‘I’M NOW MAN ENOUGH’ Community drama helps Dowa man realize the family obligation

Peter Mpuzela of Msitsa Village, Traditional Authority Chakhaza in Dowa district is aged 25 and married to Evelyn Archangel. This is a young couple that just got married in March 2018. The wife is now five months pregnant and goes to an ante-natal clinic at Chakhadza Health Centre.

The husband is a mobile vendor who sells mangoes between Mponela and Dowa markets. Like many women, Evelyn started going to the antenatal clinic alone and life was just as normal. However, on 17th November 2018, Evelyn chanced a Hope Community Theatre Group performance on the importance of involving husbands in ante-natal clinic sessions.

The theme directly raised the average Malawian home. Men are the key decision-makers on several things, including the nutrition of the family because they are the ones that look for food.

Thus, knowledge on childbearing would have a very positive impact on the management of families, and her husband needed to attend the clinics.

Such knowledge would, for example, contribute towards reducing stunted growth, which the Malawi Health Census of 2016 pegs at a disturbing 37 percent for Malawi and 39 percent for Dowa District.

Just like most men, the underlying reasons for the husband’s denial to escort the wife to ante- natal clinics were associated with altitude, beliefs, and gender stereotypes. These are socially constructed and can be changed.

A day came when the wife convinced the husband to watch one of the performances with her. This was the turning point. The husband was touched by the regrettable reality of how issues of the ideals of the national health policy which encourages couples to attend ante-natal clinics together.

Evelyn went back home to share with her husband the message she got from the play. But not so unusual of the men in her community, her husband fumed upon the idea of escorting his wife to the hospital.

To him, the solution was for her wife to stay away from such plays.

The husband’s reaction left Evelyn confused and with no other idea than to let her husband’s resolution be. But days on, it lingered in Evelyn’s head that the message in Hope CTG’s play had something to still take home.

Evelyn realized that in as much as men carry with them a socially driven idea to leave the antenatal clinic for women, the information shared was even more important to men, who are mostly the breadwinners in the average Malawian home. Men are the key decision-makers on several things, including the nutrition of the family because they are the ones that look for food.

Thus, knowledge on childbearing would have a very positive impact on the management of families, and her husband needed to attend the clinics.

Such knowledge would, for example, contribute towards reducing stunted growth, which the Malawi Health Census of 2016 pegs at a disturbing 37 percent for Malawi and 39 percent for Dowa District.

Just like most men, the underlying reasons for the husband’s denial to escort the wife to ante-natal clinics were associated with altitude, beliefs, and gender stereotypes. These are socially constructed and can be changed.

A day came when the wife convinced the husband to watch one of the performances with her. This was the turning point. The husband was touched by the regrettable reality of how issues of maternal health have been left in the hands of women alone. He was moved to take a step towards ensuring that his wife is well taken care of — from pregnancy, through delivery, to the growth of the child.

That day the husband confessed to having not ever deeply thought about taking a serious role in issues of parentage. He promised his wife to be there for her more and agreed to be escorting her to antenatal clinic.

“The start was hard as I thought I would be a laughing stock for falling prey to my wife’s insistence. I also feared my peers would say my wife had cast a spell on me or given me charms (love potion) to obey her word,” says the husband.

He now proudly narrates how they has benefited from the counseling sessions at the clinics. Now he takes his part in helping the wife take care of the pregnancy by choosing the right foods, for example

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