What would the world look like if men were eager to work together with women to fight for gender equality?
When you walk into a garment factory in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a training for workers on the topic of family planning is probably the last thing you would expect to see. It’s unexpected, but refreshing. Each worker sits with their eyes fixed on the trainer, listening to each word and raising their hands eagerly with questions. When you look closer, you might be even more surprised to see that this traditionally women-only training called HERhealth, is actually filled with both men and women: line operators, supervisors, managers. They are husbands, partners, fathers and brothers.
It’s amazing to see how curious and eager all the men are to learn about women’s health, specifically about the female reproductive system. In a country where such issues can be taboo, especially for men, this is the first time many of these men are hearing about the female reproductive system, women’s menstrual cycle, and how they can practice family planning together with their wives or partners. They are fascinated, and want to know what they can do to ensure that their partner stays healthy and protects herself.
I can help my wife and support her more. And it is good for both of us.
ShareHope, a social business that runs health and education programs for workers in the Haitian garment sector, has been running the HERhealth program in numerous factories in Haiti since 2014. The curriculum is typically designed for women, but ShareHope decided this time together with the factory management to open it up to men as well. And the impact has spoken for itself. There is a buzz among the managers (most of them men) about the effect this co-ed training has had on their factory and workers’ lives.
These fathers and husbands explain that they have been inspired to become more active partners in their homes. Some of them are now helping with purifying water, cleaning fruit and vegetables, and even with cleaning the house. Others say that they have begun to have conversations with their wives about family planning and want their daughters to know about their cycle.
The transformation goes beyond the division of labor at home. The information they have received is changing the way they treat the women in their lives. The men say that they have come to respect their wives more and want to be more faithful to them. Some single men admit that they want to be more committed to their girlfriends and not have multiple partners. Many male participants have even become advocates for women in their communities, sharing what they have learned with other men in their communities and raising awareness on the issue of family planning.
One man summarized it all: “I guess I was just missing the tools to be a better partner. Through the HERHealth training, I have more information and I can put it into practice at home with my wife and family; I can help my wife and support her more. And it is good for both of us!”