Around 214 million women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for reasons ranging from lack of access to information or services to lack of support from their partners or communities. Religious leaders and religious institutions can play significant roles by affirming a religious basis for the concept of family planning and by providing information and services to their communities. Yet, many religious leaders and religious institutions have not yet realized their full potential role in advocacy as many oppose family planning. Failing to address womens unmet needs for family planning may endanger the achievement of SDG 3, as well as hamper economic progress and reproductive rights in countries with low contraceptive prevalence.
Towards a Solution
To address this challenge, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Indonesia provides technical support to the Government of Indonesia to share its experiences through a South-South and triangular cooperation training on strategic partnership with Muslim religious leaders in family planning. Commencing in 2013, the training sought to introduce Indonesia’s family planning programme, focusing on how Islam perceives the family planning concept and how the concept takes shape through the support of Muslim religious leaders and Islamic institutions for family planning services and information in settings including schools, hospitals and clinics. These efforts are expected to eventually contribute to the achievement of SDG 3 on health and well-being, SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and SDG 1 on poverty reduction in the recipient countries.
To facilitate the systematic cross-country transfer of good practices and knowledge, the South-South and triangular cooperation training used unique and innovative methodologies. In-class orientation was set up for discussions on Islamic teachings about family planning. Outreach to the field was undertaken for direct interaction with grassroots resource persons on how Muslim religious leader and Islamic institutions implement Islamic teachings on family planning. Sharing experiences among participants from various countries was also facilitated. This multi-country cooperation was designed to share experiences among all participants from different countries. They developed lessons learned and their own plans of action for implementation in their respective countries upon return.
As a part of its international development policy, the Government of Indonesia provides scholarships to other developing countries to join the South-South and triangular cooperation training yearly. In some cases, the Government also supports sending its officials to carry out follow-up actions together with Muslim religious leaders in the recipient countries. The recipient countries, with the support of their respective UNFPA country office, conduct follow-up actions to apply and replicate the Indonesian experience and lessons learned with local communities that have similar background characteristics, i.e. a majority Muslim population.
An evaluation is currently underway to demonstrate the impact of the training. However, several anecdotes that provide examples of successful outcomes have been shared and show significant impact.
The Government of Guinea followed up the South- South and triangular cooperation mission with workshops for religious leaders (Muslim and Christian) in family planning. The workshop produced a statement by religious leaders in Guinea supporting the national family planning programme. While it is difficult to determine causation, contraceptive prevalence in Guinea is increasing, albeit very slowly. The Government of the Philippines is implementing the lessons learned from Indonesia in five municipalities of the Autonomous Regions of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Many Muslim religious leaders in the regions are also taking actions to promote family planning through local radio stations.
The Governments of Indonesia and the Philippines agreed to extend the cooperation over the next five years, commencing in 2018. Through the support of UNFPA, the Government of Nepal also carried out follow-up actions by scaling up similar workshops in the provinces where the proportion of Muslim population is high. The book, Family Planning, Reproductive Health and Gender: Islamic Perspectives, developed by the Indonesian team, has been translated into local languages by UNFPA Nepal. In Chad and Niger, the UNFPA office invited an Indonesian Muslim religious leader to facilitate workshops on family planningand Islam, attendedbyitsnational Muslim religious leaders. With the support of UNFPA, the Government of Mali will also conduct follow-up actions, including inviting Muslim religious leaders from Indonesia to facilitate national workshops on Islam and family planning.
This had led to successful collaboration and synergies among the Government of Indonesia and recipient countries, with technical support from UNFPA Indonesia and other UNFPA country offices. Nurturing collaboration among Muslim religious leaders from Indonesia and the recipient countries is necessary to ensure that the lessons learned can be applied smoothly in-country and planned outcomes fully attained.
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 1.4, 3.1, 3.2, 3.7, 5.6, 17.9
Countries/ territories involved: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sudan, Sri Lanka
Supported by: Government of Indonesia and UNFPA
Project status: Ongoing
Project period: 2013- Organized annually
URL of the practice: goo.gl/PV21Bf
Name: Dr. Annette Sachs Robertson, UNFPA Representative in Indonesia