Engaging Men in Family Planning: Perspectives From Married Men in Lomé, Togo

Men in the study generally supported couples’ use of contraception, especially citing socioeconomic reasons. Some had reservations stemming from perceptions that family planning could facilitate infidelity and promiscuity. They also thought family planning decisions should be made jointly. All men expressed interest in learning more about family planning, preferring dissemination from community health workers, trusted men, and current family planning users. 

Family planning programs have made vast progress in many regions of sub-Saharan Africa in the last decade, but francophone West Africa is still lagging behind. More emphasis on male engagement might result in better outcomes, especially in countries with strong patriarchal societies. Few studies in francophone West Africa have examined attitudes of male involvement in family planning from the perspective of men themselves, yet this evidence is necessary for development of successful family planning projects that include men. This qualitative study, conducted in 2016, explored attitudes of 72 married men ages 18–54 through 6 focus groups in the capital of Togo, Lomé. Participants included professional workers as well as skilled and unskilled workers. Results indicate that men have specific views on family planning based on their knowledge and understanding of how and why women might use contraception. While some men did have reservations, both founded and not, there was an overwhelmingly positive response to discussing family planning and being engaged with related decisions and services. Four key findings from the analyses of focus group responses were: (1) socioeconomic motivations drive men’s interest in family planning; (2) men strongly disapprove of unilateral decisions by women to use family planning; (3) misconceptions surrounding modern methods can hinder support for family planning; and (4) limited method choice for men, insufficient venues to receive services, and few messages that target men create barriers for male engagement in family planning. Future attempts to engage men in family planning programs should pay specific attention to men’s concerns, misconceptions, and their roles in family decision making. Interventions should educate men on the socioeconomic and health benefits of family planning while explaining the possible side effects and dispelling myths. To help build trust and facilitate open communication, family planning programs that encourage counseling of husbands and wives in their homes by community health workers, trusted men, or couples who have successfully used or are currently using family planning to achieve their desired family size will be important.

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