“One day, when I returned from work, Ms. Glenda and Mr. Martin from ADS Pro-Familia were at my house, I heard what the volunteering was about, regarding the education of the men in the community, how to teach, how to stop machismo, to be less violent, how to give the talks and visit the clients; they also talked about the contraceptive methods, medicines and many things that would change people's lives, the proposal seemed important to me and I accepted since I like to work for my people”, recalls José.
Since 2008, male participation in sexual and reproductive healthcare in rural communities has been an integral component of the Community-Based Program (PBC), addressing issues of masculinity, behavior, and access to healthcare.
"When I gave the talks on masculinity, they questioned me: 'Why can't you scream at home, if you're the man?' Or 'Who you think you are to say those things?', questions that I also asked myself once", says José. “Thanks to the training I have had and the support of the Pro-Familia staff, I have managed to learn and clarify my doubts. During the process I have had a personal change, I no longer respond if someone seeks me to fight and now, I don’t carry my knife everywhere as I used to, I take care of my own health, I share the responsibilities at home, I take care of my two-year-old son; before volunteering, I thought it was a woman’s job, I didn't do that”, reflects José.
Educational activities on sexual and reproductive healthcare remain a challenge. Yet, health promoters can help break down some barriers through counseling for couples and the provision of contractive supplies - especially condoms - and medicines. “I like the communication I have with the Pro-Familia staff and the training reinforcements, they should keep it that way, because it's the way to learn and do things better in the community,” he says.
“The change begins with oneself and then transmits it to others. I gather men in talks, make visits to their homes, give guidance on prevention of sexually transmitted infections, family planning and not to be violent”, says José. "Older adult men are more difficult to change."
Changing attitudes to contraception
José has seen a change in the attitudes of men in his local community and those small achievements encourage him to keep going. “When men ask me about violence and condom use, I feel encouraged. For example, a co-worker uses a condom and confidently tells me that he does it because he learned from the talks he received, that motivates me to continue guiding towards new masculinities."
For male clients who are referred by their local health promoter for a voluntary surgical contraception (VSC) procedure, the care is free of charge thanks to the Community-Based Program’s special fund. José is aware that there is still work to be done; "the issue of vasectomy is difficult with men in the community, the challenges continue."
“In the community, young people ‘get to live together at an early age (marital union), maybe I cannot change that, but I can help them to be better people, to respect each other. Just as I changed, so can other men,” says José.