London Summit: Gold Moment for Faith-Based Organizations Working in Family Planning?

Lauren VanEnk

Georgetown University, Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) | Program Officer

In a rural community in Eastern Kenya, along the rough terrain of Mt. Kenya, a cadre of Christian community health workers (CHWs) is providing family planning for the first time. These CHWs are affiliated with the church-based hospitals in that region which are part of the Christian Health Association of Kenya. With support from the World Bank, these CHWs have been able to add provision of family planning information and methods (pills, condoms, CycleBeads®, Lactational Amenorrhea Method) to their package of services.

CHW Pill Demo Global Handbook

A Community Health Worker (CHW) gives instructions on how to use oral contraceptives.

While many believe that religious teachings act as barriers to accessing family planning, the issues on the ground are much more often related to lack of resources or training capacity and the ever-present concern of commodity stockouts.  These church-based hospitals leading the effort to bring family planning to the community level fully recognize the integral role that family planning plays in improving maternal and child health as well as relieving the economic burden many families experience when they are unable to plan their families.

On July 12, following the London Summit on Family Planning organized by DFID and the Gates Foundation in collaboration with UNFPA, a subsequent consultation is being held in London to discuss the role faith-based organizations can play in advocacy and programs to expand family planning services. This important conversation builds on previous work led by Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH), DSW (an international development and advocacy organization headquartered in Germany), and Muhammadiyah (a Muslim faith-based organization with a network of health care providers in Indonesia) through their interfaith initiative resulting in the Nairobi Declaration, and by the Georgetown University Institute for Reproductive Health’s (IRH) Consultation on Faith, Family Planning, and Family Wellbeing.

CHW CycleBeads Demo

A Community Health Worker (CHW) demonstrates how to use CycleBeads.

Efforts to bring a unified and positive voice for family planning within the faith community continue to gain momentum. The dedicated CHWs in Kenya are an example of how advocacy translates to action, expanding family planning access within the faith community.  Support is needed from faith-based organizations, donors, and global health implementing organizations alike in order to continue this momentum together.

To register for this event, email CCIH Executive Director Ray Martin at martinrs@aol.com. Please send your name, position title, organization, address, email, phone, and website.