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Investigating a masculinities-based approach to increase male acceptance of family planning in Kenya

Sara Newmann, MD, MPH, University of California, San Francisco

Project abstract

Male partner resistance to FP has been extensively cited as an obstacle to female contraceptive use in sub-Saharan Africa. Scholars emphasize that gender relations cause men to resist FP and call for the incorporation of male gender norms into sexual and reproductive health programs, however a focus on exploring which specific norms of masculinity constrain men’s acceptance of FP has been lacking.

We conducted formative research to explore how men perceive FP and how men, women and providers perceive men’s role in FP involvement. We found that many men appreciated FP’s benefits but opposed their female partner’s contraceptive use because it undermined the ways they thought of themselves as men. Specifically, men spoke about how FP use threatens masculine norms related to fertility, land, wealth, sexuality, and male household authority, which provokes anxiety about the inability to fulfill prevailing expectations of manhood. Nevertheless, both women and men felt that couples should make FP decisions together and wanted men to be more involved.

Drawing on our previous research, we plan to develop a theoretically-informed and community-based intervention that strives to increase male acceptance of female partner FP use by addressing men’s fears of a loss of masculinity. The intervention seeks to shift masculine norms associated with FP resistance in the direction of greater FP approval through FP education, small group workshops, and community campaigns. The findings from this study will inform a future cluster-randomized trial evaluating the impact of a masculinities-based approach to increase male FP acceptance on women’s contraceptive prevalence.


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