government of The Gambia, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are jointly hosting an International
Consultation on Islam, Family Well-being and Traditional Practices in Banjul,
The Gambia, from 21st to 23rd November, 2017.
The high level consultation, according a press release sent to this medium brings together religious leaders from all regions of The Gambia, and eminent scholars from around Africa to share knowledge and engage in dialogue on Islam, family well-being and traditional practices - including Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation -that impede the growth and development of women and girls.
The purpose of the consultation, the release further explained is to engage the religious leaders and scholars in discussions on the importance of reproductive and child health to national development, and recruit them as advocates against deep-rooted harmful practices in The Gambia.
“The consultation also seeks to strengthen the capacity of the newly reconstituted committees on Islam, Population and Development, whose members will be expected to support social mobilization efforts to increase the acceptance of Family Planning, as well the campaign against FGM,” the release states.
It further indicated that the consultation will leverage global goals, the AU Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend and the Agenda 2063. “The consultation will seek to address the opportunities available in harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the girl child, as well as reproductive, maternal, and neonatal health, including family planning.”
To this end, the release added, that prominent experts in the health sector and Muslim leaders and scholars of Islam will deliver presentations and deliberate on a number of key areas such as: Family well-being: critical factors of women’s empowerment, maternal and infant health; Fulfilling young people’s potentials: understanding the implications of traditional practices and Changing attitudes: The role of Religious leaders in changing perception and enhancing family well-being.
These thematic pillars, according to the dispatch, will set the stage for addressing other more specific and subtle areas. For each theme, there will be plenary presentations and discussions to be led by specialists in the specific fields from both the religious and scientific angles, followed by interactive question and answer sessions, moderated by knowledgeable facilitators. “These interactions and discussions will allow the participants to come up with a concrete agenda for action, and suggestions for a final conference communiqué/declaration.”
The release concluded that in light of this innovative experience in merging women’s health and social issues, The Gambia Government, UNFPA, and UNICEF are committed to strengthening communication with traditional and religious leaders, for behavioural change to increase the demand and supply of voluntary modern contraceptive methods, and improve the quality of family planning services without coercion, discrimination or violence.