Muslim Leaders in Malawi Reaffirm Their Positions on Family Planning and HIV & AIDS Issues

Muslim Leaders in Malawi Reaffirm Their Positions on Family Planning and HIV & AIDS Issues

This is a guest post from Olive Mtema, Policy Advisor, from the Community Based Family Planning and HIV & AIDS Services project in Malawi. Olive is an employee of the Futures Group.

On March 12, 2011, Muslim Leaders gathered in Lilongwe, Malawi for a conference on Reaffirming Muslims' Positions on Family Planning and HIV & AIDS Issues. The conference was hosted by the USAID-funded Community Based Family Planning and HIV & AIDS Services project (CFPHS) in collaboration with the Malawi Ministry of Health, Reproductive Health Unit (RHU); Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM); and Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM). CFPHS is led by MSH, with Futures Group and Population Services International as key implementing partners.

Futures Group, which focuses on CFPHS policy and advocacy activities, led the organization of this conference as a follow up to the August 2009 Islamic Advocacy Conference on FP and HIV. Resolutions on family planning (FP), HIV and Islam generated at the 2009 conference included to clarify misconceptions about Islamic teachings on FP and HIV&AIDS, and to develop Islamic-friendly FP and HIV&AIDS information, education and communication (IEC) materials. In response to the 2009 resolutions,CFPHS in collaboration with RHU, MAM and QMAM, developed a brochure (in both English and Chichewa) and an advocacy tool that include interpretations of Qur'anic verses and Ahadith as they relate to FP and HIV&AIDS.  These tools (the brochure and advocacy tool) were developed based on focus group discussions held in Muslim communities.

The conference began with an opening statement by Mexon Nyirongo, CFPHS Chief of Party, who emphasized Muslim Leaders' roles as agents of change in the dissemination of correct Islamic teachings on FP and HIV. This was followed by remarks from the chairpersons from MAM and QMAM, who highlighted the importance of the conference in dispelling myths and misconceptions among Muslims that Islam does not permit FP and use of condoms. The conference was officially opened by the Secretary for Health, Mr. Willie Samute, joined by the US Embassy Charge d’ Affaires Lisa Vickers, demonstrating the collaboration and commitment from both the  Malawian  and US Governments to improving the health of Malawians through sound sexual and reproductive health programs.  

After the opening remarks, Muslim Leaders from both MAM and QMAM signed the resolutions generated at the 2009 conference, signaling the reaffirmation of their stance on issues of FP and HIV prevention.  Following the signing of the resolutions, the advocacy tool and brochure were presented to participants by sheikhs from MAM and QMAM, who provided participants with suggestions for using these tools in their communities. In addition, the conference included a workshop component where participants discussed strategies for disseminating the FP and HIV/AIDS messages in Muslim communities.  Participants agreed to share the key messages at the district level during Juma prayers and other routine gatherings, through Radio Islam and the Islamic Information Bureau, and by incorporating the messages in the Madrassa curriculum. 

Next steps are for CFPHS to continue collaborating with RHU, MAM and QMAM to host a series of district-level workshops to facilitate the dissemination of these key messages on Islamic teachings on FP and HIV&AIDS at the community-level and assist sheikhs in using these messages with their congregations.