Preparing to Be a Father in Malawi

Dinova and Elidah are excited about their first child.

Robin Wyatt/EGPAF

Dinova Luhanga is a participant in a male study circle organized by Life Concern, a community-based organization in Malawi supported by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Traditionally, men are not very involved in issues of health, but study circles are an important tool for changing attitudes about what it means to be a successful man, husband, and father.

My name is Dinova Luhanga, and I am 21 years old. I got married a few months ago, and I’m expecting my first child in five months. I joined a male study circle a couple of months ago. I was at a football game with my friends and they were all planning to attend a session that was happening nearby. I was apprehensive at first, but they convinced me to join them anyway.

I met my wife, Elidah, in high school. She was friends with a nephew of mine, and I saw her as a caring and loving person. The study circle was instrumental in changing my perceptions about women. I come from a patriarchal culture, yet through my attendance I started understanding the value of equality and learning how to speak with one’s wife on equal terms. Now, I even help her to cook.

The way I was brought up taught me—and my father before me—that men are superior to women, but now I am realizing that this is not right.

I have also learned the value of accompanying my wife each time she attends the health center during pregnancy. The leader of the circle told us that there are incentives for men to do this, and while I probably only went for this reason at first, I soon learned how life changing the process could be. My wife was glad when I started accompanying her, and it went a long way in strengthening our bond. We began to speak more openly about personal issues. The depth in our relationship grew, and we were able to consider family planning much more as a team. The study circle was right that this would greatly improve the foundations of my family.

I grew up in a farming family and my brother currently manages the overall operations. We primarily farm maize and tobacco, and tobacco—which you see here—brings us a modest income. My wife and I often work on the farm together, and I also help her in the family’s vegetable garden. Currently, I’m waiting to get placed in a primary school in the area as a teacher. This job will significantly increase our family’s earnings, and hopefully lead to a better life.
 
I value the experience I’ve had with the study circle, and feel it’s important for me to take the initiative now and share what I’ve learned with my friends. The sex education we have at school is really minimal, and is brushed over in the rush to comply with examination requirements. Through this study circle, Life Concern has greatly enhanced my knowledge of the intricacies of the processes of sex and pregnancy. I have understood that pregnancy is a long process that requires periodic adjustments.

I’m now also planning to encourage members of the community to get their HIV statuses checked. Having an HIV test is something I feel has enhanced my freedom; it has helped my wife and I in planning our family’s future. I was anxious at first; it was Elidah’s grit and determination that encouraged me through it.