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Kabul - Religious leaders across Afghanistan gathered last week in Kabul for a three days conference on family planning. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, hosted the event together with the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs and Ministry of Public Health. The conference was attended by 500 religious leaders from 22 different provinces of Afghanistan.

To promote family planning in Afghanistan, UNFPA seeks the cooperation of religious leaders. They are the key to spreading awareness and acceptance on family planning in the country, where there is a common misconception that contraception is against Islamic principles.

Currently, only 20 per cent of married couples use a modern method of contraception in Afghanistan. In contrast, 90 per cent of women in reproductive age know about at least one contraceptive method. Among the main reasons for a low level of usage despite the high level of knowledge can be the misinterpretation of the religious doctrine regarding family planning.

UNFPA in coordination with Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs and Ministry of Public Health initiated an advocacy campaign with religious leaders to gain their support for family planning, especially modern contraception. Religious leaders, as custodians of Islamic faith, can play a unique role in reaching out to other Islamic religious leaders with messages on family planning and Islam.

'I promote family planning together with my wife'

Name: Enayatullah Karimi
Province: Jawzjan

"My wife is a gynecologist. Through her work she meets a lot of women facing difficulties related to pregnancy. Because I'm a Muslim scholar I know a lot about my religion. So I advise my wife to promote family planning using some Ayah's (chapters) from the Holy Quran.

The most important thing that I learned from this conference is how to be a good leader. Islam is a very peaceful and beautiful religion. That's why the Holy Quran says that we have to persuade people in a good and appropriate manner. I learned skills to be a good Muslim leader. I'm going to dedicate my coming weekly preaches to family planning. People must be aware of maternal and child health."

'I didn't know about birth spacing'


Name: Abdul Sattar
Province: Badakhshan

"My mosque is being visited by more than 150 people. I preach about all kind of issues related to Islam. Just last week I was talking about how parents could give their children a good upbringing. And that they should find the time to invest in their children so that they will become good Muslims.

The most interesting part of the conference for me was birth spacing. I didn't know about that. I was not aware of the negative consequences that several pregnancies can have on mothers.

Now when I go back to my province I will start a campaign on family planning and I will tell my people the things that I have learned during this conference."

'Now I understand the value of contraceptives'

Name: Mohammad Ibrahim Barakzai
Province: Baghlan

"I do promote family planning during my Friday preaches. And I know about birth spacing. Just last week I was talking about
maternal health. But what I didn't know was how a woman gets pregnant. Today I learned about the menstrual cycle; which days is a woman fertile and which days she is not.

We talk about different issues in our madrassa, also about family planning. Now I can understand the females who come to me with questions much better. Also I can better advise them on the use of modern contraceptives. In most of the remote areas in Afghanistan, the mosque is the only place where they can get information. I'm happy that I can provide this information to my people."