Gender Links in collaboration with ACT Ubumbano convened a Multi-faith meeting on SRHR to strengthen #VoiceandChoice & #SacredLoveinAction SADC Region on the 19-22 May 2019. The Meeting will fulfil the programmatic priorities of the two organization to strengthen SRHR and engaging key stakeholders including the Faith Based Leaders. This Meeting will contribute to the commitments made in the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, SADC Strategy on SRHR, Maputo Protocol, ICPD and CEDAW amongst others. Download the programme.

Background | Context | Objectives | Expected outcomes | Facilitation


Gender Links in collaboration with ACT Ubumbano will convene a Multi-faith meeting on SRHR to strengthen #VoiceandChoice & #SacredLoveinAction SADC Region on the 19 to 22 May 2019. The Meeting will fulfil the programmatic priorities of the two organization to strengthen SRHR and engaging key stakeholders including the Faith Based Leaders. This Meeting will contribute to the commitments made in the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, SADC Strategy on SRHR, Maputo Protocol, ICPD and CEDAW amongst others.

In many countries, winning faith organization’s support for SRHR and sexuality education can have a snowball effect in policymaking. At the same time, faith organizations represent strong pillars of Africa’s health systems, 30% to 70% of the African health infrastructure is owned by faith organisations (WHO). Faith based health facilities are specialized in providing access to health services for poor, rural or marginalised communities. Yet, they provide very little modern contraceptive methods. This infrastructure and personnel is a large untapped potential to deliver cost effective SRHR services to the poorest communities.  Religion is central to people’s lives in Africa: Between 69% and 98% of the population in Africa describes religion as “very important” in their lives” (Pew Research Centre, Pew Forum on Religion& Public Life (2010)). Religious beliefs often affect individuals’ behaviours which impact health, including age at marriage, family structure and roles and preventive health practices like strategies couples use to achieve their preferred family size.




According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the agreed treaties such as the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women(CEDAW),the  International Conference on Population and Development(1994), and the Beijing Platform of Action and its Declaration (1995) among others, human rights apply to everyone and that no one should be excluded. The ICPD define Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR_) as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and…not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Implicit in this last condition are the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, as well as other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility which are not against the law, and the right of access to appropriate health-care services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant (para 72)’.

There is an urgent need for dramatically increased investments in SRHR information and services to address the global SRH challenges and the reproductive rights of populations and particularly vulnerable populations. Promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information and services is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals Goal 5, International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agenda universal access to sexual and reproductive health and also refers to the Beijing Platform for Action.

SRHR entails not only the absence of reproductive or sexual illnesses, but also the full enjoyment and well-being of sexual and reproductive health. SRHR, as part of human rights, have the following principles of human rights described in the Universal Declaration of human rights as Universality, Inalienability, Indivisibility, and Interdependency and interrelation.

Poor SRHR accounts for an estimated one third of the global burden of illness and early death among women of reproductive age. About 201 million married women in developing countries still have an unmet need for modern contraceptives. Data from 94 national surveys indicate that the unmet contraceptive need among sexually active adolescents is more than two times higher than that among married women. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, as many as 46 per cent of women face this problem. Globally, 37 countries have an unmet need for family planning that is greater than 20 per cent and 24 countries have a contraceptive prevalence rate for modern methods that is less than 10 per cent. Every day over 6,000 people are infected with HIV, of which over two-thirds occur in sub-Saharan Africa[1].

Religious leaders are central in shaping SRHR in Southern Africa. They have responsibility to break the silence on SRHR.  African populations continue to patronise one of many religions on the continent, including Christianity, Islam, the Baha’i Faith, Hinduism and others.  According to Pew Research Centre, main religions in SADC region are: 52% Protestant, 20% Catholics and 6% Muslims.  Religious institutions are well placed to influence positive SRHR outcomes in Africa because they are found in most communities and wield a lot of influence.  Despite the widespread support for religious leaders’ participation and training in SRHR, indications are that religious leaders have challenges with themes in SRHR and needed further training with a strong reflection their sacred texts.

Faith-based institutions and networks have inherent power and exert influence as policy-makers and civil society leaders as they uphold religious doctrines and practices. Religion has a unique power of tackling structural issues, transforming gender and power relations, norms and values, and are critical in ending poverty and challenging inequality. The role religion as a driver of positive change towards social justice cannot be over emphasised. Deliberate and concerted effort towards engaging religious leaders and institutions for positive change and upholding human rights, gender equality and just communities.

Religious leaders play an important community role in weaving the moral fibre of any people, shaping attitudes, opinions and behaviours, as well as influencing the narrative and trajectory of objectives in a certain direction. It is for this reason that we will hold a workshop with religious leaders to devise advocacy strategies that can be used effectively within faith spaces.

The workshop will seek to explore the links between the faith based sector and SRHR and focus will be on how advocacy and messaging can help to address the global SRHR challenges.   Challenging culture and religion which increase the vulnerabilities of women and children and that promote negative ideas of being man, and thus the need to promote masculinities that promote wellbeing for all and involvement of men in prioritizing SRH needs.

The Objectives of the Strategy Meeting are to:

  • Equip Religious Leaders with knowledge on SRHR concepts and key issues surrounding SRHR;
  • Strengthen commitment and advocacy skills of the Religious Leaders to influence SRHR issues at national and regional level;
  • Devise possible advocacy strategies and messaging that can be used in faith spaces;
  • Strengthen the presence of FBO networks within the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance; and assess capacity needs and possible support.

The Expected Outcomes

  • Information-
  • Increased understanding of SRHR and issues that hinder access to SRH services and the role the religious leaders can play.
  • Advocacy –
  • Strengthened capacity for church leaders to advocate for universal access to SRHR
  • Strengthened commitment in advocacy interventions by church leaders
  • A user friendly SRHR toolkit that the religious leaders can use and promote.
  • Interfaith policy briefs used for the 2020 Barometer resource, Inter Faith Brief on Teenage Pregnancy, Inter Faith Brief on GBV and Inter Faith Brief on SRHR


There will be two facilitators for this meeting and they will guide the programme including the presentations discussions, activities, conclusions and outputs.

Experts from GL, ACT Ubumbano and other thematic experts will also play a critical role in presenting experts information according to the Programme.




[1] United Nations Population Fund  (2008)  Making Reproductive Rights And Sexual And Reproductive Health: A Reality For All. Reproductive Rights And Sexual And Reproductive Health Framework