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MEN as Partners to MEND Maternal Health A World Population Day Initiative

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."
--Dr. Albert A. Bartlett, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Colorado

From time immemorial, the human male has exuded raw power and supremacy over the female. The animal kingdom, too, is no exception to this power equation. This is probably one of natures worst follies, which the planet has lived to regret!

In a remote town in Uttar Pradesh, a man allegedly threw his six year old daughter in a river with a motive to kill; the little girl was battling a kidney ailment for 3 years. The father of six children was burdened with medical expenses and many mouths to feed. He thought it best to end his problem by drowning the expensive child. The situation would have been diametrically opposite if the poverty stricken man had just planned his family well.

The Men Problem .
Statistics show that every sixty seconds an expectant mother breathes her last during child-birth. What happens to the children she leaves behind? And who do we blame for the plight of the women and the children?

In most homes, men have the last word. Women are forced to toe the line, as if in tacit agreement, fearing reprobation. Decisions about sexual activity, frequency of sex, contraception, and family planning are almost always a male prerogative. So much so, that many HIV infected women have only their partners to blame for the spread of infection.

On the one hand we glorify our women, and on the other we show scant disregard for their health and well being. Respect for women, their health and status is clearly absent, especially in families that are below the poverty line.

Today is World Population Day and this day is in recognition of Men as Partners in Maternal Health.

The World population today is no lean figure It stands unbel ievably at 6,604,123,988. China tops the heap with a population of 1,322,049,405 and India trails at number two with a population of 1,130,313,581. The forecast is rather grim for India judging by the present growth rate we may just overtake China to the number one position by 2030!

Therefore, realization has dawned that the key to reducing maternal deaths and controlling the population needs an intelligent strategy that will hit the nail on the head. The approach is to focus on the role played by men as husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons, to empower them with the responsibility of womens health.

Objectives to Improve Maternal Health
A wise man said, "The idea that population growth guarantees a better life - financially or otherwise - is a myth that only those who sell diapers, baby carriages and the like have any right to believe."

To avoid unplanned pregnancies, contraception is a must and all women must have access to it. For expectant women, skilled care during delivery is an absolute necessity. Towards this, there are many shining examples of improvements to obstetric care and emergency care that has reflected in a tangible decline in maternal deaths. Success stories have been recorded in China, Cuba, Egypt, Honduras, Jamaica, and Sri Lanka due to improved midwife services that lowered the rate of maternal deaths by 50 % in 10 years.

It has also been extremely encouraging to note that when men were involved in a particular goal, they rose to the occasion to meet with the objectives. When men were presented with health statistics of women, they began to involve in the health issues of women. Therefore, instilling this sense of ownership is sacrosanct to the objectives of the United Nations Programme, this World Population Day.

Towards this end, many UNFPA programmes will be kick started to sow the seeds of gender equity and womens empowerment in the male psyche. The end goal is to visualize men not only as head of the family but also as caring and supportive partners, owning up for the health of their women. The envisaged initiatives will include men of all ages and will also take into account the cultural, social, and economic background which influences maternal health.

"If the world is to save any part of its resources for the future, it must reduce not only consumption but the number of consumers." B.F. Skinner, psychologist and author

Encore, we say and spread the message of lean, healthy and happy families.


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