Abuja Declaration of the Network of African Islamic Faith-Based Organizations

Abuja, Nigeria
March 17, 2005

We, Imams, Islamic religious leaders, scholars, youth, women and members of African Islamic Faith-based Organizations, met at the First Conference of the Network of African Islamic Faith-based Organizations, in Abuja, from 14 to 17 March 2005. The theme of the conference was Islam and family well-being. It offered us an opportunity to exchange views and experiences on the role of Islam in population and development issues. The objective was to gain greater knowledge and understanding of Islamic views on issues related to reproductive health, maternal health, women, population and development, in order to contribute more meaningfully to the well-being of our people and communities.

The theme, Islam and Family Well-being, covered six main sub-themes. These included Islam, family planning and the fight against maternal and infant mortality; knowledge of HIV/AIDS and strategies to fight it; female genital cutting (FGC) and harmful practices against mother and child health; rights and responsibilities of women in Islam; family life education and adolescent health in Islam; and reasons for the creation of a Islamic faith-based network on population and development.

Having thoroughly deliberated on these issues and related aspects of poverty in Africa, we [about 185 participants from some 17 countries], adopt the following declaration, which should be implemented in line with Islamic principles:

1. We strongly urge all leaders and people of faith to make more positive and substantial contributions to reproductive health, the rights of women in order to promote the well-being of all families and communities and to reduce poverty across Africa. Our experience and research show that addressing these concerns is indispensable to saving the lives of our sisters and daughters and to reducing poverty in Africa.

2. We strongly urge governments, international organizations and the private sector to support the work of Islamic religious leaders in their efforts to make their own contributions to the important undertaking of lifting Africa from poverty, maternal mortality and morbidity, as well as infant mortality and underdevelopment.

3. In that respect, we support efforts to save the lives of African women and children and lift our communities out of poverty through efforts proposed in blueprints that were shaped by African nations and development partners, such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other international development goals adopted by United Nations global conferences, such as the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

  • Family planning is acceptable in Islam for child-spacing and the health of mothers. It should be the voluntary choice of individuals.
  • People can adopt and use all modern and contemporary methods that are medically sound.
  • Imams, Islamic religious leaders and associations should embark on awareness creation and advocacy campaigns to explain that family planning is acceptable.
  • The media should be used to disseminate information that family planning is acceptable.
  • Abortion is not a method of family planning.
  • Given the high number of maternal and child deaths in Africa, we support all appropriate measures, within the context of Islam, to curb and reverse the trend that claims the lives of more than 1 million women and children each year in Africa. Hence, we strongly support efforts to provide women with reproductive health care during pregnancy and childbirth; skilled medical attendance at birth; emergency medical services to handle complications during childbirth; as well as to provide the means to enable men and women to make their own decisions on the number and spacing of their children. These health services must reach all those who need them the most.
  • We urge all communities, governments, civil society organizations, international organizations, development partners and the private sector to support such services. We call on all community, Islamic religious, traditional and cultural leaders to speak out on and explain the importance of the health services mentioned above to their respective communities.
  • We encourage the establishment of voluntary counseling and testing centers.
  • Islamic religious leaders and Imams should disseminate information on HIV/AIDS through sermons and at Islamic religious events.
  • We support all appropriate methods of preventing HIV/AIDS. These include abstinence, being faithful and, when absolutely necessary, correct and consistent use of the condom between couples. We urge all actors to show compassion and support for people living with HIV/AIDS and discourage any form of stigma and discrimination against them. Governments, authorities, private sector civil society organizations and development partners should extend affordable treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Female genital cutting/mutilation is not an obligation and is not in the tradition of the Prophet (SAW). It is, medically, a harmful practice.
  • It is a form of violence against women, which should be eradicated.
  • UNFPA and other partners should help cultural and Islamic religious organizations as well as Islamic religious leaders and Imams to organize awareness campaigns to eradicate the practice. More research should be conducted into the practice of female genital cutting.
  • Islam recognizes the rights of women.
  • Women and men enjoy equal rights in all spheres of life. All actors should continue to support efforts to empower women to make positive contributions to their societies and nations. They should be free from all forms of discrimination and violence. The female should be educated and the girl child supported to realize her full potentials. We as Islamic religious leaders and scholars will promote the rights of women to education, to work, to health and other benefits of their nations and communities.
  • Women should be empowered to make their own decisions on their education, their husbands and their work.
  • We support family life education. We encourage parent-child communications on related issues.
  • Parents, youths/adolescents and teachers should be provided with the necessary knowledge and skills to impart population and family life education. It should be provided by competent people to adolescents/youths in and out of school as appropriate, to equip them to understand their physical, intellectual and spiritual development; to maintain their health; as well as to avoid teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
  • Family life education should be competently provided to enable youths to become knowledgeable and responsible parents. .
  • We have decided to constitute ourselves into an African Network of Islamic faith-based organizations. We are open to collaboration on population and development matters with networks of other faiths, including the option of coming together in an inter-faith structure.
  • We invite each country to create networks on population and development at district, divisional, national and sub-regional levels. They should hold regular consultations amongst themselves.
  • Youth and women’s faith-based organizations should be members of networks of such organizations.

We as Islamic religious leaders will take it as a duty to promote appropriate policies and measures to successfully carry out the recommendations contained in this Declaration. We shall also advocate for its recommendations and mobilize resources to carry them out effectively.
We will advocate for all national and international Islamic organizations to promote this Declaration as a priority and help mobilize resources to implement
We recognize the power and role of the media in educating, promoting and disseminating information to the public. The use of the media should be encouraged for positive behavior change communication and for advocacy.
We appreciate and thank the Nigerian Government, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, Sheikh Imam Hassan Cisse, the Steering Committee that led to the formation of this Network, the Local Organizing Committee for this conference, the media and UNFPA for organizing and facilitating this conference.
Adopted this day, 17 March 2005

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