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!