The Program

Gender inequality in and outside of the home is prevalent across the globe where cultural and societal norms often dictate that men take on income generation activities without participating in domestic work or child care. This inhibits women’s financial independence and is both a cause and continued consequence of unequal power dynamics between women and men. Gender inequality has been shown to be a key factor in violence against women, which has harmful effects on families and child development. Men who experience violence as children are more likely to repeat the cycle of violence in their own homes as compared with men who do not. In response, the MenCare Campaign* was launched to engage men and women in a critical reflection process about equitable and non-violent fatherhood and caregiving practices and promote children’s and family’s wellbeing. The MenCare Campaign is being implemented by various organizations in 40 countries. Components include media campaigns that promote a positive image of fatherhood and advocacy to promote policies that secure equal caregiving and healthy parenting practices. A key tool of MenCare is Program P (P for padre in Spanish or pai in Portuguese), an adaptable resource that provides concrete strategies and activities to actively engage men in caregiving from pregnancy through a child’s early years.  Program P’s primary components include:

  • Working with health professionals to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary tools and protocols to engage fathers in equal parenting with emphasis on the prenatal stage and the first 6 months of infancy.
  • Group education sessions for fathers (and sometimes mothers) to create safe spaces where men and their partners can analyze and reflect on their roles. Trained facilitators, volunteers or health care workers can facilitate group sessions. Group sessions provide opportunities for discussion, critical reflection, role-play and practice of new behaviors.
  • Community mobilization strategies to promote change at the local level by building alliances and broadening local participation.
  • A detailed implementation manual with specific activities, strategies and program examples of the three primary components described above.

* MenCare is an open initiative that organizations are welcome to join. New materials and resources are continually uploaded (included adapted and new versions of Program P).

Challenges

Those involved in implementing, adapting, and evaluating Program P have faced several challenges including:

  • It can be difficult for men to move beyond the role of “helping out” with domestic work and child care to truly being equal, co-responsible caregivers, but this step is essential in truly addressing the power imbalance.
  • Resistance from some individuals, such as some health care providers or community members, is to be expected. A focus on long-term benefits of gender equality for communities and society as a whole is important.
  • Women’s attitudes can also impede the achievement of gender equality. Including women in conversations about domestic work, child care and gender roles is important.
 
Success Factors

A few key factors related to program success included:

  • Start with positive images of fatherhood and men engaged in caregiving activities, as this is a useful successful entry point to open dialogue around the issue of gender equality.
  • Explicitly target fathers through existing program structures, such as the health sector or ECD programs that offer parenting support or maternal and child health programs. Fathers need to be explicitly invited to participate these programs and told that these programs are for men as well as women. While targeting men, be careful not to elevate the role of fathers above the role women are already paying.
  • Involve fathers from pregnancy is key, as early levels of involvement have long-term impacts on children’s growth and development. Parental leave policies are important in supporting fathers’ ability to be involved early in a child’s life.
  • Program P is free and open source and is meant to be adapted to a particular context.
  • Monitor the implementation process and program impact rigorously to better understand which program components are linked to particular outcomes.
 

Resources

Program P: A Manual for Engaging Men in Fatherhood, Caregiving, and Maternal and Child Health

A manual that provides strategies for engaging men in caregiving activities start at pregnancy and through a child's first years.
Promundo, CulturaSalud, REDMAS
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