Say ‘reproductive health’ and chances are, you think of women. But too little focus is given to discussion and initiatives around the reproductive health of men and boys – and this is why ‘what about the guys?’ was the focus of a panel discussion that IPS Asia-Pacific organised in Bangkok, Thailand in late March 2011.
The Mar. 28 discussion, organised by IPS Asia-Pacific in partnership with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) East and South-east Asia and Oceania Region, looked into how men think of reproductive health and the gender equations that go into it, and their different needs that programmes need to take into account. Speakers from IPPF cited experiences from recently completed projects in northern Thailand, China and Vanuatu, showing possible way of reaching out to men explaining that gender awareness and sensitivity has add-on values to other members of the men’s families and communities.
Montri Pekanan from the Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand spoke about outreach activities toward migrants from Burma and from other ethnic groups, encouraging them to speak openly about reproductive health issues and also ask about women’s issues they may not be very familiar with. In China, the IPPF project tried to reach out to cab drivers in Beijing and found that while there was more room for discussion today, the discussion of sexuality issues – be it condom use or other issues – remains taboo. In Vanuatu, the challenge of the Vanuatu Family Health Association was how to make the outreach cool also to young men, whom it wanted to reach.
More than 40 participants, ranging from journalists, gender studies students, policymakers and development staffers, attended the session at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, which also saw the launch of a publication by IPS Asia-Pacific on reproductive health of men and boys as part of disseminating information about this in a reader-friendly way. Discussion also touched on the lack of information by men about their own health and difficulty of getting media attention on the subject.
Other speakers also included Anna Whelan Klinken, regional director of IPPF for its East and South-east Asia and Oceania Region; Kiran Bhatia, technical adviser-gender of UNFPA Asia and the Pacific Regional Office, and Thai journalist Sutthida Malikaew.
Regional partners also cooperated with IPS Asia-Pacific on this programme in their own localities and media. A reflection on the event was done by the Asia News Network in Page 22 of ‘Asia News’ magazine ‘Emerging Gateways‘.
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