Family Planning Education in Afghanistan

One of the core areas of the Cultures of Resistance network is education, with a particular focus on initiatives that have the potential to improve the lives of those living in poverty or under oppressive conditions. That is why CoR offered its support to the Family Health Alliance (FHA). This organization works to improve family planning in Afghanistan through producing and distributing public educational materials that cover topics such as contraception, STIs, and HIV/AIDS. Initiatives like those carried out by FHA are in particularly high demand in places where the state’s capacity to provide services to its people has been destroyed by widespread military conflict.

The vast majority of Afghans have little access to general health care, much less to detailed family planning information or reproductive health services. FHA's founder Tareneh R. Salke found that the combination of deteriorated health care facilities, lack of knowledge about sexual health risks, and various cultural taboos in Afghanistan often leave many preventable and treatable infections dangerously undiagnosed. Salke specifically noted that “a successful family planning program could significantly reduce the high maternal mortality rates in the country.” But she also realized the challenges of providing health services in such a way that they could work within embedded religious and cultural traditions.

Most often the responsibility of family planning falls on the shoulders of women. However, the lack of public resources and the isolation of rural communities have created the need to train male doctors and nurses to provide contraception education to Afghan men as well as women. Among FHA's many programs is a male-oriented training initiative, which covers all aspects of reproductive health and contraception alternatives. In addition to clinical services, medical providers are also trained on how to address gender violence and how to counsel men on the sexual rights of women. To date, FHA has trained 148 male doctors and nurses. As one male participant noted, “[this program] is very important in Afghan society, because the ideas of men are more able to be accepted and unless men agree with their wives, their wives can not go with their ideas independently.”

CoR supported FHA in producing the first ever set of Dari-language DVDs for contraception education in Afghanistan. These materials could be a low-cost way of extending their already successful efforts. Ideally the Afghan Ministry of Public Health or the United Nations Population Fund, to which FHA has submitted the DVDs, will take up their project and make them accessible nation-wide. As Salke notes, "the freedom to make reproductive choices is a cornerstone of women's empowerment [and] it is the first of women's freedoms and the one from which all others flow.” The organization hopes that their mission of strengthening the health of Afghan families can help citizens in their struggle to rebuild their lives with hope for the future.

Click here to visit FHA's homepage and learn more about their work.

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