• By placing family planning as a woman’s burden, we inadvertently place the burden of care of children on women as well.
• Don’t be that guy at the nyama joint who lets the myths and misconceptions fester.
We recently had a brilliant thought-provoking discussion on family planning and contraception. If you are a man and your interest just plummeted at that first sentence, then this article is for you.
Popular social-political comedian Kamau Bell Washington publicly documented his vasectomy journey in 2019. Yes, a man called Kamau got a vasectomy! He and his wife were done having children, and for the first time he realised that his wife had been hormonally altering her body for almost a decade.
The burden of family planning fell on her. I am not advocating every man to get a vasectomy, that’s a personal choice. But we are hoping we can make you think a little bit more about the role of men in family planning.
Family planning is the practice of using contraception to control the number of children you have. There are various contraception methods available today, which include the pill, condoms, injectables, IUDs (intrauterine devices), implants, contraceptive rings and diaphragms, emergency contraception, withdrawal and sterilisation. All these methods work differently and have varying levels of effectiveness. Did you know these contraceptive options exist? Do you know how they work? Where do you get this knowledge?
By placing family planning as a woman’s burden, we inadvertently place the burden of care of children on women as well. We’ve all heard the stories where our fellow men have pointed the finger at the woman. “It’s your fault you got pregnant,” is an ignorant statement that allows men to move through the world without facing the consequences of their actions.
Unfortunately, various myths surround family planning. Some men erroneously believe that if a woman uses contraception like IUDs, contraceptive rings or diaphragms will reduce how pleasurable their sexual experience is. Putting male pleasure above women’s sexual health is a dangerous patriarchal narrative. Other popular misconceptions are that if a woman is using a contraceptive method, she is a promiscuous woman and that contraceptive use permanently affects a woman’s fertility in future. Unfortunately, men play a huge role in perpetuating these myths and misconceptions, which always shift the burden onto women. It’s called family planning, and not “women” planning for a reason.
We know young boys and girls are having sex at an early age. How then can we then teach young people about how to lead responsible sex lives? Research by the African Population and Health Research Centre has shown that boys who reported higher levels of sexual activity knew less about sex in general than their female counterparts. Think about that for a second. If you engage in something that you don’t know about, are you really empowered? Some 948 girls in Kenya get pregnant every day and 13,000 girls drop out of school due to pregnancy every year.
As a male ally in the fight for gender equality, advocating access to youth-friendly contraception could be the difference in those astounding numbers. Securing girls and women’s futures is a task we all need to be involved in, and it starts with ensuring their bodily autonomy. Age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education will help bring up a generation of boys turned men who do not operate under a veil of ignorance and take responsibility for their own reproductive health fully aware of the physical and socio-economic consequences of having unprotected sex.
As men, we need to do more for sexual and reproductive health rights. It all begins with having open, healthy and informed conversations with our friends, acknowledging when we don’t know and seeking out the information you need to better understand your own reproductive health needs as well as your partners.
Don’t be that guy at the nyama joint who lets the myths and misconceptions fester. Challenge them. You can influence the men around you to think differently and to seek out the information they need to make informed choices. Take up your equal share of the family planning burden. Get involved in your own and your partners sexual and reproductive health. It’s the responsible thing to do.
Moses Mathenge Kimathi aka Moz is a gospel DJ