Come November, and a friend of mine sports a moustache, and shaves it off only after the month ends.
For the longest time, I wondered why he did that, and when I asked him, it started up a conversation I had no idea about.
Imagine a moustache and beard being a conversation starter!
Movember, perhaps the only charity tackling men’s health on a global scale, came into being in Melbourne in 2003.
Two friends, who had met over a couple of beers, challenged each other to grow a moustache in November; they then recruited another 30 friends to join them.
They used this time to start conversations around men’s health, especially prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and their mental health.
Over the last 15 years, the Foundation has managed to raise USD 839 million towards supporting men’s health. These donations allow Movember to raise awareness, invest in vital health initiatives and run Movember each year.
We, at The Better India, spoke to Amal Vartak, a MoBro, who has been supporting the cause. He tells us more about the movement, why it is important to look at men’s health, and the way forward.
The movement and Amal’s involvement
Speaking about how he got introduced to Movember, Amal says, “Way back in 2012, one of my Canadian friends introduced the Movember Foundation to me. The cause, especially around the prostate and testicular cancer, is what got my attention. A lot of men I know have their annual check-ups for cholesterol, diabetes, liver/renal profiles, etc. But not many get a screening done for the Prostate along with the same tests. It just speaks volumes about the awareness levels of these health issues in India. My friend had lost his father to prostate cancer, which was detected very late. So I knew I had found my cause.”
He continues, “Newly-acquired facial hair becomes the starting point of many inquisitive conversations, and that’s how we spread awareness.”
Each MoBro, as the supporters of this cause are called, has a profile page on movember.com, which displays their work and the money they have raised.
Amal has been associated with the movement for over six years now. You can view his page here.
Reactions to the cause
Amal says, “I am usually clean-shaven during the year with an occasional French beard. During Movember, when friends and colleagues see me with a moustache, they laugh and smirk as at times, it’s not perfectly grown. I am never embarrassed by it. I take this as a conversation starter and an opportunity to create awareness about Prostate and Testicular Cancer. Also, depending on the person, I speak about how depression can lead to suicidal tendencies and how important it is to speak and confide in someone close.”
Movember and its reach in India
While the Movember Foundation is very well known globally, in India, it has just started to pick up the pace. With various media houses and social media campaigns, it has been gaining momentum and traction.
Internationally, every Movember, there are Mo Events conducted where MoBros and MoSistas (women supporters) come and have some fun (dinner, movie, games etc.), while raising funds and spreading awareness.
To spread awareness in India, Movember Run, a marathon, is organised in Pune on 25th November.
The ticket sales from the marathon are used towards male health initiatives. Many brands also get associated with Movember and usually conduct online contests which helps drive awareness as well.
Amal’s modus operandi to raise funds
He shares, “In 2012, I was working with a Canadian organisation, and given that there was already some awareness about the movement, it was fairly easy to raise funds. In India, the movement is still in its nascent stage and hence, raising funds is a bit difficult, though not impossible.”
While the amount he has raised amounts to about Rs 1.20 lakhs, the conversations and the awareness he has generated is not something that one can put a number on.
Experiences with Movember
“The first experience was the laughs I would get when folks I know would see me with my mooch. Many would ask, ‘Why a mooch and nothing else? How does a mooch get you donations?’ My response to these questions would be – the mooch is our Ribbon (just the way a Pink Ribbon denotes Breast Cancer awareness, and a Red Ribbon denotes Aids awareness).
“The mooch is our conversation starter – the perfect start to creating some awareness,” he says.
Amal encourages the men he interacts with, to check for irregularities in their testicles during baths and to also include prostate screening or a PSA test during their next health check-up. For those above 50 years of age, he says that these checks should be done at least once a year.
The way forward
The Movember Mooch is not a fashion statement that MoBros sport to look cool. It’s a cause that needs a dedicated month. Slowly, but steadily, organisations are conducting ‘Movember Day’ at work, where the funniest moustache, for example, wins a prize or organising health-related quizzes.
The ultimate aim of all this is to create awareness.
Women and Movember
Amal stresses on how important a role women play in making Movember a success. Social media is a great place to show support and create awareness.
“My message to the women – You do not have to be a man to care about men’s health. Encourage the men you know to get an annual screening done,” he says.
Amal’s message to the men is #BeforeItsLateCheckYourProstate and #KnowThyNuts.
If you wish to donate towards the cause, do check out their Facebook page.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)