Q&A With Ravi Verma on Men’s Participation in Sexual and Reproductive Health

Article Date

17 March 2016

Article Author

Erin Kelly

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

For 40 years, ICRW has been a leader in identifying some of the biggest challenges faced by women and girls worldwide, as well as providing solutions for the most effective ways to tackle those challenges.

Around the world, social and economic barriers prevent women from accessing information on and services for their sexual and reproductive health, which is a critical component of women’s empowerment and overall health status.

Ravi Verma, head of ICRW’s Asia Regional Office, recently traveled to Mumbai where he presented on ICRW’s programs to engage men and boys at the International Conference on Male Involvement in Women’s Reproductive Sexual and Reproductive Health, for which he is a chairperson on the Scientific Program Committee. Below, Ravi provides insights on why men’s involvement in women’s health is critical and how that involvement contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals, the new global goals designed to tackle poverty and inequality worldwide.


What role do men have to play in ensuring women have access to sexual and reproductive health and services?

First, men must accept equal responsibility for outcomes around sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and support their partners and spouses in facilitating access to much-needed services.

Because men and boys typically have greater access to information, they must maximize the opportunities they have available to enhance their – and their partner’s – knowledge on SRH. They should also stand against conservative and restrictive practices that shame and blame girls and women if they experience an unwanted pregnancy or if they wish to avoid unwanted pregnancies. By shunning dated views that put undue blame on women, progressive and forward-looking men and boys can help challenge norms that further disadvantage and disempower women and girls. They can then work as a conduit that helps shape new norms that pave the way for increased access to SRH services for women and girls.

What does the current evidence say about men’s involvement in SRH?

Although this dynamic is changing, men’s and boys’ involvement is largely instrumentalist and their involvement is usually not sustained throughout the course of their relationship with their partner. Unless accompanied by a targeted shift in harmful norms and the promotion of gender equality, men’s and boys’ engagement will unfortunately remain marginal and sporadic.

How have men previously helped shape decisions around women’s reproductive health?

Previously, most decisions around women’s reproductive health were dominated by men exercising control over women’s bodies and making the majority of decisions about the woman’s – and the couple’s – sexual and reproductive health.

How can men be engaged in SRH to ensure we meet targets laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals?

Men should be involved individually, in groups and through networks of men and boys in order to create supportive and safe spaces for men to counter prevailing norms that have restricted women’s decision making in sexual and reproductive health. Programs on gender equality should be implemented in schools and at early ages to make the maximum impact. Additionally, we must work to clearly communicate how and why gender equality is a desirable goal. 

What were your takeaways from the conference? What were some of the most important conversations on engaging men around SHR?

Currently, we are witnessing a massive transformation in how women and men  and boys and girls – are moving away from families, increasing their education levels, living alone and struggling to remain in productive work. Given these changes, such an important conference on how men can – and should be – engaged on issues around sexual and reproductive health is critical to the conversation and the future of women’s health. The conference pointed out how critical it is to ensure that the process of transformation is streamlined through a progressive and rights-based approach that promotes the safety of girls and women and respects equality and equity.