Religious Beliefs and Practices: Roles in Decision-Making about Family Welfare in the Sahel
In Africa's Sahel region, religious institutions play key roles in daily life, and measures of religiosity are among the world’s highest; however, religious factors are often neglected in development plans and programs, including those that affect family welfare. This is partly because of sensitivities around religious roles, but also because there are many presumptions made about religious perspectives. In Senegal, religious actors are increasingly recognized as important players in advancing the fight against maternal and child mortality, notably by promoting approaches to family planning that are consistent with religious teachings. The results are promising, but point to issues where dialogue is vital—for example, in discussions on reproductive health education. The same is true in Guinea. In Niger, religious dynamics influence gender roles at a systemic level, most notably through issues like girls’ education, maternal mortality, and early marriage. The World Faiths Development Dialogue is supporting efforts to understand specific roles played by various religious actors in the region. This event explored critical issues facing countries in the Sahel, highlighting the roles religious leaders do and could play, as well as points of consensus and contention.