FP (70) Q3. Working with influential adults to support the RH/FP needs of children and youth (8) Working with religious leaders

17 August, 2018

Dear HIFA colleagues,

Religious leaders are highly influential in many/most societies. How can we work with them more effectively to support the reproductive health and family planning of children and youth?

In our previous discussions #1 and #2 several contributors commented on the role of religious leaders. Here are some examples:

Marg Docking, Uganda: Our greatest challenge to increase uptake of family planning is to actively encourage religious male leaders to work on our behalf. Wise Choices For Life has reached hundreds of leaders who have shifted the way they think about FP and family size.

Visit our website and view some short films for more information.


Abimbola Onaliran: The interrelatedness of culture, religion, and contraception cannot be overemphasized… Perhaps, we should:

1. Conduct more research to address unwanted side effects that influence acceptance: E.g. many women continue to complain of their inability to perform certain cultural or religious rites because of irregular menstruation caused the injectable contraceptives.

2. Review cultural and religious sensitivity of messages…

3. Role of religious leaders: Religious and traditional leaders play key roles in influencing acceptance of contraception. Programmes aiming to improve acceptance and adherence may consider harnessing the potentials of these key stakeholders.

Andre Shongo Diamba, DR Congo: I agree as other colleagues that we need to intensify the partnership with religious leaders and the faith based organizations to promote modern FP/C as a pillar of individual and community wellbeing and development.

Karah Pedersen, USA: Christian Connections for International Health has published Family Planning Advocacy through Religious Leaders: A Guide for Faith Communities (2017), available in English (PDF, 5.91MB) and French (PDF, 5.99MB). The resources assist the efforts of faith-based organizations to equip and encourage religious leaders to advocate for family planning with their governments, the media, and their own congregations and communities. The guide's workbook style offers a step-by-step process for training religious leaders and launching advocacy efforts through checklists and interactive prompts.


'Previously, most of the women in the community explained that the religious leaders opposed [family planning] that religion forbids use of family planning. They talked as if it is a sin. But after the religious leaders were engaged with us, after they got a workshop and we organized together as a village health committee, things got simpler and simpler. This is what we did...'

Luncho Bedaso, Model Woman, Volunteer and Member of Village Health Committee, SHARE-BER Project. Wesha Kebele, West Arsi Zone, Oromia Region, Ethiopia


How can family planning service providers and school teachers engage more effectively with religious leaders?

Best wishes, Neil

Joint Coordinator, HIFA Project on Family Planning


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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 18,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on five global forums in three languages. He also currently chairs the Dgroups Foundation (www.dgroups.info), which supports 800 communities of practice on international development, health and social justice. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org