Child marriage, SRH and religion presentation

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A Presentation by Ms. Catherine Breen-Kamkong, Deputy Represenatative, UNFPA Nepal made during the Round Table with Religious Leaders and Adolescents on Child Marriage in Kathmandu, Nepal on 15 September 2013

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  • Indeed, about 70 per cent of people identify themselves as members of a religious or spiritual community. Religious values and practices are often deeply entwined in the fabric of daily lives, and the leaders of churches, mosques, temples and other religious communities play a powerful role in shaping attitudes, opinions and behaviour.As Human beings, we share a common humanity and together this is a perfect starting point for our dialogue
  • More than 600 million adolescent girls live in the developing world.Biologically, women's risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections during unprotected sexual relations is two to four times that of men.Eighty-two million girls in developing countries who are now between the ages of 10 and 17 will be married before their 18th birthday.In developing countries, most sexually active adolescent girls are married. The overwhelming majority of adolescent girls who become pregnant are married.Some 16 million women and girls under age 20 give birth each year.The most recent estimates on unsafe abortion show that 14 per cent of all unsafe abortions are to adolescents 15-19, about 2.5 million abortions per year.Rather than discussing SRH in general, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some of the SRH consequences of child marriage which makes evident that this practice is harmful and requires dialogue and our collective action and support. Read slide
  • If we work together we can see a change in these statistics
  • In Nepal, it is religious leaders who have the best access to resources in local settings, the largest access to the poorest and most disadvantaged communities, as well as social and moral capital to leverage for positive change and transformation. Through spiritual platforms, faith-based organizations and religious leaders can access community beliefs, and influence local norms. UNagencies and development partners cannot bring about these changes alone. Together we can make a difference and we are here today to start that dialogue on how to do this
  • Delaying age at marriageDelaying age at first pregnancy and childbirthIncreasing contraceptive prevalence rates - the high level of unmet need for quality contraceptive services--and the corresponding number of unwanted pregnancies — is a key reason why so many seek out abortions and in the case of young people, they are often forced to marry to legitimize this pregnancy. One way that UNFPA addresses this problem is by trying to fill the unmet need for contraceptives among women and girls Reducing unwanted pregnancies which often result in abortionReducing other harmful practices including sex selective abortion/ son preferenceImproving reproductive health and HIV knowledge and practice thus ensuring these young people have the best chance of achieving their full potential in life
  • I WANTED TO SHARE A FEW EXAMPLES OF HOW WE HAVE WORKED IN THE PAST WITH DIFFERENT religious leaders on these SRH issues. Evidence-based dialogue with religious leaders and policymakers has proven to be a suitable approach when conducted within the framework of indigenous beliefs and culture. Together we looked at the evidence on the benefits of family planning and the harms of early, late or repeated pregnancies.In the Islamic Republic of Iran, when this evidence was presented in dialogue with religious leaders, as well as the government, it led to the implementation and full political backing of the national Family Planning Programme. The Family Progamme of Iran led to a reduction in the fertility rate from 5.4 to 2.1 in a period of 20 years. The figures can be partially attributed to the cooperation that has taken place over the years between Islamic scholars and UNFPA.The same can be said of the implementation of a programme on adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Islamic scholars employed the religious injunction that ‘fathers and mothers are obliged to teach their children the skills and knowledge of their time’ to encourage families to teach their adolescents issues related to puberty and sexual health as appropriate to their age.
  • In 2005, UNFPA partnered with the District Development Committees in three districts—Kapilvastu, Mahottari and Rautahat—to work with faith-based leaders on reproductive health and gender issues. The partnership was focused primarily on Hindu Priests and Muslim leaders. In Kapilvastu, UNFPA collaborated closely with the District Development Committee and District Health Office to facilitate the training and sensitization of faith-based leaders on these issues. The training sessions also served to initiate partnerships with these leaders in order to reach out to communities and communicate ways to improve reproductive health. Overall, the training sessions for the faith based leaders were beneficial in engaging them in discussion about reproductive health, family planning and gender issues in the context of religious discourse. After a three-year training period that engaged these leaders in reproductive health awareness programmes, a network of religious leaders was formed in Kapilvastu district. Based on the success of the initiative, the District Development Committee allocated funds for similar training programmes in its regular budget from 2006 to 2008.Furthermore, health facilities in some areas reported the increased acceptance of family planning methods atthe community level particularly in muslim communities.
  • The Damrivi Foundation is a network of Buddhist academics. Integrating Buddhist insight into development planning has been our aim, and our skill. The services of the Damrivi Foundation are available to all – irrespective of class, creed, or religion. When the disaster of the tsunami hit Sri Lanka in 2007, the Damrivi Foundation had already trained hundreds of people to assist the community in dealing with the ensuing problems and work with the wider community to help them restore their wellbeing. They also offered culturally sensitive training to medical professionals from outside the country, as they were often the first people on the scene of crises.
  • Safe spaces we are creating around the issue of gender justice in relation to HIV and AIDS. The issue of HIV and AIDS has graced spaces so as to require re-readings of the Bible from a gender perspective. By doing so, the Church has fostered environments for healing and wholeness. Slowly, women have moved away from being the bearers of stereotypes, to being the bearers of human rights.
  • Child marriage and its consequences are in fact a form of violence
  • We have learned that the teachings of faith traditions can, and should, address root causes of the tragedies we face today including child marriage. We must focus on prevention as the front line of defense. Together we must make progress in improving the lives of the young people of Nepal
  • Thank You
  • Child marriage, SRH and religion presentation

    1. 1. Sexual and Reproductive Health, Child Marriage and Religion Ms. Catherine Breen- Kamkong, Representative a.i, UNFPA 15th September 2013
    2. 2. Sexual and Reproductive Health, Child Marriage and Religion Faith and religion play a vital role in the lives and cultures of most people throughout Nepal.
    3. 3. Sexual and Reproductive Health consequences of Child Marriage • 81 in every 1000 births in Nepal is by an adolescent mother (2nd highest in South Asia after Bangladesh) • The number one cause of death among girls aged 15 – 19 relates to complications from early pregnancy • Adolescent girls under the age of 15 are up to five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20’s • Babies born to adolescent mothers have a high risk of dying during their first year of life • 86% of married adolescent girls aged 15 – 19 are not using a modern form of contraception • There were 95,000 cases of abortions reported in 2010/11 where 25% were teenagers
    4. 4. • In Nepal, most sexually active adolescent girls are married and make up the overwhelming majority of those who become pregnant. • Early childbearing is also linked to obstetric fistula and uterine prolapse. • Teenage mothers are more likely to have stillbirths and children with low birth weight and anemia. • Stillbirths and death in the first week of life are 50 per cent higher among babies born to mothers younger than 20 than mothers aged 20-29 • Marriage also increases girls’ risk of contracting HIV, often from their husbands. • Child marriage puts girls at a greater risk of gender-based violence. Sexual and Reproductive Health consequences of Child Marriage
    5. 5. Religious leaders enjoy unique relationships with members of local communities – relationships often built on mutual respect, trust, and service to those most in need. An Opportunity
    6. 6. What we can achieve together in SRH programs Through joint engagement with religious and community leaders, we can improve the lives of adolescent girls by: • Delaying age at marriage • Delaying age at first pregnancy and childbirth • Increasing contraceptive prevalence rates • Reducing unwanted pregnancies • Reducing other harmful practices including sex selective abortion/ son preference • Improving reproductive health and HIV knowledge and practice • Preventing illnesses such as Obstetric Fistula and Uterine Prolapse which can result from early childbearing Together we can help ensure young people have the best chance of achieving their full potential in life!
    7. 7. Islam The case of Iran The Family Progamme of Iran led to a reduction in the fertility rate from 5.4 to 2.1 in a period of 20 years. The figures can be partially attributed to the cooperation that has taken place over the years between Islamic scholars and UNFPA. In an adolescent sexual and reproductive health program, Islamic scholars employed the religious injunction that ‘fathers and mothers are obliged to teach their children the skills and knowledge of their time’ to encourage families to teach their adolescents issues related to puberty and sexual health as appropriate to their age.
    8. 8. The case of Nepal In Kapilvastu, Muslim leaders and Hindu Priests advocated to delay the age of marriage and supported couples to access family planning and utilize safe motherhood services. Islam and Hinduism
    9. 9. The case of Sri Lanka The Damrivi Foundation has developed education and counseling courses for people on issues of population and development. Their belief is that in order to bring about effective change, men and women, young and old, need to be educated about the most urgent issues facing their communities. Buddhism
    10. 10. Christianity The Case of Latin American council of Churches Safe spaces were created around the issue of gender justice in relation to HIV and AIDS. By doing so, the Church has fostered environments for healing and wholeness. Slowly, women have moved away from being the bearers of stereotypes, to being the bearers of human rights.
    11. 11. As a principle, we should always ask ourselves: • How do we see and interpret violence in all its manifestations. Would I accept to suffer? • Would I want my mother, wife, sister, or daughter to suffer? • Would I want my adolescent children to suffer? If not, then each one of us should move with full commitment to end all forms of violence against any member in our communities, knowing that. Final thoughts
    12. 12. • All forms of harm towards all people are against the basic spirit of all faiths. • It is our duty to join the energies of our faiths and our institutions to address abuses of human rights with all our human and material resources. • There is energy in faith, and in working together to reach common ground. Final thoughts

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