By T’soloane Mohlomi

MASERU The Health of Males and young boys in Lesotho is now more than ever in need of attention, as males encounter a collage of challenges when in need of specialized health care.

This was observed during the recently concluded three day Men’s and Boys Conference which was held at The Lesotho Avani.

 The meeting which was hosted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) Lesotho was mainly focused on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights for men and boys (SRHR), and retained the theme, “Extent to which SRHR policies address the needs of men and boys.”

With a wide variety of presentations throughout the conference which included research analysis from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa, a presentation with findings from local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Help Lesotho, and also the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA). It was widely conceived that a lot of Basotho Males weren’t comfortable when approaching Health Care facilities, due to stereotypes regarding being attended by female nurses and doctors in concern to their Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH).

Another observed reason which deters mostly men from attending health Facilities like Clinics is their alleged observation was that they’re mostly suited for the women and children only.

Speaking at the Men’s and Boys Conferences, United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative to Lesotho, Dr Deepak Bhaskaran said the topic of gender equality and women empowerment were topics that he was very passionate about, saying to address those issues including that of gender equality it was important to address the needs of men and boys as well as they have been constantly overlooked.

Dr Bhaskaran said men and boy’s sexual reproductive health was important as they were partners to women and girls and parents to girls and boys as well.

“The subject matter of this meeting gender equality and women empowerment is one that I’m very passionate about, meaningfully addressing gender equality and gender based violence all for women and girls requires that we address the needs of men and boys as well. This means recognizing that men and boys have their sexual and reproductive needs too, as they are partners to women, girls and parents to boys and girls, as a result therefore influence their decision making.

“So therefore men and boys continue to occupy space of power and influence in society, and can become agents of change to advance the rights of women and girls in society.  The Programme of Action of International Conference on Population and Development ICPD, emphasizes the need to promote gender equality in all spheres of life including Family and community life and encourages and enables men to take responsibility of their sexual reproductive behaviour and their social and family roles.

“The ICPD and a number of other international instruments provide gender transformative programmes and policies which include engaging men and boys in contexts of family, sexual reproductive health and health equality.

In addition Dr Bhaskaran said it was important in the context of men and boys to note that the constraints to men and boys mainly lie within stereotypes, social and gender norms, they hamper the uptake of social services often to the disadvantage of men and boys and families today. He said we are dying of cancers because we lack the knowledge of how to treat and mitigate the spread.

“More adolescent young men and boys are dying of AIDS today because they don’t want to test for HIV or access treatment. Men suffer in silence from STI’s fearful to seek services and as a result placing their partners at risk and putting their own lives at risk.

“It is well known that when fathers are actively engaged in the growth of their children it results in better outcomes for both father and child,” he said.