By Abdirahman Mahamud
As a Somali man and community health worker at WellShare, I understand the strong connection between the Somali culture and the Muslim religion. The Islamic faith encourages us to have children as long as the father can provide food, education and a place to raise our children. Traditionally, having many children symbolizes high social status. Since joining WellShare, I’ve talked to many men who want to raise a healthy family but are still confused about family planning and the use of contraceptive methods.
During my family planning outreach to the community, I’ve experienced many emotional stories – often about an unplanned pregnancy and how it impacted family health and togetherness.
One Somali man, I’ll call him “Ali,” refused to use any contraceptive method because of rumors he heard from his friends. As a result, his wife had multiple unplanned pregnancies. The pregnancies also caused health concerns and impacted her ability to go to work and school. The stress created arguments and tension in their relationship which led to a separation. Ali regretted his avoidance to use contraception because of the impact it had on the family. “I wish I had enough knowledge about family planning and contraceptive methods,” he said.
As a community health worker, I’ve heard similar stories from many other men. It can be challenging to convince Somali men to use health services that are not familiar to them or that differ from their traditional approaches to medicine. However, with the support of religious leaders, men are taking part in family planning and counseling. Providing clear and accurate medical information within the context of the Somali culture dismisses myths about contraception. Family planning attracts a lot of Somali males, and that’s why they are interested in learning about their child spacing options.