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Stronger Together

19 February 2021
Stronger Together

“My name is El, I am twenty six years old. I live with my husband Vansy in Champasak province. We are new and happy parents. The arrival of our baby safely and in good health represents the power of our love and support for each other. When I knew I was pregnant, the COVID-19 pandemic was already here. It was the beginning and I was so scared and ignorant about the risks for my health and the health of my baby”.

 

“The pregnancy of my wife El made me question myself about my role and how I could be supportive,” says Vansy. Even if in the community, women take care of themselves and follow the decisions of the family elders, such as the mothers in law, I decided to do things differently.”

 

El and I were always sharing our worries together and seeking good support. I didn’t want the bad things I heard about in the village to happen to my wife. There were women who died because of wrong practices in the community.

 

At the beginning of the pregnancy, I tried to obtain as much information as possible on COVID-19. We decided to avoid going outside in crowded places. El was spending her time resting at home, sometimes she walks in the rice fields. I consulted with the village authorities to identify the health facilities and asked a midwife to check on her regularly. We did this because we felt comfortable with the midwives. They explain everything very well, dedicate time to listen to us and continuously give advice. There were times when we attended the check up together. Occasionally, El sees the midwife alone, she has her pocket money for her transportation. I also wanted to give her space to ask questions that she might want to discuss only with the health workers. You know, those intimate matters that you don’t want to share with everyone.

 

“Vansy was taking care of the house work with me. When we eat, he quickly takes the plates to wash them. Many times, he prepared food. It wasn’t as delicious as mine but he was so thoughtful putting the ingredients that contain good vitamins for me and for the baby as advised by the midwives”, says El laughing. “I know other pregnant women in my surroundings. Not all have the same support from their husbands. When they go for a medical check, their husbands do not even ask them what the midwife says or what medication they take or how to help them”. 

 

Maternal health is a key component of gender equity and human rights, and one that enables women to achieve optimal health through the provision of a range of care covering women’s life cycle. For healthy motherhood and healthy families, engagement of men to have understanding of reproductive health and provide support before and during pregnancy and after delivery.

 

The Ministries of Health, of Labor and Social Welfare, of Education and Sports, of Vocational Training and Lao Women’s Union are all partnering with UNFPA to include the male engagement component in relevant community-based interventions, based on global good practice, aiming to protect well-being of men, advance gender equality and fight gender-based violence.

 

Funded by the UNFPA Maternal and Newborn Health Thematic Fund, the UK, Australia and KOICA, the health, social and education sectors run relevant gender-sensitive activities to achieve the Lao Government’s  ICPD25 commitments, aiming to end harmful practices by 2030. They strengthen men and boys' access to knowledge and information to positively influence the norms and bring other males as partners of change, including inside the community. They include training for male health workers, raising awareness of men and chiefs of villages, educating young boys and adolescents on sexual health, in and out of schools, in vocational training centers and through Nang Noi Girls’ Groups, as well as in partnership with the private sector and the local factories to protect and promote women’s rights wherever they are.

 

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UNFPA, the UN's sexual and reproductive health agency, works in over 150 countries including Lao PDR, to achieve zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning and zero gender-based