ICFP Pre-conference: Faith leaders takeaways on FP advocacy

2018 Faith Preconference group photoKigali, RWANDA, 10 November 2018 (F2A) – Prior to the 2018 International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP), leaders of diverse faith groups gathered to exchange tools and skills used for advocacy with institutions and governments.

The packed agenda saw participants leave the workshop equipped with tools for buy-in, sustenance and implementation of the quickwins approach to policy development. Kenya’s Christian Health Association (CHAK) and Philippines’ Catholics for Reproductive Health (C4RH) were showcased as good cases of institutions prepared to advocate for FP policy improvement. The facilitator also took time to take participants through techniques of policy analysis.

Rev Andrew Kayiranga of the Kigali Anglican Diocese said he had learnt the importance of learning the donor language without changing religious values. Other takeaways included the need for proper planning before engaging in advocacy, tailoring advocacy messages to specific audiences, the use of evidence, working with allies, as well as influencing social norms or unwritten policies. these were polished into specific action plans which the institutions present would implement over the next two years.

Major Angela Hachitapika explained the journey of the Zambia Salvation Army in setting up of institutional policies favoring the provision of FP services in the last mile populations. The Church in Zambia has put in place various policies and position papers, on the basis of guidelines provided by international headquarters, and all local officers undergo training on these. “This approach ensures every salvationist gets the right information from the officers in the local churches,” Major Angela said. “We use mobile clinics, radio programs and community distribution models in existing structures of the church to provide FP services,” added the Assistant Territorial Secretary Women’s Ministries.

Major Angela said Zambia Salvation Army is guided by scripture: “But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers,” 1 Timothy 5:8. Caring and responsibility includes giving the woman time to recover from the child birth process, she explained. Major Angela challenged faith leaders present to implement model FP programs which can then be scaled up. “Our advocacy goal now is to mainstream natural family planning in government provision of FP services and give people a wider choice; we want to to pilot this model in one district first,” she added.

A total of 33 FBOs were represented in the one-day workshop co-organised by Faith to Action Network (F2A) and Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH) on behalf of the ICFP Faith Committee. They include Cadre des Religeux pour la Sante et le Development (CRSD) from Senegal, Rwanda Interfaith Council for Health (RICH), Egypt’s Ibrahimiya Media Center, Ethiopia Graduate School of Theology and the Church of Sweden. Other FBOs present included Catholic Church of Cameroon, Al Azhar University (Egypt), Zambia Salvation Army, Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau and Evangelical Association of Malawi.

The workshop also had a surprise guest. The chair of the International Steering Committee of the biennial International Conference on Family Planning, and Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dr Jose “Oying” G. Rimon II joined the faith pre-conference where he spoke briefly and posed for pictures with participants.

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