PEPFAR Gender Special Initiative: Male Gender Norms Initiative

The Male Gender Norms Initiative (MNI) was implemented in Ethiopia, Namibia, and Tanzania (2007-2008) to address harmful male norms and behaviors that increase both men and women’s vulnerability to HIV. The MNI worked with local partners to introduce evidence-based strategies from EngenderHealth’s Men as Partners outside link and Promundo’s Program H outside link to reach younger and older men. MNI focused on increasing the capacity of in-country partners to integrate male engagement (ME) programming in HIV programs through technical assistance (TA) and capacity building by training over 600 people representing government, uniformed services, and faith-based and community groups, and by providing ongoing TA to 40 diverse organizations on integrating ME strategies. PATH led the evaluation outside link of the programs in close collaboration with local partner organizations. Findings indicate that interventions to promote gender-equitable norms can successfully influence young men’s attitudes toward gender norms and lead to healthier relationships.

Lessons Learned:

  • Strategic involvement of partners and organizational leadership is critical. Organizational leadership should be approached early in the process to secure clear support and mandates from government and donors. Ensuring participants and the participating organizations are fully supportive of the themes and objectives of capacity building is essential.
  • Fully engage donors and government partners creatively and persistently to ensure that ME programming is seen as legitimate and is an important investment for the future.
  • Comprehensive formative research requires time, financial resources, and technical assistance up front. Such efforts significantly improve understanding of gender norms and identify important regional and ethnic differences within the country.
  • National advocacy networks must be strengthened so that networks have a space to share information and facilitate collaboration on national legislation and advocacy efforts. Financial and technical support is needed to sustain dialogues between, and capacity among, grassroots alliances and networks to collaborate more effectively.
  • Involve men in health services which are women and child focused which creates a barrier, both cultural and structural, that keep men from becoming more involved in health services such as voluntary counseling and testing and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). Father Support Groups (FSGs) held at antenatal care (ANC) services were an effective strategy in some places to mobilize communities and motivate more male partner engagement in ANC and PMTCT treatment and care. FSGs keep men involved and engaged at the site and create a space for positive dialogue and self-reflection. The prevention of HIV transmission during pregnancy should clearly highlight the role of both parents, not just women, and the crucial roles men can play in the prevention of HIV transmission to their children.

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