Engaging Men and Boys in Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Rise Up Leader Berky

By Jean “Berky” Berchmans Uwimana, Rise Up Leader since 2019, Rwanda

Berky, a Rise Up Leader and medical doctor in Rwanda, discusses the importance of involving boys and men in sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as his work to educate medical students about safe abortion.

A lack of access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information has greatly contributed to the rise of teenage pregnancies and teenage parenthood in Rwanda. I use an edutainment approach to address this challenge and focus on the least covered topics of comprehensive SRHR. I started by concentrating on men and boys and their engagement in family planning because past SRHR campaigns have left men and boys out of the conversation. 

This approach has left a lot of men and boys unconcerned about SRHR issues, whether related to their own self-care or that of their partners; however, when men and boys are fully engaged as equal partners in SRHR — it will transform the world. 

Many SRHR subjects that are rarely discussed because they are stigmatized or considered sensitive are critically important and lifesaving topics, like safe abortion. Through my Rise Up project, SAVE (Safe Abortion Videos Edutainment) project, I use videos to address key topics of safe abortion with future physicians. We look at both legal and medical aspects of abortion and aim to increase their knowledge and capacity to perform safe abortion.

I was inspired to do this because I believe that as a medical doctor, it is an important and life-changing contribution I can make to society. I believe in a future where women and girls don’t die or live a life they didn’t choose because of preventable SRHR causes.

Berky using “edutainment” to teach young people about reproductive health

Since becoming a Rise Up Leader, I learned about leadership and innovation in SRHR. This changed the narrow scope I used to have about SRHR into a bigger and broader understanding of what a vital contribution it is to society. 

So far I have succeeded in creating SAVE videos that are focused on issues at the heart of my work, like medication, abortion, surgical management of safe abortion, addressing the ministerial order on safe abortion, and safe abortion best practices. I have delivered the content to hundreds of future physicians so far and I hope to keep doing more.

Berky speaking to a group of medical students about safe abortion

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted my work very much by affecting my ability to lead and participate in in-person gatherings and trainings with future physicians due to social distancing measures. Still, we try to use existing social media tools, including WhatsApp, to effectively guide the work and keep future physicians engaged.

My hope for the future is a world where men and boys are equally concerned by SRHR topics as women and girls, and where women and girls can confidently and safely choose and have access to whatever is best for their lives in terms of family planning and their SRHR needs.