"One day, when I returned from work, Ms. Glenda and Mr. Martin from Pro-Familia were at my house. I heard what the volunteering was about, regarding the education of the men in the community, how to teach how to stop machismo, to be less violent, how to give the talks and visit the clients. They also talked about the contraceptive methods, medicines and many things that would change people's lives. The proposal seemed important to me and I accepted, since I like to work for my people," recalls José.
In 2008, the Asociación Demográfica Salvadoreña (Pro-Familia) developed a project focusing on sexual and reproductive health and the active participation of men in rural areas. It concentrated specifically on the integration of male participation in sexual and reproductive healthcare. Since 2014, the project has been integrated into the Community-Based Programme as part of the provision of healthcare for rural men.
"When I gave the talks on masculinities, they questioned me: 'Why can't you scream at home, if you're the man?' Or 'who do you think you are to say those things?', questions that I also asked myself once", says José. "Thanks to the training I have had and the support of the Pro-Familia staff, I have managed to learn and clarify my doubts. I take care of my own health, I share the responsibilities at home, I take care of my two-year-old son – before volunteering, I thought it was a woman’s job, I didn't do that."
Ensuring access to information and contraception
Educational activities in sexual and reproductive health remain a challenge, but Pro-Familia is committed to delivering their strategy. The role of the health promoter is to advocate – with other men – the use of contraception, counselling couples, and providing supplies (especially condoms) and medicines.
"I like the communication I have with the Pro-Familia staff, and the training reinforcements – they should keep it that way, because it's the way to learn and do things better in the community," he says.
"The change begins with oneself and then transmits it to others. I gather men in talks, make visits to their homes, give guidance on prevention of sexually- transmitted infections, on family planning, and how not to be violent", says José. "Older adult men are more difficult to change."
Increasing contraceptive use among men
José has seen the positive change among men in his community and those small achievements encourage him to keep going.
"When men ask me about violence and condom use, I feel encouraged. For example: a co-worker uses a condom and confidently tells me that he does it because he learned from the talks he received, that motivates me to continue guiding towards new masculinities."
The Community-Based Program has a special fund for clients who are referred by promoters for a voluntary surgical contraception (VSC) procedure, so the service is free of charge for clients. In this regard, José is aware that there is still work to be done: "The issue of vasectomy is difficult with men in the community, the challenges continue."
"In the community, young people 'get to live together' [marital union] at an early age. Maybe I cannot change that, but I can help them to be better people, to respect each other. Just as I changed, so can other men," says José.