Faith and Family Planning: New Publication from FP2020

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Faith & Family Planning

Part of sustaining a rights-based family planning movement is designing programs that focus on women as their whole selves, incorporating their whole community, including faith leaders, partners, family members, and more. A family planning program isnt considered a success just by the numbers, but by the experience of the women who use it.

A new brief from Family Planning 2020 examines the role of faith-based organizations (FBOs) in the family planning community. Religion plays an important role in many FP2020 priority countries, where faith leaders influence not only family planning decisions but health care decisions more broadly. FBOs are seen as credible and trustworthy through their continuous presence at the grassroots level, notably in conflict-affected or hard-to-reach communities where other actors appear only intermittently. FBOs help contextualize family planning concepts and interventions by using language and approaches that resonate with the cultures and beliefs of the communities they serve. When FBOs provide leadership in supporting family planning, they may contribute powerful support in favor of it.

The new Faith and Family Planning brief, now available online, outlines successful examples of FBO engagement, and highlights lessons learned, including:

  • While religion can sometimes be used to justify discrimination, the interaction between tradition, culture, and religion is not static. Religion can strengthen the argument for human dignity and freedom. Engaging women through formal and informal religious structures has been found effective for increasing family planning acceptance.
  • Politics and culture can undermine FBO support for family planning. Political agendas, non-accountable governments, and actors opposing democratic inclusion can undermine human rights generally, including universal healthcare and family planning. Analysis suggests if development actors ignore the role of politics and culture in shaping religious views, they may inadvertently strengthen regressive notions about family planning.
  • Cultures and values dont change overnight. Long-term investment is required to promote greater understanding and facilitate collective action. The most successful approaches gently shift community norms by creating safe spaces and promoting mutual understanding through ongoing collaboration and partnership platforms. Meaningful partnerships require early and ongoing consultation, emphasis on scholarship and practice, and engagement of formal and informal religious leaders, religious teachings, and ideas.

The brief highlights several lessons, and also asks questions of the community in order to address further challenges:

  • How can the community fund FBO engagement? Building secular-faith partnerships requires a long term investment to: establish relationships; build trust; develop common ground; obtain approval through levels of hierarchy; overcome long-entrenched habits of thought and action; ensure locally owned strategies; and implement locally appropriate actions.
  • How can the community address gaps in knowledge? The secular community might not understand many issues in faith communities, including their feelings around specific contraception methods, and more.

Support for family planning in faith communities is growing - evidenced by many success stories - but continued success will take collaboration, new funding streams, and building trust between the two communities. Download the Faith and Family Planning brief now to read more.

FP2020 Faith Brief

FP2020 Faith Brief

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