In the heartlands of Rwanda’s Nyabihu District, a remarkable journey unfolded between 2016 and 2020, leaving an indelible mark on communities. In collaboration with the Rwanda Ministry of Health, ADRA spearheaded the ‘Enhance Mother/Newborn/Child Health in Remote Areas through Health Care and Community Engagement’ (EMBRACE) project, transcending borders and cultures to redefine the dynamics of healthcare.

The Global Tapestry of Change

This initiative, fueled by the unwavering support of Global Affairs Canada, resonated across four countries in Asia and Africa. A harmonious coalition emerged, bringing together Salanga Inc., Youth Challenge International, and the Toronto SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health. Together, they composed a narrative of change that would echo for years to come.

Men supporting their partners’ right to health in Rwanda, ADRA Canada

Challenging Patriarchal Norms

In societies where reproductive health was often confined to the realm of women, EMBRACE took a bold step. It confronted the reality that men, in many instances, controlled the resources critical to women’s health. The project challenged societal norms restricting women’s movement, highlighting the need for change.

The Dance of Progress and Caution

While national and international initiatives had successfully involved men in reproductive and child health, cautionary tales emerged. Some women felt their autonomy was compromised when husbands were involved, leading to a nuanced understanding of the delicate balance required to promote inclusivity. EMBRACE became a beacon of change, addressing these challenges head-on.

A Symphony of Collaboration and Compassion

The journey began with a profound gender analysis study, revealing gaps in men’s awareness of crucial health aspects. Messages of encouragement and support resonated during cultural events, inviting men to actively engage in their families’ health.

“It is our responsibility as men to accompany our spouses because we are all parents, and we have to know every single detail about the pregnancy and get tested too for HIV and Syphilis to have a healthy baby and to prepare ourselves financially as a newborn baby requires money.”

The Rise of Male Champions

As the project evolved, a new strategy emerged—identifying ‘Banderbereho’ or male champions in each village. These champions, trained to be change agents, delved into workshops addressing gender norms, domestic violence, equitable sharing of responsibilities, and more. Their impact echoed beyond the project’s lifespan.

A Resilient Legacy in 2023

Three years after the project’s closure, an evaluation team revisited Nyabihu District. What they discovered was a testament to resilience—the male champions, guardians of change, still actively contributing to reproductive health services.

Capturing Moments of Hope

In a faded photograph by ADRA, these male champions stand not just as subjects but as embodiments of hope, resilience, and a commitment to rewriting the script of maternal and child health. Their story invites you to join the journey of change, where every step echoes the promise of healthier futures.