Faith and Family Planning: Working Together to Drive Progress Post-2020

Religion plays an important role in many FP2020 priority countries, where faith leaders influence health-seeking behavior and faith based organizationsi (FBOs) provide a notable share of healthcare information, services and supplies. FBOs are seen as credible and trustworthy through their continuous presence at the grassroots level, notably in conflict-ridden or hard-to-reach communities where other actors appear only intermittently. FBOs help contextualize family planning concepts and interventions by using language and approaches that resonate with the cultures and beliefs of the communities they serve. When FBOs provide leadership supporting family planning, they may contribute powerful incentives in favor of it.

Many FBOs provide family planning information, services, and supplies so that people are free to voluntarily choose to space the timing and number of children they want. They generate educational materials that explain the religious texts supporting family planning; train service providers in their own facilities; provide referrals to service providers; promote social and behavioral change through their activities; and educate policy makers to advocate for policy change. A study of 95 FBOs regarding their interventions on the broad theme of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) found that FBOs promote a holistic approach to physical and spiritual wellbeing with various interventions addressing family planning, maternal and child health, reproductive health, adolescent health, gender based violence, sexually transmitted infections, HIV/ AIDS, sexual health, and sexual and reproductive rights. The top intervention by FBOs surveyed was advocacy and policy influencing – notably working group membership and meetings with decision makers and influencers – followed by capacity development, trainings, and service delivery. FBOs report clients use natural family planning, as well as pills, condoms, spermicides, injectables, IUDs, implants, and sterilization.

Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) is a global partnership supporting the rights of women and girls to decide — freely and for themselves — whether, when and how many children they want to have. With a growing awareness of FBOs’ role, FP2020 sought to identify best practices, inform its partners and help drive progress post-2020. FP2020 has commissioned this brief to summarize knowledge about how secular FP2020 partners can more effectively engage with the faith community and FBOs to help women achieve their fertility intentions and to improve healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, including the voluntary use of modern contraceptive methods. Evidence for this brief came from document review, eleven key informant interviews, and an online survey to FP2020 partners and stakeholders. Documents reviewed, people interviewed, and stakeholders surveyed were selected by FP2020 in consultation with the consultant and representatives of World Vision and the Faith to Action network. Many thanks are due to the report authors, interviewees, survey respondents, and reviewers for their commitment to this work and contributions to this brief.