'Children are a blessing from God' : a qualitative study exploring the socio-cultural factors influencing contraceptive use in two Muslim communities in Kenya
Authors & affiliation
Batula Abdi, Jerry Okal, Gamal Serour, Marleen Temmerman
Background: Family planning (FP) is one of the high impact public health interventions with huge potential to enhance the health and wellbeing of women and children. Yet, despite the steady progress made towards expanding access to family planning, major disparities across different regions exist in Kenya. This study explored the socio cultural factors influencing FP use among two Muslim communities in Kenya. Methods: A qualitative study involving Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and In-depth Interviews (IDIs) was conducted (from July to October 2018) in two predominant Muslim communities of Lamu and Wajir counties. Open ended questions explore key thematic areas around knowledge, attitudes and understanding of contraception, perceived FP barriers, and decision making for contraceptives, views on Islam and contraception, and fertility preference. All interviews were conducted in the local language, recorded, transcribed verbatim and translated into English. Data was analyzed using thematic content analyses. Results: Although Islam is the predominant religion the two communities, perceptions and belief around FP use were varied. There were differing interpretations of Islamic teaching and counter arguments on whether or not Islam allows FP use. This, in addition to desire for a large family, polygamy, high child mortality and a cultural preference for boys had a negative impact on FP use. Similarly, inability of women to make decisions on their reproductive health was a factor influencing uptake of FP. Conclusion: Misinterpretation of Islamic teaching on contraception likely influences uptake of family planning. Cultural beliefs and lack of women's decision power on fertility preferences were a key inhibitor to FP use. Countering the negative notions of FP use requires active engagement of religious leaders and Muslim scholars who are in position of power and influence at community level.
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