To mark the occasion of the Family Planning Summit 2017 hosted by the UK Government in London today, Christian Aid is raising the important – but often neglected – role of faith leaders in helping challenge the structures and attitudes that prevent women and girls having access to family planning.
Sophie Efange, Gender Policy Advisor at Christian Aid, said: “Faith leaders play a pivotal function in shifting behaviours and attitudes around family planning. Faith leaders are often very well respected in communities and their opinions and beliefs can be very influential. They are a vital group to engage with on changing the cultural and often traditional beliefs that surround family planning.
“When women and girls have access to family planning so they can choose whether and when they have children, they stand a better chance of completing their education, seizing better economic opportunities and reaching their full potential.”
The charity highlighted Christian Aid’s work with the Christian Health Association of Kenya (CHAK) to incorporate family planning messages into teaching and sermons by faith leaders, which resulted in a 275% increase in the use of the contraceptive pill. This and other examples demonstrate the value of engaging with and through faith leaders.
Efange added: “Although some are scared off by the controversies around faith and family planning, Christian Aid acknowledges the power and influence that faith leaders can have in both furthering negative behaviours around family planning, and in promoting positive behavioural change. It is a mistake to overlook the role that faith leaders can play in both hindering development, and in actively furthering a positive health agenda.”
Today’s family planning summit is jointly hosted by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Global policy makers, donors and advocates have come together to re-energise global commitment to the Family Planning 2020 commitments which were agreed by world leaders as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Christian Aid welcomes the summit’s inclusion of themes such as domestic financing for family planning and access to sexual and reproductive health in emergency situations.
Nevertheless the charity warned that the role of faith leaders has been overlooked in the summit.