African clergy have committed to continue advocating for sexual and reproductive health across the continent.
At a convention held in Nairobi, the faith leaders highlighted achievements saying they were no longer excluded from key health decisions affecting the continent.
“Before, we were regarded as obstacles to realising the aspirations of family planning among other sexual and reproductive health programs, the notion has changed,” Reverend Grace Canon Kaiso said.
“We now are at the centre of most development blueprints for Africa and the world”.
The convention brought together interfaith leaders and faith-based organization from across Africa.
It was aimed at building capacities of faith organisations and their leadership with the necessary skills in order to champion the welfare of women, men and children across the continent.
Reverend Kaiso attributed the previously entrenched perceptions to misunderstanding and misinterpretation especially around the language used by Governments, Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
“With time, we realized that there was a great misunderstanding of what the faith communities are, how they engage and what motivates them. We articulated to our partners outside the faith community to appreciate our language. For example, we use child spacing while they use family planning,” said Reverend Kaiso.
At the convention, the clergy also shared advocacy successes and interventions they use in their work.
In Kenya, for example, The National Independent Church of Africa (NICA) members have contributed to the development of a sex and sexuality booklet with reference from the Bible and the Qur’an to be taught in sunday schools and madrasas.
They have also developed a syllabus around sexuality education for the new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) with proper materials to teach children about their bodies.
They have also asked the Education Cabinet Secretary to allow them to give properly trained chaplains to handle the lessons in schools.
This is meant to manage the rising number of teenage pregnancy and school dropout cases in the country.
In Zimbabwe, GRACE Foundation, a faith-based organization, besides preaching to the homeless living in the streets, they also offer them with information on family planning.
The foundation has also petitioned the Zimbabwean Parliament to lower the age of sex consent to 16 years from 18.
In Uganda, the Seventh Day Adventist Church Union, under the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, is working together with UNFPA Uganda to eradicate FGM in Karamoja District through dialogue with the community and community leaders.
The Evangelical Association of Malawi takes family planning messages to pulpits in churches with supportive scriptures from the Bible aiming to end the firmly held misconception about family planning.
Elsewhere, Muslim Family Counseling Services (MFCS) in Ghana is celebrating their advocacy effort that led to clinical family planning methods included in the national health insurance scheme.
While in Rwanda, besides the Anglican church of Rwanda working to combat GBV, they too work with the government and CSOs to advocate for Family Planning.
On contentious issues such as abortion and LGBTQI, the faith leaders said that they have policy statements that give direction on all issues.
However, they do not condemn anyone but offer different programs within their churches and mosques to curb cases of abortion and counsel the LGBTQI community.
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