Maun people celebrated the commemoration of Movember month in style, following a month long campaign and a stream of activities that have been on-going since November 1st, and intended at bringing recognition of men’s health to the public. The name Movember was drawn from the month of November, which was set aside globally to raise awareness on the often ignored issues of men’s health. It is in this month that men are encouraged to grow their moustaches for the 30 days of November, as a way of striking a conversation between themselves so as to encourage others to take charge of their health.
For the purpose of commemorating the day, which was officially launched in Maun over the weekend, the District Health Management Team (DHMT) held a men’s PITSO which was aimed at allowing them time to share their challenges as well as their achievements in remedying their various encounters of life, with regard to health. Known for their weakness and bottling things up when it comes to discussing issues of concern to themselves, they were this time around encouraged to speak out so that they may get assistance because further delays might deny them opportunities to any other assistance that should have been availed in time.
Speaking at a media and stakeholder briefing meeting, an official from the Ministry of Health Kelebogile Motlhanka said males have poor health seeking behaviours, as they also take long to go for the needed health care. She said this therefore calls for communities to appreciate and encourage men and boys to familiarise themselves with health programs that combat their health such as fertility issues, depression, suicide, to mention but a few.
“The realisation has been that men would rather prefer to seek help when their conditions have already deteriorated, which is bad practice. They also don’t have access to health information because they do not see the need to acquaint themselves with such. But because many of them work away from home from time to time, we feel it is high time they be strengthened information wise, so that they may avoid the temptation of seeking casual sex relationships”, she said.
At the weekend launch, head of DHMT Dr Christopher Chembe said Botswana has been sensitised to the need for ensuring that strategies are put in place for health information and services to be made accessible to men. The agreement, he said, was met in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo, Egypt and the 1995 Beijing Conference on women.
He said between 2000-2010, 11% of men have suffered Cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx, 10% have suffered cancer of the esophagus, while 5% suffered cancer of the bronchus and lung. Other men’s health problems include early ejaculation, sexually transmitted infections, erectile dysfunction and many others which Chembe says should be discussed for a way forward.
“In the past, naming of services that the MOH provided could have easily been understood to be of women only. This thinking could have arisen based on the perceptions that reproductive roles in terms of pregnancy, child bearing and so forth are exclusively for women. It is for this reason that men became passive partners in the process, considering that their passive approach in health services has consequences”, said Chembe.
Men also decried the low condom distribution at most health facilities. They suggested that the MOH should have variety of condoms as the current ones are of very low quality. A member of the Botswana Defence Force attending the launch said their “Skwatta” condom has become so popular that people, both men and women frequent their clinic for their share of the much loved condom. He said the observation has been that whenever the condom is in short supply, there are never any queues as people do not come for other varieties provided by the MOH.
In response, Motlhanka said they always advice couples to test together so that they wouldn’t even have to use condoms. She said in meantime the Aids prevention department is working on a needs assessment to establish why people do not prefer other varieties of condoms.
Some of the activities planned to commemorate Movember are the Ride, Cycle and Run, which will kick start at Game City mall on November 22nd .Cyclists, bikers and runners are expected to ride from all directions, after which they will converge at Game City for educational activities. Blue mornings also started on November 2nd, where people are encouraged to wear blue every Friday in support of men’s health.