Interview with Douglas Mendoza

Interviewee Douglas Mendoza with his wife and son.Douglas Mendoza Urrutia has a master’s degree in Public Policy and Social Programs from the Central American University of Nicaragua. He is a regional coordinator of the MenEngage Alliance in Latin America and coordinates the training team at the Puntos de Encuentro Foundation, where he also co-coordinates the MenCare campaign in Nicaragua. A social educator who works on gender, masculinity, fatherhood, positive education, sexual and reproductive health, and violence prevention, Douglas is also involved in pro-justice and equality movements, participating in advocacy initiatives aimed at ending violence against children and women.

1) So far, how would you analyze the experience of implementing Program P in Nicaragua? Is there information about its operationalization in other Central American countries?

We organized the MenCare campaign in Nicaragua, which was formed by eight member organizations of REDMAS [the Nicaraguan Masculinity Network for Gender Equality, or “Red de Masculinidad por la Igualdad de Género,” in Spanish]. Since 2012, this partnership has led the You Are My Father campaign (“Vos sos mi Papá,” in Spanish) through different processes and activities – namely formative research based on the stories of 11 young parents between 15 and 29 years old, and a baseline study on fatherhood in which 371 young fathers from nine popular neighborhoods in Managua participated. We also held six workshops with 25 young fathers on affective and committed fatherhood in each of the popular neighborhoods in Managua.

The You Are My Father campaign allowed us to promote committed and responsible fatherhood, based on the active participation of the father in pregnancy, childbirth, postnatal care, and child development. We also sought the support of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health to involve health care professionals in the inclusion of fathers in this process. First, we conducted qualitative research in three health care units to better understand the opinions and attitudes of health professionals and men regarding the participation of fathers in caregiving tasks and in the promotion of maternal and child health. The findings will allow us to identify obstacles and opportunities to bring men closer to health care units and hospitals. Next, we organized seminars using Program P to provide these professionals with tools to engage fathers.

We also organized workshops together with health activists and professionals to sensitize and train other fathers, especially community leaders, about the importance of participating in care work and maternal and child health. At the end of the training, the participants organized fathers’ groups as spaces for dialogue and the sharing of experiences with other fathers.

Furthermore, we organized seminars with health professionals in Somoto, Granada, and Managua to draw attention to the benefits of fathers’ participation in caring for their children, for their partners and for themselves in terms of family development and wellbeing, as well as to inform these professionals about “Norm 042” on Humanization of Institutional Childbirth. [See next question.] In Nicaragua we have also promoted and provided technical assistance to organizations that wish to implement Program P and the MenCare Campaign, which has also been carried out in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Honduras.

2) Once implemented, what are the next steps? What is your goal?

The Nicaraguan Ministry of Health has enacted a policy, “Norm 042” on Humanization of Institutional Childbirth, which clearly states the importance of fathers’ participation in care activities – namely, in childbirth and in maternal and child health.

We want the Ministry to include in its standards the application of Program P in health care units throughout the country and for it to replicate these activities, building on the experiences of the three health units where the Program P was already carried out.

3) You have a son and you are about to become a father again, right? Do you feel different now? Do you think first-time fathers act differently than the rest?

When my wife first got pregnant, I didn’t participate in the same way. I didn’t have much information about my role or my participation during the prenatal period, childbirth, and postnatal care. I went to a few prenatal visits with her, but that was it. I wasn’t even there during childbirth. Back then, I didn’t have many friends who were fathers or who were engaged fathers. But, then I became involved in raising and caring for my son, who is now seven years old and is named Douglas Eduardo. Now, we are a pregnant couple, and in a month, my son Intiak Gael will be born. The process has been completely different: I have been involved in prenatal care, sharing this phase with my wife and supporting her. My son Douglas is also very involved. We are preparing everything that is necessary together, the three of us, and we are enjoying it. I plan to participate in childbirth. I now recognize that it is an important moment. During this process, I have also met other men who are fathers and we have shared a lot.

4) Did Program P impact you in terms of your attitudes as a man who provides care?

The program enabled me to obtain more information and to put that into practice in every stage of my caregiving activities (e.g. the prenatal, childbirth, and postnatal periods). It also enabled me to develop my child caregiving skills, such as food preparation and all the other care that is required at each stage of the child’s development. And, of course, it allowed me to talk more with my wife. Now, with the birth of my second child, I feel more prepared and at ease, and I am enjoying a planned fatherhood.

5) What is the main challenge for organizations working on masculinities in Central America? What will be the focus of REDMAS over the next few years?

The main challenge we face is to be able to demonstrate the changes that men experience after they participate in several activities, projects, and/or programs. Our challenge is to show the impact of these changes in their lives.

Another important challenge is to establish and maintain dialogue with women’s organizations and feminist groups about the alliances and joint activities that we can carry out with men’s groups and with other masculinities networks. Furthermore, men need to take part in public activities aimed at the promotion of gender equality.

6) To celebrate Fatherhood Appreciation Month, we are launching the site “Men Care in Brazil” (“Homens cuidam no Brasil,” in Portuguese). In your opinion, what is the role of online tools in the fight for gender equality?

I think we should promote tools and concrete initiatives that are capable of encouraging and mobilizing men to participate in gender equality efforts. We need to disseminate the stories of men who share their fatherhood and caregiving experiences in order to inspire and mobilize other men to this cause. Finally, I think we have to carry on promoting educational campaigns with a positive approach, aimed at men, and thus facilitate attitude changes.

This post was originally published by Equimundo, MenCare’s co-coordinator.