Online Program

Young men's masculine learning in rural Kitui, Kenya: A qualitative study of Catholic influences

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 3:10 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Alexander Plum, MPH CHES, Global Health Initiative in the Department of Internal Medicine, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, MI
Background: Kenya is home to the world’s 4th largest HIV epidemic,1 which has orphaned 1.1 million of its children.2 Challenges to adolescent health development have resulted – especially among young male adolescent orphans who lack positive masculine role models. Increasingly, faith-based organizations have attempted to fill the resultant vacuum; Nyumbani Village, an independent faith-based organization supported by Roman Catholic parishes and by public health funders like PEPFAR, is home to over 1,100 orphaned children and senior adults from rural Kitui, Kenya. In June 2014, a researcher was invited to explore the health challenges facing young men vis-à-vis learned masculinity and Catholic teaching.

Methods: In-depth, face-to-face qualitative interviews (n=29) were conducted with young men (aged 16-20) who had been residents of Nyumbani Village for over 4 years. Participants were recruited from two secondary schools. A modified grounded theory approach guided data analysis.

Findings: Catholic teaching has greater influence on participants’ understanding of masculinity than any other source, including peers or male workers in the Village. Catholic-informed Village teaching on sexuality, however, contributed to stress and shame related to young men’s emotional and sexual attractions.

Conclusions: While young men equate masculinity with educational attainment more than any other attribute, they also cited Village policies mandating abstinence and refusing contraceptive coverage as barriers to learning how to be sexually healthy. As it celebrates the unique educational appreciation of its young men, Nyumbani is also struggling to acknowledge and address the unhealthy determinants of its policies.

1UNAIDS (2013) ‘Global Report 2013’
2USAID (2013) ‘Kenya HIV/AIDS Fact Sheet’

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify sources of masculine learning and influence on rural, Kamba young men. Discuss the effects of religious teaching and policy on youth health outcomes.

Keyword(s): Religion, Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conducted original research on the topic of masculinity and religion as a Master of Public Health candidate during my applied public health practicum in Kenya, May 30 - July 29, 2014 in partnership with and under the supervision of the Emory University Interfaith Health Program.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.