Dr. Ahmed Ragab, Professor of Reproductive Health at Al Azhar University in Egypt presents how the university is working with Islamic leaders through it's "caravan" approach to educate and change attitudes on family planning, gender issues and reproductive health.
The caravan experience: How Al Azhar is
influencing views of Muslim leaders
regarding family planning, reproductive
health and gender issues
Dr. Ahmed Ragaa A. Ragab
Professor of Reproductive Health
International Islamic center for Population Studies
and Research, Al-Azhar University
The International Islamic Center for
Population Studies and Research, was
founded at Al-Azhar University in 1975 in
collaboration with UNFPA. It conducted
several studies and came to a
conclusion that networking and
partnership with religious leaders gives
the sense of ownership and ensure
more sustainable programs.
In order to enhance a dialogue among Muslim
Scholars, the IICPSR developed a wide range
of materials and programs. These materials
were developed by both medical and
theology experts. By providing accurate
medical information to the theologians, they
come with statements that support health,
dignity and welfare of the people.
Training and advocacy Materials
-Children in Islam
-Roots of MDGs in Islam
-Population Policies, Reproductive Health
and Gender Issues in Islam.
-Adolescent and Youth Reproductive
Health in Islam
-Violence Against Children
-Violence against women
Training of trainers workshops:
Several training of trainers workshops (TOT)
for both male and female religious leaders
were organized for groups of theologians
especially those of the Ministry of Awkaf on
the reproductive health, gender and
Future Religious Leaders (final year Students of Al-
Azhar) workshops :
Students of today are the leaders of
tomorrow. Several awareness workshops
were carried out for male and female
students of final year of Al-Azhar
University and different religious leaders.
Step Down workshops
Where those who were trained as trainers
are conducting training programs in their
localities for fellows supported and
supervised by the staff of the IICPSR and
Senior religious leaders from Al-Azhar
University in collaboration with Ministry of
The IICPSR conducted awareness
sessions for NGOs directors/senior
members and Media Personnel
who are interest in Population,
Reproductive Rights and Gender
Engaging Civil Society and Media:
•A large number of Travelling/Caravans Seminars were
conducted in Egypt and different Muslim Countries.
Indonesia, Somalia, Morocco, Yemen, Senegal, Gambia,
Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Darfur Camps, Turkey, Afghanistan
and recently, Kenya and Djibouti.
• Each seminar was attended by about 250 participants
among them RH providers, community leaders, local
authorities and representatives of NGOs working in the
The international seminars (caravans) include the
- Meet and partner with the authorities to gain support
of the task and ensure its success and sustainability.
- Networking with the local senior religious leaders.
- Tailor the materials to be suitable for each country.
The center received and still receiving many delegates
from different Muslim countries and from countries
where Muslim communities exists. Delegates from
Nigeria, Iran, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Syria, Jordan,
Indonesia, Yemen and many others visited the center
for periods that range between 3 days and a week.
IICPSR contributed much to:
Promoting family planning
Eradication of Harmful Traditions
Reduction of gender based violence
Promoting reproductive health for adolescnets
Summary of Areas of interventions
Monitor and Evaluation:
Different tools were integrated into existing programs in order to monitor
and evaluate the activities:
Pre and Post intervention questionnaire,
In-Depth Interviews and focus group
discussions. In addition, participant
observation, where one of the IICPSR team
attends a Friday speech and record it, then
content analysis has been done.
Clarifying in a scientific way and supported by evidences the
concerns and questions of the religious leaders is needed.
The exchange of views between
experts in theology and experts
from other disciplines is of
Making available materials that address reproductive health,
gender and sexuality issues from both medical and
theological aspects is needed. Conducting training and
raising awareness of the local RLs regarding, reproductive
health issues is of value. These awareness workshops should
be conducted by eminent and well known medical doctors.
In order to clear the misunderstanding and the sense of
hostility regarding International Organizations and donors
involvement in reproductive health and rights, the
International community/donors need to inform the
communities about their whole package of activities,
especially in education and health.
Empowering Supportive Religious
Many of the religious leaders
have views that are compatible
with advocates for reproductive
and sexual health, they need to
be empowered and encouraged
to speak out.