Under the supervision of my Director I was made the Focal Person to engage the religious clerics from different schools of thought in face-to-face dialogue process through seminars and meetings. The scholars unanimously agreed that the mother has been asked to breastfeed their milk to her infant for at least 2 years which automatically brings a gap of minimum 2 years between the two pregnancies. We gathered the material of other Muslim countries who have achieved tremendous improvement in the field of mother and child health such as Malaysia, Iran, Turkey etc. A Consensus Document was signed by 43 prominent religious scholars of the country endorsing the concept of birth spacing, underscoring the importance of girls’ education and providing optimal nutrition to the pregnant women.
The major contributing factor was to streamline the communication strategies and to provide information in the communication which is easy to understand, practicable and above all, in line with the teachings of our religion. Secondly, having considerable experience in the print and electronic media, I was very enthusiastic that through such powerful communication channels we can bring a major change that has never been achieved before.
As we have a patriarchal society in Pakistan women are rarely allowed to give an interview to a man. The USAID funded FALAH project shifted its focus towards organizing male group meetings to influence them about the birth spacing messages and introduced them to the concept of HTSP. Later through Evidence Project funded by USAID, carried out research through the data of our FALAH interventions where we found that men can play a vital role in the provision of appropriate family planning services.
One of the biggest challenges that we are confronting today is lack of political commitment to declare the issue of rapidly growing population as an emergency. The second biggest challenge is the unjust decisions made for the Lady Health Workers which is the largest source of providing door-to-door family planning services to the pregnancy women. They are trained and well-equipped with contraceptives from Deliver Project to provide easy access for pregnant women in the local communities.
Religious leaders have the potential to be an invaluable resource in support family planning practices, but before this can occur, they must be mobilized and have a better understanding of reproductive health and family planning issues. To accelerate contraceptive uptake in the country, the communication gap between family planning program and religious leaders/scholars must be addressed and need to work closely with them at gross root level ( District & Union Council level).