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Mali: Men raise awareness to improve their sexual and reproductive health

It’s a Saturday morning in December and the weather is nice in Sanankoroba, a town about 20 kilometres from Bamako. It’s an ideal time for the members of the group “Association Grin du Savoir,” (Grin Knowledge Association), to meet over tea and talk about sex. This is a group exclusively for men, with about 15 members who meet to learn about sexual and reproductive health, including sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, HIV, and family planning.

Idrissa Diarra is a member of the group. During a group discussion about safe sex, he confided: “I hated condoms because I thought they were for men who frequent prostitutes. But with our exchanges, I understand that it protects us from STIs and also allows us to space the births of our children.”

In Sanankoroba, men have not been very interested in sexual and reproductive health because they are not very aware of the issues. But increasingly, young people who are concerned about their sexual health are sharing information with each other.

Discussions at the Association Grin du Savoir help members understand the benefits of using certain contraceptive methods. Idrissa Diarra explains, “Thanks to our exchanges, I now use condoms during sex. Today, I am very happy because I can manage the birth of my children.”

For Mr. Diarra, condoms help to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STIs, especially HIV and syphilis. He says that condoms are affordable and accessible to all.

Abdoulaye Coulibaly is another member of the group. Mr. Coulibaly is a married man who decided to adopt family planning methods. To do this, he combines the calendar method with using condoms. The calendar method involves identifying the ovulation period by observing a woman’s menstrual cycle for at least six months. Ovulation typically occurs 14 days before the next menstruation.

Nouhoum Cissé is a young artist and bachelor. Mr. Cissé is a member of the group and actively participates in discussions on sexual and reproductive health. He has decided to protect himself every time he has sex. He explains, “I either use condoms or abstain to avoid STIs and unwanted pregnancies.”

Mahamadou Tata is a trader and member of the group. He was opposed to all forms of family planning a few years ago. He says, “I didn’t want any family planning or protection during sex.” But today, he and his friends are committed to sharing their experiences with group members so that they can avoid STIs and adopt better family planning methods. Mr. Tata now understands the benefits of using specific methods for contraception and protection against STIs.

Dr. Samba Diarra is a doctor at the Luxembourg Mother-Child hospital in Bamako. Dr. Diarra says men do not generally visit health centres for their sexual and reproductive health. He says that men may consult a health worker when they suspect an STI, but estimates that only 2 out of 10 men visit sexual and reproductive health centres. 

The members of the Association Grin du Savoir take every opportunity to discuss their experiences on sexual and reproductive life with each other. The group is now a model in Mali because, for a long time, sexual health was considered women’s business. But through discussion and mutual support, men are increasingly understanding that sexual and reproductive health is a matter for everyone.

This resource was produced through the “HÉRÈ – Women’s Well-Being in Mali” initiative, which aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health well-being of women and girls and to strengthen the prevention of and response to gender-based violence in Sikasso, Ségou, Mopti, and the district of Bamako in Mali. The project is implemented by the HÉRÈ – MSI Mali Consortium, in partnership with Farm Radio International (RRI) and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) with funding from Global Affairs Canada.

Photo credit: Makaveli