Best Practices: Mobilizing Religious Leaders
The Prophet, (PBUH) has said
that, “Wisdom is the lost sheep of the believer; he should grab it wherever he sees it.”
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the important role that religious leaders (RLs) and communities of faith play in shaping health-seeking behavior. Religious leaders are often arbiters of morality and ethics, defining what is prescribed or proscribed by a faith. This is particularly relevant with respect to maternal and child health, reproductive health, and family planning as they are at the juncture where science, religion, culture, and morality intersect.
Addressing RH/FP through the teachings of Islam
The ESD approach teaching religious leaders that reproductive health is concerned with more than simply family planning and child spacing. It is about maintaining optimal health in all issues related to women’s and men’s reproductive systems. Islamic communities, just like all communities in the world, are faced with many RH/FP related challenges, such as the illness and death of women during childbirth, health problems associated with pregnancies that are too early in life or too close together, violence against women, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. The ESD approach to mobilizing Religious Leaders addresses RH/FP issues within the values, beliefs, and directives of Islam.
Consequently, maternal and child health, reproductive health, and family planning information and practices that are supported by religious leaders and religious institutions are more likely to be accepted by the community. It is therefore imperative that religious leaders have accurate and appropriate information and skills to help their followers make informed choices on matters related to their health and well-being. The RLs’ activity in the Extending Service Delivery (ESD) project is based on the recognition of the critical role that religious leaders play in the community in promoting positive MCH/RH/FP behavior.