Religious leaders and faith based organizations (FBOs) have significant, sustained influence on the values and behaviors around healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.
The ability of women and couples to plan the number, spacing, and timing of their children has benefits for individuals, families, and communities. Religious beliefs often affect such health behaviors as age at marriage, family structure, gender roles and preventive health practices like strategies couples use to achieve their preferred family size. FBOs and religious leaders have the power to significantly increase the demand for and use of health services.
This project seeks to create a supportive environment for family planning and increase uptake among women and couples through partnership with FBOs and religious leaders, building upon the success of previous work with four FBOs in Rwanda and Uganda. The approach aims to build the capacity of FBOs to provide family planning and equip them with information, methods and tools to reach women and couples in their communities. FBO partners will also engage religious leaders in reflective dialogue about healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, allowing them to mobilize their community around family planning and serve as motivating examples to other religious leaders to address this critical topic.
Experience with religious leaders and FBOs in Rwanda, Uganda and elsewhere suggests that:
- FBOs can be strong, active partners in achieving universal access to family planning.
- Integration of simple, effective fertility awareness methods into FBO services has a positive effect on attitudes toward and uptake of family planning.
- Religious leaders can support healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies and create a supportive environment for family planning.
- When other FBOs and religious leaders see and understand these positive experiences, they also become more supportive of family planning.