Playing their part: Men work towards improving women’s health

Community Listening Groups

In Gourcy, in the Northern Region of Burkina Faso, Farm Radio International partner Radio Savane FM recently set up community listening groups to listen to their programs about maternal and child health every week.

It’s part of the the second phase of the Project to Improve the Health of Mothers and Children under 5 (PASME 2). PASME 2 is an initiative of World University Service of Canada (WUSC) in partnership with Laval University and Farm Radio International. It is supported by Global Affairs Canada within the framework of Muskoka initiative, in partnership with the Burkina Faso Ministry of Health.

The ultimate goal of the project is to “contribute to the reduction of maternal, infant, and child death in Burkina Faso.” The program is implemented in the health districts of three regions: the Central-West, the Northern and the Eastern Regions.

In the village of Tangzougou-Yargo, in the Gourcy district, there is a male community listening group made up of men over the age of 25. Dera Mahamadi leads this group. Though elderly (he’s over 60), he is strong and committed to community activities, mainly in the field of health. He is convinced that programs on maternal and child health are a great opportunity for women and men to protect the health of mothers and children under 5.

Mahamadi is also an important member of his religious community.

According to his beliefs, he recorded the programs, and encouraged his peers at the mosque to listen to them. The group listens between the evening prayers. After listening, the group exchanges advice and discusses the show.

Mahamadi says that many believers, who before didn’t go with their spouses to health centres, do now. He illustrates this through a story about his youngest brother:

“My brother Ali is a Wahhabi (Sunnite Muslim), he has been reluctant about letting his wife go to the health and social promotion centre because in his opinion, another man should not treat his wife. Now, thanks to the listening of the programs and the discussions and advice, Ali himself takes his wife and his children to the centre for consultations in the event of diseases or pregnancy.”

In this approach, Mahamadi is helped by other members of the listening group who spare no effort to share the information with other people in the village. Indeed, it should be noted that male community listening groups are set up not only to educate men on the importance of engaging in maternal and child health, but also to promote dialogue between couples regarding important decision making.

This way of doing things under the initiative of Mahamadi and other members of the group has both helped anchor the community listening group in the community, and also made men more aware of the importance of being involved in mother and child health.

All of this success is due to the efforts of Farm Radio, which through the PASME 2 project has tackled maternal and child health by awareness raising programs with radio partners that interact with community listening groups. Some of these groups, especially those that are very active and firmly committed to their information sharing mission, rise to the rank of local actors able to support the process of behaviour change so dear to Farm Radio.

About the author: Idrissa Garba is a socio-anthropologist specializing in health and reproduction who trained at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. Garba is our Knowledge Management Officer in Burkina Faso, and is a specialist in monitoring and evaluation, research and learning, with 10 years of experience in community interventions and using radio in the heart of our strategies.

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