Religious leader champions family planning in DRC
Sheikh Amani Muzuri is an imam who lives near the Mulangabala health center in Kasongo Health Zone in eastern DRC. Sheikh Amani is married to two women and has 13 children. One of his wives, Amida Assani, is the head of a federation of social solidarity groups known as misadi.
As respected role models and satisfied family planning users, Sheikh Amani and Amida have encouraged many others in their community not only to go to the health center for family planning information and services, but also to speak publicly about their decision to do so in order to encourage others. Sheikh Amani and his wife are redefining family planning as a normative social practice in their community. Through their efforts, the number of women and men in polygamous unions choosing family planning has grown.
However, success did not come automatically. When family planning services first became available at Mulangabala health center, Amida promoted them during misadi meetings. This led some people in the community to criticize her actions and declare family planning to be a sin. Seeking to defend his wife, Sheikh Amani turned to the Koran to justify family planning. In a large meeting of male elders from the community that he convened to discuss this matter, Sheikh Amani cited a sura that instructs couples to wait 2.6 years after the birth of a child to get pregnant again in order to protect the health of both children. After some discussion, the elders reached a consensus that Islam permits family planning and that it would be acceptable for their wives to use it. Resistance to family planning subsided after this meeting. Now, Sheikh Amani and several other imams are taking this message to neighboring communities that have not yet fully embraced family planning.
Written by: Désiré Kimuha, CARE DRC, and Elizabeth Noznesky, CARE USA
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Also please visit SAF PAC Initiative at: http://familyplanning.care2share.wikispaces.net/SAF-PAC