The male engagement framework for reproductive health, which presents men as family planning users, supportive partners, and agents of change, is being increasingly incorporated into family planning strategies worldwide. We applied this framework to understand the perspectives of and role that men play in supporting the use of self-injection of subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-SC).
We conducted a qualitative analysis using data from a study conducted in southern Malawi to develop and test a counseling message to introduce DMPA-SC and self-injection. We conducted 4 focus group discussions (FGD) with male community leaders and partners of DMPA-SC users, 13 interviews and FGDs with public and private sector family planning providers, and 30 interviews with female clients. We explored all participant groups’ perspectives on what could facilitate or prevent women from choosing self-injection, including views on men’s attitudes towards DMPA-SC and self-injection.
Overall, participants expressed ways that men could be engaged as cooperative users, supportive partners, and agents of change, and felt that this would help build a more supportive environment for DMPA-SC self-injection use. Men held favorable opinions of DMPA-SC self-injection: they felt that it is useful, described ways they could actively and emotionally support their partners in its use, and described their role in normalizing it.
We suggest that DMPA-SC self-injection has the potential to be both a female-controlled and a cooperative method, based on the ability for women to use it autonomously and the option to encourage male partner involvement (only where the woman welcomes this). Shifting the conversation from viewing men as a barrier to men as a resource may allow us to harness the social capital of men and transform traditional power dynamics, therefore establishing more enabling environments to support autonomy and choice for DMPA-SC and self-injection use.