September 2015

'Women now wear trousers': men's perceptions of family planning in the context of changing gender relations in western Kenya

Withers M, Dworkin SL, Zakaras JM, Onono M, Oyier B, Cohen CR, Bukusi EA, Grossman D, Newmann SJ. 'Women now wear trousers': men's perceptions of family planning in the context of changing gender relations in western Kenya. Cult Health Sex. 2015 Jun 2:1-15 [Epub ahead of print]

Gender inequity has been closely linked with unmet need for family planning among women in sub-Saharan Africa but the factors related to malefamily planning disapproval are not well-understood. This qualitative study explored men's perspectives of gender roles and cultural norms as they pertain to family planning. Twelve small group meetings were held with 106 married men in Nyanza Province, Kenya. Shifting gender relations made the definitions of manhood more tenuous than ever. Men's previous identities as sole breadwinners, which gave them significant control over decision-making, were being undermined by women's increasing labour force participation. While many men viewed family planning positively, fears that family planning would lead to more female sexual agency and promiscuity or that male roles would be further jeopardised were widespread and were major deterrents to male family planning approval. By addressing such fears, gender-sensitive programmes could help more men to acceptfamily planning. Increased family planning education for men is needed to dispel misconceptions regarding family planning side-effects. Focusing on the advantages of family planning, namely financial benefits and reduced conflict among couples, could resonate with men. Community leaders, outreach workers and healthcare providers could help shift men's approval of joint decision-making around family size to other reproductive domains, such as family planning use.