Building on a successful prior project, Marie Stopes International Afghanistan plans to train the wives of 60 local religious leaders (Mullahs) to dispense information and counseling about family planning and reproductive health among women in their community. By sharing information in a culturally and religiously appropriate context and providing referrals to local clinics, these women will work to improve access to and use of life-saving reproductive health and family planning services.
The average Afghan woman has 6-7 children and 1 in 11 chance of dying in childbirth. Some religious and cultural attitudes opposed to family planning, combined with a lack of information and communication about contraception, prevent many Afghan women from accessing crucial and potentially lifesaving services. Based on past experience, MSIA seeks to provide a religiously acceptable and culturally relevant means of sharing information about family planning and reproductive health in Afghanistan.
This program builds on the success of earlier MSIA programs, which trained Afghan Mullahs about family planning, by training their wives as "Health Education Champions." These women will conduct educational sessions with small groups of 6-8 women, discussing reproductive health and family planning choices. By improving knowledge and attitudes towards family planning and providing direct referrals to local clinics, this program will increase the number of women accessing these essential services.
Afghan Mullahs and their wives are highly respected community members. By working with them to reach vulnerable women in their communities with positive family planning messages, MSIA will help support informed decision making about family planning and healthy birth spacing in the years to come. Improving access to family planning and reproductive health services will ultimately contribute to reduced health risks for both mothers and children and increased economic stability within families.
NY Times article on MSIA's Afghan Mullah project
UNFPA article on MSIA's Afghan Mullah Project