Responsible Parenthood Preached in Malawian Churches

Inter-faith leaders’ training conducted by Faith to Action Network, in Nairobi

The Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) is taking the lead in campaigning for Malawi’s population growth management. 

The church takes family planning messages to pulpits in churches with supportive scriptures from the bible to demystify the misconception that Family Planning (FP) disrupts procreation.

It is projected that Malawi’s population is to reach over 42 million by 2050 if the current average of about four children per woman prevails, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

As Malawi’s population is rapidly increasing, the impact will be felt across diverse development sectors—requiring a multisectoral response to address the rapid population growth. 

Pastor Howard Kasiya, The National Coordinator of the Health Commission, EAM told Kenyan journalists that one response is to engage faith groups in disseminating messages on the link between family planning, population dynamics, and development.

“Religious leaders are essential tools for educating masses about benefits of family planning," he said.

Pastor Kasiya was speaking during an interview conducted on the sidelines of a recent inter-faith leaders’ training conducted by Faith to Action Network, in Nairobi, to build their capacity to influence changes in policy and social norms in the State of African Women Campaign.

EAM is implementing a project called “Encourage Responsible Parenthood” in Nsanje and Dowa districts, which focuses on building the capacity of church leaders to increase access to and demand for modern family planning methods. 

Pastor Kasiya said consistent sensitization can significantly contribute to changing social norms around family planning and childbearing.

Religious leaders equip young people with knowledge and empower them to make responsible sexual and reproductive health choices, access youth-friendly health services, and transform societal attitudes and practices to address population growth and development.     

So far, they have reached out to about three hundred (300) religious leaders from its member churches and organizations through capacity-building regional meetings. Representatives were trained on how to effectively disseminate sexual and reproductive health information in the context of Biblical scriptures to congregants in their respective catchment areas.

Nearly 70 religious leaders drawn from 72 denominations under the Evangelical Association of Malawi in Nsanje district, have been trained on how to reach their congregants with accurate sexual and reproductive health information including family planning and youth-friendly health services. 

The main aim of the training is to motivate the clergies and give them the capacity to counter some myths, misconceptions, and prejudices that the church and congregants have been having towards issues of sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and family planning.

Currently, youth are facilitating dialogue on issues of youth-friendly health services and family planning among young people in the church and community, reaching over 2,500. 

They also conduct HIV testing and counselling in churches, in a bid to break fear and stigma about congregants going to VCT Centers, an exercise that is normally spearheaded by church leaders.

“What is very important is that we present all these from a biblical perspective, with supportive scriptures from the Holy Bible, as an obligation to God” Concluded Pastor Kasiya.

Howard Kasiya at the convention
Pastor Howard Kasiya at the convention

Achieving this kind of commitment from faith leaders has not been easy. There has been constant training and capacity building of religious leaders, such as the one provided by Faith to Action Network with financial support from the European Union, to make faith actors effective amplifiers of the message that optimum health and wellness are a key part of God’s plan for humankind.

EAM is among the faith-based organizations that is working within the State of African Women Campaign Project and the RightByHer Campaign to contribute to realizing and extending women’s rights as enshrined in Africa Union (AU) policies in African countries.

The State of African Women Campaign is a three-year project funded by the European Union and implemented by IPPF, Faith to Action Network, YWCA and OAFLAD among others.