Stop, Reflect, Improve: Using CLA to Engage Men to Improve Women and Children's Health
The Amalima project builds on existing communal initiatives to sustainably improve household food and nutrition security by strengthening access to and availability of food, community resilience to shocks, and nutrition and health among mothers and children in western Zimbabwe. One important project objective is to improve the nutrition practices of local mothers. Our formative research indicated that women did not practice optimal breastfeeding behavior for a variety of reasons, among them men’s attitudes towards it. The research also informed the development of our initial behavior change strategy and approach that reached female caregivers, with men as a secondary audience.
A mid-project survey showed that while some behaviors were improving, others were not—in part because their improvement required male partner endorsement and support. To establish impactful and realistic male involvement goals, we engaged both men and women in a consultative process that generated a list of realistic, supportive behaviors that could be promoted with men. The resultant Male Involvement Campaign leveraged respected local leaders to engage men to lead tailored outreach programs to discuss men’s roles and responsibilities in infant and young child feeding (IYCF). A subsequent case-control study found a statistically significant improvement in the key behaviors promoted by the campaign in the pilot area.
The project’s ongoing collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) approach enables the project team to assess and identify opportunities for improvement and ultimately will help ensure that the project has the right strategies in place to reach its IYCF objectives.