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PRESS RELEASE: Sierra Leone’s “Husband School” Wins International Recognition

May 22, 2013  • Institute Contributor

Contact: Elise Mann
Aspen Global Health and Development
The Aspen Institute
202-322-8142
[email protected]

 “HUSBAND SCHOOL” WINS INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION

  Sierra Leone Honored for Educating Men on Women’s Rights and Health

 

Geneva, May 22, 2013 – Today, Sierra Leone will receive an Honorable Mention at the prestigious Resolve Award ceremony for its work engaging men in gender equality. The Honorable Ambassador Yvette Stevens of the Sierra Leone Mission to Geneva will accept the honor on behalf of Sierra Leone at an event during the 66th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Resolve Award is granted by the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health (GLC), a group of eighteen sitting and former heads of state, high-level policymakers and other leaders who support increased access to reproductive health. 

While most reproductive health programs are designed to reach and serve women, the Fambul Initiative Network for Equality (FINE) takes a different tactic; FINE works to educate men. “We realized that men have significant impact on women’s rights and health,” says Reverend George Buannie, Executive Director of FINE. “Men can use their strength to harm women,” he adds, “But they can also use their strength to protect and support their wives and daughters.” 

To that end, FINE trains volunteer educators to teach men about the harmful effects of rape, gender-based violence, teen pregnancy and female genital mutilation. FINE volunteers also encourage men to respect their wives’ childbearing preferences, to care for them throughout pregnancy and childbirth, and to make sure they give birth in a hospital.

One of FINE’s most popular initiatives is called “husband school,” where men learn to treat women with greater respect. At a recent husband school class in the village of Binkolo, a group of 50 men, ranging in age from their early 20s to their 60s, listened to the teacher. 

“How many of you have ever beaten your wives?” the teacher asked. About two-thirds of the men raised their hands. “And how many of you would do it again?” The same hands came up. “How many of you want to see your mother beaten?” The men sat silently; not a single hand was raised. The teacher spoke again: “When you beat your wife,” he said quietly, “you are beating someone else’s mother—your child’s mother.”

FINE has trained hundreds of volunteer educators, who in turn have reached some 10,000 tribal chiefs, husbands and religious leaders. FINE also partners with the Ministry of Health to arrange transport and lodging so that rural women can give birth in hospital. And FINE trains paralegal advocates to provide referrals, counseling and legal assistance to victims of rape and gender-based violence.

The results have been dramatic. In the villages where FINE volunteers work:

Rape and gender-based violence have declined by 60 percent

Maternal mortality has declined by more than 60 percent

Hospital births have increased by 75 percent 

Contraceptive use has increased from 30 to 51 percent

As a recipient of the Resolve Award Honorable Mention, FINE’s work will receive international acclaim. In addition to the Honorable Mention to Sierra Leone, this year’s Resolve Award winners are The Gambia, Kenya and Zambia.

The Award will be presented by GLC Chair Joy Phumaphi. Ms. Phumaphi, who also serves as Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), is the former Minister of Health for Botswana. 

Sierra Leone and other Resolve Award winners can inspire other nations, says Phumaphi. “There are many barriers to reproductive health access. It might be abusive husbands who do not want their wives to use family planning. It might be a lack of funding, or political opposition. But, as the Resolve Award winners have shown, all of these barriers can be overcome.”

As the world’s nations discuss development strategies to replace the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, Sierra Leone and other Resolve Award winners can point the way forward. “The Resolve Award winners show what we can do—and what we must do—to lead the way to universal access to reproductive health and rights,” says Phumaphi.