The “Best Husband” contest: Encouraging men to take part in the health of mothers and children

A contest to raise awareness about the role of men in maternal, newborn and child health is the particular brainchild of staff at Farm Radio International.

There were 30 candidates in Koudougou, a community in the Centre West Region of Burkina Faso, who wanted to participate in the Best Husband Contest. In order to win this symbolic title, the contestants would have to respond to different questions from a jury about how a man can support his wife or partner with maternal and newborn health.

Kabore Pidi Arouna is a farmer and bike-repair person in Doulou, a village located 12 km from Koudougou. He is a husband and father to nine children — and was among the contestants.

The Best Husband Contest is a fun activity that integrates the engagement of men in the health of mothers and children. To participate, contestants register over the radio. Then, a preselection of candidates is made by a jury, who then visit the contestants’ families and administers a questionnaire. After the visits, the finalists are identified to take part in the last round — held in public in the form of a “jeu public” or “public game.”

A jeu public is a type of radio emission unique to Burkina Faso. Taking place as a community event, the entire population of an area gathers together in a public place to discuss an important topic.* Elimination rounds are held, during which questions are posted to the finalists in order to determine the winner of the game.

In the precise case of the Best Husband Contest, the event was transmitted live over the airwaves of Farm Radio’s partners.

The day of the finale took place in the marketplace under a heavy rain. Radio Palabre of Koudougou, a Farm Radio partner, broadcast the game live and Kabore was one of the three finalists, eventually winning first place.

Kabore responded well to the questions, and during the visit to his community and his household, his wife described the good habits of her husband. Even his community spoke to the same thing. Finally, in order to win, he had to create a song to create awareness among others in the community that he sang during the live broadcast.

Happy with the result, he says “I decided to participate in the Best Husband Contest to become informed and to learn more about the health of mothers and children.”

Kabore is known in Doulou as a community leader.

‘I was interested in questions about the health of mothers and children well before the contest,” he says. “I have the conviction that if everyone in the world had good information, we would know a better, more peaceful social climate in our community.”

He adds: “The Best Husband Contest is a good idea because it permits us to evaluate our knowledge and then those who do not value the health of mothers and infants begin to listen to us.”

Kabore Arouna

When Kabore returned to Doulou with the bicycle he won as the top prize, he was front page news. Youth now ask him questions so that they too can learn from him. He sees one of his duties as a community leader to educate his peers and the youths to become better involved in the health of mothers, newborns and children. It’s a noble responsibility, he says.

Now Kabore meets regularly with 12 youth of different genders and different backgrounds to talk to them about the health of mothers and infants. He is happy to see that this awareness that started in his own family is bearing fruit in the entire community. The youth are more concerned than before, especially thanks to the radio, an essential tool for creating awareness at scale, he says.

The Best Husband Contest should be organized in all villages in order to draw the attention of the whole population to the issues of maternal, newborn and child health, suggests Kabore.

The Best Husband Contest took place under phase two of the “Programme d’amélioration de la santé des mères et des enfants,” better known as PASME2. The competition created a space where participants and the public who attended the games were able to become better acquainted with concepts and attitudes necessary to avoid maternal and infant deaths. It particularly promoted the role that men and husbands can play.

Equally, it was a way of showing the importance of their role in communicating between couples, sharing decisions and taking responsibility for different household chores — all in order to improve couple relationships. The involvement of men in maternal and infant health, as recognized by participants in the contest, improved the overall wellbeing of women, newborns, children, men and communities.

The “Best Husband Contest for the Health of Mothers and Children” was organized by Farm Radio International with the financial support of the Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada, as part of the Programme d’amélioration de la santé des mères et des enfants – Phase 2 (PASME2), implemented by WUSC (World University Service of Canada).

*This story was written and took place in 2019, prior to the current social-distancing safety practices of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the author
Vianney Missumbi volunteered as a communication advisor with WUSC and Farm Radio International in the context of PASME 2.

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