In a region where more children are seen as a sign of wealth, family planning is almost unthinkable, especially among the menfolk. But in Niger, family husband schools that teach men how to plan and take care of their families have become very popular.
With the support of Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian organization empowering people to recover from crisis, build better lives and transform their communities for good, the open air schools are designed to educate men on how and why they should be actively involved in their homes particularly when it comes to family planning.
“I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve learned how to give my wife advice about exclusive nursing. I help her with housework. I take the child[ren] when she is cooking,” Laminu, a father of four told Mercy Corps in one of the meetings.
With these lessons, the organization hopes to endow men with the necessary information on how to become responsible husbands and fathers so that they can partner with their wives to make informed decisions in as far as raising their families is concerned.
They are taught how to space pregnancies, improve household sanitation and provide balanced meals to their families.
Challenging Traditional Beliefs
The schools also encourage men to help their wives with basic chores such as cooking, laundry and fetching water, most of which were traditionally considered women’s work.
In some African communities, it is considered a taboo for a man to cook or even set his foot in the kitchen. These archaic beliefs have left women to bear the greatest burden of raising their families.
Other communities detest the idea of family planning because they still consider children part of a man’s “wealth”. This kind of retrogressive thinking is largely to blame for the high levels of poverty on the continent.
But through the husband schools, men like Laminu have come to appreciate the importance of being involved at home and are now assisting their wives important household chores like tending the garden and fetching water.
In 2016, Mercy Corps facilitated 124 husband schools in 62 villages across Niger to educate men on the need to actively involve themselves in the task of raising their families.
Women are also excited by their husband’s new habits because the welfare of their families now rests in four hands instead of two.