It takes a village: Engaging men, women & youth in ‘women’s issues’

“It takes a village to raise a child.” This proverb has many important meanings, but one related truth is that maternal, newborn and children’s health shouldn’t be a woman’s issue; it should be a priority for the whole family.

We’re working hard in Burkina Faso to change attitudes towards maternal and child health, encouraging men to see their important role in the health and happiness of their family.

This is a key theme in our new mini-drama, which will soon be aired in three local languages: Goulmantchéma, Mooré and Lyélé. In this drama, male characters are used to convey key messages and act as role models, hopefully changing the attitudes of Burkinabè men and other influencers in society such as mothers-in-law.

This work is part of a larger effort to address the quality of health services and limited use of these services in Burkina Faso. In 2015, the infant and child mortality rate was 81.6 per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality rate was 330 per 100,000 live births.

World University Service of Canada and the University of Laval have been working hard to change these numbers, thanks to the support of Global Affairs Canada. They have been training staff at health clinics, as well as community-based health workers.

But a key element of this work is increasing awareness of these services and the number of people accessing them. Only one third of pregnant Burkinabè women visit a health clinic for the recommended four consultations, increasing their risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

We’ve been on air with three radio partners since September 2017 to talk about maternal, newborn and child health. Our participatory radio programs have engaged men at every stage, so that the radio program can challenge preconceived notions about maternal and child health and spark a discussion within the communities who tune in.

These programs – airing in East, North, and Center-West regions – are popular. Just last year, these programs heard from 6,000 listeners who called or texted in to the program.

So far, our project has engaged more than 1,000 men, women and youth in 29 listening groups and the radio broadcasts have been broadcast to nearly 1 million people living in the North, East, and Centre-West regions.

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