “disproportionate influence, if not actual power.”
She said Filipino women usually don’t have control over many decisions — to bear a child or not, the timing and spacing of children, to send a girl child to school or not, what course she will take if she enters college, how early she will marry, and even who she will marry.
“[These cases] still rest on the father in most cases,” she said.
Doña said this decision-making power extends to family planning issues where the women usually “bear the burden of whether to take or not to take that pill, whether to have or not to have that tubal ligation or that IUD [intra-uterine device] inserted.”
Doña called on all male heads of state and government ministers, leaders of religious and faith-based institutions, judges, heads of armies and other agencies of force, village heads, or husbands and fathers, men often wield enormous power over many aspects of women’s lives.
“Clearly, men need to be involved if gender equality is to be achieved and the highest attainable standard of reproductive health for all is to become a reality,” Doña said.
At the same time, she said having more men live new models of maleness makes attaining the Millennium Development Goals more possible.
The MDGs aim to eradicate poverty in our lifetime and ensure a fuller life for all.
“Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger is easily reached if we have smaller families and longer birth intervals, which is a result of contraceptive use. This allows us to invest more in each child’s nutrition, education and health,” Doña said.
By spacing children well or postponing pregnancy, risks to women assure them better care during pregnancy, childbirth, and during the postpartum period.
Addressing men, Doña said: “Finally, your responsible sexual behavior — fidelity to your partner or by engaging in safer sex — can reverse, if not halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections.”