By Ezra Abaga, Corporate Communications, PS Kenya.
Culture, religion and other myths and misconceptions are hindering many women in Kenya from accessing their sexual and reproductive health rights. However, coming together as stakeholders in health and engaging opinion leaders in the community like religious leaders, cultural elders, local administration and other stakeholders, it becomes easy to give women power to make good reproductive health related decisions.
Born and raised in Malindi, Imam Amin Mohammed Awadh, of Feruz Islamic Centre in Malindi Town is not the usual Imam who only attends to spiritual needs of faithfuls. He is also a champion who also advocates for other social needs in the community. Married to one Maria Awadh and blessed with children, Imam Awadh dedicates efforts to ensure his community (both Muslims and non-Muslims) can easily access health services and other needs.
To make this possible, Imam Awadh provides the Mosque grounds as an alternative health outreach center where services offered range from child health related services and family planning. During a visit at one of the integrated health outreaches at the Feruz Islamic Centre (where he is in charge) facilitated by the Malindi GK prison dispensary in partnership with Kilifi County and PS Kenya through Project Rizik, Imam Awadh explained what had inspired him to consider providing the mosque as a health outreach center. “When I saw members of my community especially women and children struggling to access health services, I was touched and decided to reach out to the local health center, who agreed to be conducting outreaches at the facility targeting women and children,” He stated.
He indicated that during one occasion when they were distributing food to needy families around, he saw poor pregnant women with several kids and also large families struggling to acquire basic needs. He believes if such women and their families were educated on child spacing, then it would be easier for them to provide for their needs, including taking their children to school. For this reason, he decided to open the mosque grounds for outreaches targeting women and children.
Initially, the idea was faced with resistance from a section of the mosque leaders and faithfuls who considered the exercise against Quran teachings which forbids them from using family planning methods. “I have faced opposition because of allowing women to access family planning services from health outreaches conducted at the Mosque, but as a leader and considering that the same holy book advocates for child spacing, I decided to enlighten my members and explain to them how the initiative was helping the community. As we speak, majority have now embraced the initiative after witnessing its impact to some of them and the community in general,” narrated Imam Awadh.
With champions like Imam Awadh, communities are assured that if many like him embraced health education and educated their members on the importance of child spacing, it would be easier to address gaps to the access of family planning information and services.