Thanks to generous support from you and the Conservation, Food & Health Foundation, ten wives of religious leaders have been trained and are currently dispensing information and providing counseling about family planning and reproductive health in their communities, inspiring more than 150 women to visit Marie Stopes International Afghanistan (MSIA) clinics.
Beginning in September, ten wives of mullahs began to receive training in their homes on an individualized basis by expert health educators from MSIA clinics. After completing six days of comprehensive training on sexual and reproductive health and nutrition, the wives were ready to host their own health education sessions for other women in their communities.
Since then, a total of 20 health education sessions have been scheduled and hosted by wives in Herat and Balkh provinces. Each session was conducted inside a religious leader’s home for groups of 6-8 women who had not previously used a method of contraception. The sessions were typically held in the afternoon and lasted four hours. Although it was challenging to schedule the sessions at times that worked for everyone invited, a total of 160 women attended. The religious leaders’ wives hosted the meetings, answering questions and providing their guests with information about sexual and reproductive health, maternal health, and child nutrition.
Many of the women in attendance reported that their husbands and mother-in-laws do not allow them to leave their houses; in the rare instances when they can venture outside, they must be accompanied by their mother-in-laws at all times. The women also asked questions about family planning in relation to Islam. Referring to passages from the Qur'an that indicate the permissibility of birth spacing, the wives encouraged the women to use similar reasoning and clarification when explaining the importance of family planning to their husbands and mother-in-laws.
All of the attendees received cards referring them to MSIA clinics for additional counseling and voluntary family planning services. After tracking the referrals, MSIA learned that 157 women who participated in the wives’ health education sessions—all except three—visited MSIA clinics during this period. The high rates of referral indicate just how strongly religious leaders and their wives influence members of their community.
We look forward to updating you on the incredible work of the newly trained reproductive health champions as they continue to host health education sessions in their communities, improving access to and use of life-saving reproductive health and family planning services. Without your support, this groundbreaking work would not have been possible!
With generous support from GlobalGiving donors and the Conservation, Food and Health Foundation, Marie Stopes International Afghanistan (MSIA) has, after weeks of preparation, begun training religious leaders' wives to serve as sexual and reproductive health champions in their communities.
To prepare for the training, MSIA collaborated with the Sisters’ Directorate of Ministry of Religious Affairs to develop and finalize a curriculum about family planning and reproductive health for the religious leaders’ wives. Religious advisors also instructed the female health educators on how best to train and empower the wives to act as facilitators within their communities.
After comprehensive preparation and orientation, religious leaders and provincial coordinators helped MSIA in identifying ten trainees as community champions in Balkh and Herat provinces. The training commenced on September 13, 2012. The women are currently being trained in their homes on an individualized basis by expert health educators from MSIA’s clinics. It is anticipated that the ten women, who will receive a volunteer stipend, will disseminate essential information on sexual and reproductive health and nutrition to 720 females from the selected communities.
The newly trained sexual and reproductive health champions are already starting to spread awareness by distributing referral cards in their communities to refer clients to clinics. MSIA clinic staff will monitor the client flow in the clinics and collect information on the number of referrals and first time users of family planning methods. MSIA team believes that this project will increase access to sexual and reproductive health services, particularly among youth and newly married couples.
On behalf of MSIA, we thank you for supporting this lifesaving and innovative project. We will continue to update you in the coming months as the training progresses!
Thanks to the generous support given by GlobalGiving donors and the Conservation, Food and Health Foundation, Marie Stopes International Afghanistan (MSIA) has taken some important first steps towards implementing this innovative project that will train and empower religious leaders' wives to serve as sexual and reproductive health champions in Balkh province, Afghanistan. Balkh province was selected as the pilot province for this project due to the community’s religious and cultural acceptance of spacing between births.
Within the first two months of this project, a number of activities have already taken place. First, Farhad Javid, the Project Manager and Country Director, met with religious advisors in the area to ensure they feel a sense of ownership of the project and ultimately support its intended outcomes. This support from local religious leaders is essential to gaining acceptance within the community and implementing the project as smoothly and effectively as possible. Second, the selection process of religious leaders’ wives is underway in the urban areas where Marie Stopes International Afghanistan (MSIA) believes the project activities will be best received. Once the activities demonstrate effectiveness and receive approval and support from local society, MSIA will expand its efforts into more rural areas.
In addition, MSIA has strengthened its linkages with the Sisters’ Directorate of Ministry of Religious Affairs who have kindly agreed to assist in the development of a tailored curriculum about family planning and reproductive health for the religious leaders’ wives. Since this is the first time in Afghanistan that religious leaders' wives have been engaged in community education activities, nutrition health education related to breast-feeding, pregnancy, and young children will also be included as supplementary subjects to compliment the sexual and reproductive health education. Once the training syllabus is finalized and the selection process is completed, the wives will begin to receive training in their homes on an individualized basis by expert health educators from MSIA’s clinics.
MSIA enthusiastically thanks everyone who donated to this important and groundbreaking project. We look forward to providing you with regular updates on our progress!
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