The United States celebrates Fathers’ Day on the third Sunday each June, commemorating the contributions of fathers and father figures in children’s lives. Many men recognize the importance of being engaged and responsible fathers, but they are limited by gender norms and responsibilities that define caregiving and unpaid care work as primarily female activities.

According to MenCare, a global fatherhood campaign, progress towards gender equality in caregiving seems to have stalled. Earlier this month, MenCare released the State of World’s Fathers report, calling for a “bold agenda forward” by encouraging men and boys to significantly increase their engagement in the world’s unpaid care work.

At EnCompass, we understand that when men are involved in their families’ care, there is a positive impact on the families’ health and well-being. The Transform: Primary Health Care project in Ethiopia offers an example. EnCompass is leading the project’s integration of gender equality efforts in its health activities, which includes supporting men’s involvement and engagement in antenatal care and childbirth. For example, inviting men to participate in group discussions centered around coffee ceremonies at health facilities brings them together in an act (the coffee ceremony) typically performed by women, in a place (the health facility) that is often viewed as an exclusively female space. Our team for the Transform: Primary Health Care project will build on these kinds of male engagement activities and contribute to the project’s ultimate goal of ending preventable infant, child, and maternal deaths.

MenCare’s assessment of the status quo confirms that men across the globe want to be more engaged in caregiving and other forms of care work. Rethinking what it means to “be a man” can transform social and cultural definitions of masculinity and fatherhood, opening spaces for men to support maternal, newborn, and child health.

Image c/o UNICEF Ethiopia via Creative Commons