Muslim religious leaders of Central Asia discuss their roles in preventing gender-based violence and promoting reproductive health

2 July 2019

Muslim religious leaders, representatives of Islamic faith-based organizations and government officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have gathered in Almaty to discuss their roles and the perspective of Islam on areas related to maternal and reproductive health as well as prevention of gender-based violence. The workshop was organized as part of a sub-regional project entitled “Strengthening national capacities to improve prevention of, and responses to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Central Asia”, implemented by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with financial assistance from the UK Government.

Religious leaders are natural agents to advance human rights at the community level, promote reproductive health including family planning, preventing gender-based violence and ensuring that believers enjoy the benefits of safe motherhood. Violence based on gender remains a serious challenge globally, with Central Asian countries being no exceptions. It is therefore very important for religious leaders to not only discuss their roles in promoting harmonious relationships at community and household levels, but also in sharing good practices and discussing what their role could be in further promoting freedom from violence.

 “Religious organizations in many countries provide information and services in the areas of health care, education, and humanitarian assistance to a significant number of people. Faith leaders have an important role to play in encouraging people to get involved in peaceful dialogue and social action,” - said UNFPA Representative for Kazakhstan and Country Director for Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan Giulia Vallese. - “By equipping religious leaders with information about reproductive health and the prevention of gender-based violence, we empower people to make informed choices about their health and lives,” said Giulia Vallese.

 “The UK Government is committed to ensuring effective implementation of CEDAW (UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) recommendations both domestically and internationally. The UK believes that empowering women and girls positively helps to promote peace, stability, economic growth and poverty reduction. Under the UK’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda 2018-2022, one of its strategic outcomes is to increase the number and scale of interventions that integrate effective measures to prevent and respond to GBV, particularly against women and girls, which is the most prevalent form of GBV. Preventing GBV requires a collective response if it is to be effective, which is why the UK is supporting this initiative,” says Rio Ashrafi, Deputy Regional Portfolio Manager from the British Embassy Bishkek.

The workshop is facilitated by experts from Indonesia given their longstanding experience in collaborating with religious leaders in the promotion of reproductive health including family planning and in the promotion of family values and well-being. Indonesia’s experts included Dr. Nur Rofiah, Bil. Uzm from the Institute of Qur’anic Sciences in Jakarta; Drs. H. Furqan Ia Faried, MA. Muslim Leader, Lecturer and Facilitator on reproductive health and family planning in Islamic Perspective, and UNFPA Indonesia’s Advocacy expert Mr. Samidjo Samidjo.

Partnership with faith‐based organizations is vital for the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), adopted in Cairo in 1994, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (SDGs). Together, faith-based representatives and the United Nations increasingly speak of the “right to human dignity” and, in the context of the SDGs, on the importance of leaving no one behind.