ARUA. Religious and cultural leaders in Arua on Thursday showed commitment to promote family planning uptake in the West Nile region.

This was during a stakeholders’ advocacy meeting on family planning organized by Marie Stopes Uganda in conjunction with Uganda Family Planning Consortium (UFPC) at Heritage Courts Hotel in Arua town.

During the meeting, Habib Aluma, the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council Regional Secretary for West Nile region said family planning is one of the issues where Muslims are seen as people opposed to it.

He, however, said as Muslim leaders, they now want to come out and put their position on family planning very clear by supporting its uptake.

“Our scriptures and our religion defines family planning in a more comprehensive way than what we are handling as the mainstream. Recently, we met with our Regional Khadi and the council of Sheiks and agreed to come up with a documentation on how Islam seeks to promote the practice of family planning in the Muslim community as a whole,” Aluma promised.

Similarly, Ismail Tuku, the Prime Minister of Lugbara Kingdom (Kari) said they have pronouncements about cultural practices including improvement on family planning.

“People even in my own village believe that once you say family planning, it stops people from producing, which is a misconception. Then there are those, who are generally negative about the issue of family planning. Competitions are high among parents on the issue of family planning; you have a lady requesting for it and the man opposes. We now need to come out and give people the correct message on family planning,” Tuku recommended.

“In the pronouncements, Lugbara Kari together with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development have also said no elder should bless any marriage of children who are below 18 years and by the moment somebody does that, the person should be taken to court,” Tuku stressed.

Nelson Droti, a staff of Marie Stopes Uganda said the meeting was aimed at joining hands together to do advocacy on sexual reproductive health with specific reference to family planning.

Droti

“We are grateful to UFPC for supporting the different institutions in working together to push the advocacy on family planning. We know out there, there are so many myths and misconceptions about family planning but the focus of this is actually to re-echo to the community that family planning is not about stopping people from having children but rather encouraging people to have well-spaced children and know when to have them, how many number of children they want to have and also having a healthy life especially for the mother and for the baby that is also breast feeding at least for a period of two years before having another child,” Droti explained.

According to Droti, around the Covid-19 time, there has been a high number of teenage pregnancies that are actually uncalled for. He said they are now appealing to parents and the community members to sensitize the young people to know how to manage themselves to avoid unplanned pregnancies.

Meanwhile in his opening remarks, Alfred Okuonzi, the Arua district chairperson said there is need to make the population of West Nile produce by choice not by chance.

Okuonzi said the unmet need for family planning is very high in Uganda, adding that it is the reason different partners should come in to address the problem.