Twenty-six family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) workforce members from Bangladesh, India, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Philippines working in non-profit organizations, academia, research institutions, and FP/RH networks came together for four sessions during the 2022 Asia Learning Circles cohort to share and learn from each other’s practical experiences, through structured group dialogues, on what works and what doesn’t in engaging men and boys in FP/RH.
“…Learning Circles gathered all the same-minded people in one platform, discussing interesting topics.”
Highly interactive and small group-based, Learning Circles provides the needed space for program managers and technical advisors working in FP/RH to virtually meet and explore, brainstorm, build, and share experiences and practical knowledge with a small, trusted group of peers in just four live sessions.
In between live sessions, participants continued to reflect and exchange knowledge and ideas with each other through WhatsApp. In this cohort, some posted their photos on what’s going well in their programs or shared relevant materials they created (like this video from Pakistan developed under the Aawaz II program that was shown to communities through local cable channels). Others shared their current strategies in engaging men and boys and their dreams for FP/RH in their country and in the region.
Within the first session, in addition to getting to know each other and setting expectations, each participant reflected on the biggest challenges for engaging men and boys in FP/RH in the region. Some of these challenges included:
Breakthrough Action’s conceptual model for engaging men and boys in FP called Know, Care, Do and the Passages Project’s Life Course Approach were used as guiding frameworks throughout all sessions. These tools helped participants discuss how to support men and boys in reaching the ideal stage of being equal partners, clients of sexual and reproductive health services, and agents of social change, and how to apply a life course perspective in FP/RH programming for men and boys.
“I believe the problem starts from the mindset of people where they don’t talk about it and consider it as a taboo … I wish that we create such an environment where people do not have to whisper in each other’s ears while discussing FP/RH. It’s about time that we realize [that] overgrowing population is a big issue and it needs our attention.”
During Session 2, participants identified and shared their exceptional program experience in engaging men and boys in FP/RH using two knowledge management (KM) techniques — Appreciative Inquiry and 1-4-All.
Based on individual and group reflections on their exceptional program experiences, the participants identified the following as the success factors in engaging men and boys in FP/RH:
When asked what changes need to happen either within the country or in the region for these success factors to be incorporated into programs, participants noted restrictive social norms and practices on FP/RH were the biggest challenge.
“…to begin with, we need to target the existing social norms and practices that restrict our men and boys to raise their issues honestly, [and to] seek guidance from the right people and programs. Basically [we should] normalize FP/RH as [an] equal and [an] important need and responsibility for men and boys.”
In Session 3, through a peer-to-peer coaching method called Troika Consulting, participants had the chance to ask for help and get immediate advice from others on practical steps they could take to address the major challenges they face in engaging men and boys in FP/RH. The table below shows the challenges the participants explored and the advice they received from their Learning Circles peers.
Other challenges shared include creating intergenerational impact in addressing social taboos and myths on FP/RH, engaging boys in FP/RH conversations in school without being seen as disturbing the school’s ecosystem, and changing people’s perspectives to see FP/RH as an important aspect of a person’s overall well-being.
“Social stigma is still continuing in the rural areas. People do not want to share their queries related to family planning to anyone.”
In the last session participants developed specific and relevant commitment statements within their power and control on how to better engage men and boys in FP/RH. These commitment statements build off of strategies and approaches they discovered through discussions with colleagues during the Learning Circles sessions. Commitment statements are an evidence-based behavioral science method that help one to stay on track. Some of the commitments made were:
“FP services delivered in an integrated manner, political will generated to make RH/FP a priority agenda, unmet needs covered, and women empowered on reproductive health [issues] … this is my dream, if we don’t deal with women health issues, we will not be able to deal with population and environment issues.”
“I envision [a] society where people can talk about FP/RH issues without any hesitations. All have age-appropriate knowledge, [and] access to comprehensive information/services when needed without judgment.”
Through Learning Circles, FP/RH workforce members from Asia were able to grow their knowledge and strengthen their understanding on issues in engaging men and boys in FP/RH, to network and build relationships with colleagues facing similar challenges, and to generate new ideas and practical solutions in improving FP/RH program implementation. Simultaneously, they also learned new KM tools and techniques that they can use in their organizations to facilitate creative ways in exchanging knowledge and effective practices.
Do you want to know more about the KM tools and techniques used in Learning Circles and how to do it? Check out this resource! Interested in learning more about how to apply knowledge management in your work? Send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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