Addis Birhan brought together mentors and husbands to promote gender-equitable relationships and reduce HIV risk.
Traditional gender roles have largely led to the exclusion of Ethiopian men from initiatives related to reproductive health, family planning, parenthood, and sexuality.
In Ethiopia, the Population Council developed the Meseret Hiwott (“Base of Life”) program to strengthen the assets of vulnerable married adolescent girls, improve their lives, and reduce their risk of HIV. As a result of this successful program, husbands of married girls expressed interest in a parallel program for themselves. The Council developed Addis Birhan in response.
The goal of Addis Birhan was to support the goals of Meseret Hiwott, including HIV prevention, with a focus on addressing detrimental gender norms, reducing domestic abuse, and improving spousal communication. Trained male mentors organized meetings with groups of married men on a weekly basis for a period of three months. The sessions lasted no longer than an hour and were held in casual settings that promoted conversation, self-exploration, and the expression of feelings in a nonjudgmental environment. The curriculum included modules on gender, relationships, caring for children and families, drugs and alcohol, HIV and AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, and violence.
More than 130,000 married boys and men have participated in Addis Birhan. Members ranged in age from 10 to 85 years, with the majority aged 25–39 years.
Population Council researchers evaluated Addis Birhan together with Meseret Hiwott using data gathered from married girls to examine changes associated with the programs for married girls and their husbands. The evaluation focused on outcomes related to husbands’ support and assistance with domestic duties, positive health behaviors including use of family planning and voluntary HIV counseling and testing (VCT), and domestic and sexual violence.
For example, after controlling for age, schooling, and age at marriage, married girls from couples in which both the husband and wife participated in the groups were over 18 times more likely to report having undergone VCT, and over 8 times more likely to report that their husbands provided them with domestic support than wives in couples in which the husband did not participate.