What Women Want: Fathers play a key role

By Faridah Luyiga, Communication Manager, White Ribbon Alliance

As the world celebrates Father’s Day, White Ribbon Alliance and partners are calling upon all current and prospective fathers to get involved in the “What Women Want” campaign. For far too long, reproductive and maternal health is seen as primarily women’s responsibility. But the fact is, fathers occupy a special position of influence with the women and girls in their families. It’s your responsibility to support the health and welfare of your wives, daughters and other loved ones. We know that with responsibility comes a lot of questions – questions that aren’t
necessarily easy to ask or answers that aren’t readily available to men. We have an easy place for you to start: listening.

Take Alice who lost her mother at five years and was entirely brought up by her father in Kampala, Uganda.

“My father was and is still, my closest confidant,” 33-year-old Alice reveals. “He had brought me up warning me and showing me the dangers of early unprotected sexual engagement like sexually transmitted diseases and dropping out of school due to pregnancy. We talked about many things until I got candida (fungal infection) at 14 years. I feared that he would think I had become not only sexually active but careless as well. I suffered for a long time until I could not take the vaginal itching and red rash any longer. I was literally trembling when I approached
him and I started off by apologizing, pleading innocence and denying any knowledge about what was happening to me. I was so relieved when my father told me he suspected it was candida and he knew that it was not an entirely sexually transmitted disease. He took me to a health centre where it was confirmed to be candida and I was treated,” Alice relates her experience.

For Alice, having a father who was well-informed about her sexual and reproductive health and what she was going through as an adolescent was a huge part of how they built and maintained a trusting relationship. When you listen to the women and girls in your life, and understand what matters most to them for their health, you will be in a better position to support their needs.

Pregnancy is another example. As a current or prospective father, if you understand that pregnancy is a vulnerable stage for your partner and that listening to and considering her maternal care needs and expectations you will help her have a healthy pregnancy. In turn, fathers, families and communities are saved the possible emotional, financial and societal trauma of a complicated pregnancy and childbirth, trauma that can result in death of the woman and baby. When women’s needs are met during pregnancy and childbirth, the experience is joyful, healthy and sets everybody up for success in this new or growing family.

 Frank and Sharon care for their family in Johannesburg, South Africa. Copyright Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action. Photograph by Karin Schermbrucker

Frank and Sharon care for their family in Johannesburg, South Africa. Copyright Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action. Photograph by Karin Schermbrucker

The WhatWomenWant Campaign

Quality reproductive and maternal healthcare needs of women and girls form the foundation of the “What Women Want” campaign. This two-year initiative launched on April 11, 2018 is focused on getting one million women and girls to articulate what they most want in terms of quality reproductive, maternal healthcare.

Each woman/girl defines quality maternal care differently. Some define it as receiving treatment free from complications, while others define it as accessing affordable treatment at facilities within quick reach. Some look at quality as health facilities that maintain proper records for easy follow up or giving birth in a clean and friendly environment with privacy or accessing sexual and reproductive information and receiving services without discrimination by age, social or economic status, religion, physical ability, among others.

As a father, you can support “What Women Want” by asking the women in your life about their priority request for quality reproductive and maternal health care services. You can use the survey here. The same survey is being answered by women all over the world stating what quality care means to them. Findings from the survey will be compiled and used to engage political leaders at community, district/state, national and international levels to drive tangible improvements for women’s and girls’ reproductive and maternal health.

This Father’s Day, White Ribbon Alliance and partners call upon all current and prospective fathers, to commit to improve maternal outcomes by participating in the What Women Want campaign and helping the voices of women in your life be heard. For step by step instructions on administering the survey, please visit www.whatwomenwant.org/resources, or email info@whatwomenwant.org with any questions.

You can interview as many women as possible and listen to their expectations and definitions of quality maternal care. This is because quality care matters to you as a father and to the women in your life.

Happy Father's Day.

Also read: When women get what they want, men benefit