UNFPA Program to Engage Men on Papua's Pressing Reproductive Health Issues

JULY 09, 2015

Jakarta. A new initiative by a United Nations agency is set to engage men in addressing reproductive health and gender problems in Papua, which has recorded low contraceptive use and a high rate of HIV infections, as well as a high prevalence of women and child abuse.

The initiative, called “Men Care Papua," was launched in Jayapura on Wednesday by the Indonesian office of the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA.

"By involving men in policy and program discussions we can confront the underlying gender norms and values that lead to discriminatory behaviors,” UNFPA Indonesia representative Jose Ferraris said in his speech during the launching ceremony.

"We can challenge the structures that reinforce male advantage, and strengthen those that support gender equality. By engaging men we learn that when it comes to encouraging family planning, the reproductive health of women, decreasing the rates of violence against women and changing old conceptions about masculinity — men matter,” he added.

Under the new initiative, men in Papua will be encouraged to play an equal role with women in order to improve child and maternal health, as well as to promote sexual and reproductive health.

The program also seeks to encourage men to take responsibility for an equal division of labor in their households, urging them to interact with their partners “with an attitude of mutual respect, promoting relationships that are equitable, healthy and free from violence," Ferraris said.

Local administrations and civil society groups will be involved to support the implementation of the program.

"We see that local stakeholders in Papua are truly committed to working to address these challenges," Ferraris said.

Despite significant improvements in national health outcomes over the years, maternal health in Papua continues to lag behind other parts of Indonesia.

In the easternmost province, 16 percent of women begin bearing between the ages of 15-19 years — a figure that is twice as high as the national figure, UNFPA says, citing local data.

Unfortunately, health providers in Papua are not trained to deal with adolescent reproductive health issues, and hospitals and community health centers are generally unable to provide youth-friendly health services, the UN agency says.

Family planning is also not a common practice in Papua, with a very low use of any modern methods of contraceptives among married couples. The contraceptive prevalence rate in Papua is only 24.5 percent — which is quite low compared to the national number of 61 percent.

The province also suffers from a generalized HIV epidemic, with a prevalence rate of 2.4 percent among 15-49-year-olds, largely due to unprotected sexual intercourse.

Violence against women and children (VAWC) also remains high. According to the National Socio-Economic Survey on VAWC in 2006, Papua had the highest prevalence of violence against women and children in Indonesia.

"It is statistics like these, indicating pervasive gender inequality, which led to Papua being selected as the pilot location for the new male engagement initiative,” Ferraris said.

UNFPA is partnering with the non-profit organization Rutgers World Population Foundation (WPF) in developing the pilot project.