The RightByHer Campaign brings together a team of committed champions including religious leaders who raise awareness in their circles of influence and push for increased funding for implementation of policies on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights in Africa. Mohamed Bun Bida, a religious leader based in Ghana shares with us his experience.
My name is Mohammed Bun Bida, a social development consultant and Muslim scholar with extensive experience in using a multi-faith approach to social, health (Sexual and Reproductive Health/Family Planning) and human rights. I am currently the Programmes Director of Muslim Family Counselling Services in Ghana.
I am actively involved in the RightByHer campaign as a champion, and my engagement with this campaign has benefitted me in various ways, for example through various trainings and other capacity building activities, as well as participation in relevant international conferences that have enhanced my skills and knowledge in the field of sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR). I was recently recognized and awarded as the best advocate in the area of Family Planning policy advocacy by the Faith to Action Network, which is under the RightByHer campaign.
Religious Leaders as Advocates
I believe that HIV and AIDS prevention is a collective responsibility for everyone. As faith leaders under the RightByHer Campaign, we advocate for policies which address HIV and AIDS across all sectors. We are also involved in awareness creation and sharing of prevention messages.
In Ghana for example, there is the AIDS Commission which has become dormant due to lack of funding, which has affected the implementation of its activities. As faith leaders, we continue to push the government to increase funding to the commission to ensure they continue the fight against HIV.
As faith leaders, we have taken it upon ourselves to educate the people in mosques and churches. We also encourage youth to practice abstinence or use condoms if they must engage in sexual activities to help them better protect themselves against HIV. We are not only engaged in the fight against HIV and AIDS, but we also help the affected individuals to cope and live positively.
One may be surprised to find that we conduct condom demonstrations in mosques. This we do because we care for our people as we recognize that it is important to have a healthy congregation.
Effects of COVID-19
COVID -19 has affected our work in rural areas especially in the Upper East, where the communities, especially women and children need interventions that address their SRHR needs. We been forced to change our ways of educating the public to include the use of mobile vans which have had implications on our budget and finances.
The Muslim Family Counselling Services (MFCS) provides information and services on population, reproductive health, income generating activities and prevention of sexually transmitted infections within deprived communities in Ghana. MFCS also seeks to the realization of the full potential and total human development of young marginalized people in these communities through participatory community mobilization activities, capacity building in sexual health HIV/AIDS, and income generating activities.
Story by Mark Okundi, IPPF Africa Region.