A group of energetic young men is going round Manyoni District, Singida region sensitizing men to engage themselves in reproductive health.
They are under a project named Tanzania Men as Equal (TMEP) which seeks to encourage men to become more knowledgeable in sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR). This reporter interviewed some of the members of the team and filed this story…
It begins with laughter and ends up with a serious tone. Peer educators on male involvement in reproductive health address a public rally, specifically on reproductive health rights. Suddenly a group of artists engulfs the rally, wielding their toys they have made from clay soil.
They start wielding their toys as they show some of the habits that men do to their spouses like raping, not wanting to help their spouses in domestic chores and disliking taking their wives to clinics.
After that they ask the public if such habits are rampant in their village. They all reply in unison, “Yes, there are plenty.”
A person may a statement like this, “ In fact some of them are here with us.”
Peter Musa is one of the members of the Tanzania Marriage Care Education Foundation (TAMACAEFO) composed of 25 energetic youth. They use drama, toys, comics to stimulate change among men in their areas so that they are proactive in reproductive health rights.
“By using comics, toys and drama we make more impact in our crusade in making men more responsive to reproductive health matters,” Peter Thomas says.
“We use the toys for example to act on our behalf. We make them play. We show how women are raped by men, we show how men can help their spouses in fulfilling house chores,” he says.
He says one of the most successful performances was our maiden performance at Kintinku Division in Manyoni last year where a great number of people witnessed us performing.
“I can remember some men sobbing publically after we performed a play depicting a harassed pregnant woman by her spouse,” he recalls.
“The end result is that men promised to change. They vowed not to beat their wives any more,” he says.
Angelina Wilbrod, a ward coordinator of the TMEP says using toys and drama works much more effectively than mere words.
“We are able to make more people change in their bad habits against women. We even use this method in educating the youth to change their unsafe sexual behaviour,” she says.
Emmanuel Swila (43), a health attendant at Mwanzi village and a youth peer educator says, she uses traditional theatre art in stimulating change in his locality.
“We advise men to help their spouses to fetch water, cook, and perform other house chores instead of leaving them to their partners alone,” he says.
“What makes them effective is the fact that after introducing a topic, like sexual harassment, the people attending the public meeting prolong the topic by conducting a debate on the magnitude of the people in their localities,” he says.
The topic is extended to the point that sometimes those who perpetrate the habit in a particular village are named in public. It becomes very shameful sometimes for those who are pinpointed, but it works all the same,” he says.
Ramadhani Hamis, a locally trained theatre artist says his group is invited in many sensitization campaigns, be it in health, cultural and social.
“There are six people in Manyoni who have been trained to make the toys while in Singida there are eight. Also in Singida Urban there are six who are trained as peer educators. We join forces in educating men to be proactive in reproductive health rights,” he says.
Singida and Rukwa regions have been earmarked for the project gearing at making men equal partners in sexual and reproductive health like family planning, care of expectant mothers and safe sex.
TMEP Project Manager Cuthbert Maendaenda emphasizes that the project makes sure that families exercise their rights to sexual care and reproductive health as a basic human rights .
It also aims at increasing access to accurate information and dialogue on sexual and reproductive health rights while making sure that there is high utilization of reproductive services including family planning, HIV and Aids prevention, care and treatment for both men and women.
According to Maendaenda, the project targets Rukwa and Singida because they are relatively poor and underserved by sexual and reproductive health and rights services and projects.
He says that statistics suggest that women’s sexual and reproductive health rights and needs are not being met and therefore a need to engage men and help them change attitudes and behaviour.
According data, the percentage of young men and women aged between 15 and 24 years with comprehensive knowledge about AIDS in Singida are 23 percent for females and 43.1 percent for males. At the national level the percentages are 39.7 and 42 percent for males.
The percentage of births taking place in a health facility in Singida is 59 percent.
In Singida region the project would cover Singida Rural, Singida Urban and Manyoni Districts.