Afghan government endorses SHOPS Plus strategy of delivering family planning messages in mosques
In Afghanistan, the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs recently endorsed a social and behavior change communication activity promoting family planning and maternal health through mosques. ASMO, a leading social marketing organization, implements the activity with support from SHOPS Plus. The activity aims to increase male engagement and address normative barriers.
Misconceptions about family planning methods are key barriers to uptake of modern contraceptive methods among married men and women of reproductive age in Afghanistan, a country with the lowest contraceptive prevalence rate in the region. Among the prevailing barriers, religious prohibition is the most prominent one.
In order to increase male engagement and address some of the deep-rooted social and religious beliefs about family planning and maternal and child health, ASMO engaged mosques with the idea that imams, given their respect in the community and regular interactions, could help change the attitudes of the worshippers.
In close collaboration with the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs (MOHRA), ASMO conducted 1,600 mosque meetings. It held meetings after mid-day prayers in 107 mosques located in different county areas of Kabul city to spread health messages about maternal and child health, including family planning.
Based on the positive feedback received from numerous imams involved in program implementation, MOHRA agreed to expand the intervention to 200 additional mosques. It issued a letter of support to all mosques enrolled in the program to continue conveying family planning and maternal and child health messages through daily and Friday prayers.
Involving government stakeholders early and obtaining their support, as ASMO did, led to smooth program implementation and paved the way for sustainability.