Kigali, RWANDA – 13 NOVEMBER 2018 (F2A) – As “norm entrepreneurs” faith actors are well-suited to leading the change of social norms in family planning. Faith to Action Network hosted a discussion panel at ICFP 2018, describing recent norm changes in different faith communities. The Council of African Provinces of Africa resolved to promote family planning coupled with practical actions in universities and dioceses. Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims has changed its interpretation of child spacing in Islam and has renewed its theological and scholarly ties with Al Azhar University-Cairo. Using its Faith for Life model, Christian Aid has enabled local faith groups to embrace maternal and child health and family planning in Isiolo and Narok counties, Kenya. In turn, Tearfund and Église du Christ au Congo champion positive masculinities, denounce intimate partner violence and promote family planning with institutionalization in mind.
Norm changes in family planning: the abstracts and presentations
The World Bank suggests that ‘fertility transitions may be better viewed as a norm-driven process than as the aggregate outcome of autonomous decisions’ (2015 World Development Report). Social norms are people’s shared expectations and beliefs on how people should behave (ODI 2015). In particular, religious beliefs often affect individuals’ behaviours which impact health, including age at marriage, family structure and roles and preventive health practices like strategies couples use to achieve their preferred family size. Furthermore, misinterpretation of religious teachings fosters harmful practices including child marriage and female genital mutilation.
As “norm entrepreneurs” faith actors are well-suited to leading the change of social norms in family planning. Passionate individuals, who are well connected or highly central to a faith organization, or who have high status can play a key role in catalysing normative change in family planning. In this panel, four norm entrepreneurs will describe processes of normative change they are promoting. The panel described main milestones, lessons and results and provided an outlook on future developments.
The presented cases are powerful examples promoting normative change in family planning from within faith organizations. Faith to Action Network encourages and supports such organizational transformations at all levels so that these interventions are applied widely. Family planning needs to be integrated into theology and pastoral care, institutional policies and practice, faith-run schools, universities and health facilities. Exposure to these new ideas and practices on family planning need to be discussed through formal and informal channels, including through places of worship and media.