Muslim Religious Leaders Tasked to Tackle Continent’s Problems

Fatoumatta K. Jallow

The UNFPA regional director has tasked the Muslim religious leaders and scholars to contribute in tackling Africa’s problems including the challenge of rights of women and girls.

Mr. Mabingue Ngom was speaking at the opening of a three-day International Consultation on Islam, Family Well-being and Traditional practices, being held at a local hotel, on the 21stNovember 2017. The forum according to organisers, brought together 500 participants across the continent, to discuss the Islamic perspectives towards family planning and harmful traditional practices that are connected to the religion.

Ngom said the Banjul meeting came as a recommendation from the earlier engagement in Chad that UNFPA had supported, which centered on ‘family well-being and harnessing the demographic dividend’. This he said, is what they referred to as the ‘‘N’Djamena Declaration.’’ “This declaration outlines the importance of working with Muslim Religious Leaders and Scholars to build strong leadership and committed partnerships, to scale up initiatives and programmes that support girls and women, to attain their fullest potentials,” he said.

He continued: “We are all too aware that as a continent, Africa has its own problems and Muslim Religious Leaders and scholars must contribute in tackling the continent’s problems,” he said. “We might have different viewpoints but one that is clear is the fact that Islam is a religion of peace that promotes a just and fair world for all. Religious leaders are change actors for durable peace and development and I call on you to continue your strong advocacy for peace, for the welfare of women, girls and young people,’’ he said.

The Vice President and Minister for Women’s Affairs of The Gambia Aja Fatoumatta Jallow-Tambajang, said it is necessary and urgent for such meetings to clarify the misconceptions associated with Islam, Family planning, Female Genital Mutilation, Child Marriage, Domestic and Sexual Violence which she said, are harmful to the health of women and girls.

“The government of the Gambia is committed to contribute towards the attainment of the sustainable development goals particularly goals 3, 4 and 5, on good health, well-being and quality education and gender equality respectively,” she assured.

She urged the religious leaders to become agents of change. “To have the Gambia we all want, we need to ensure our young girls remain students and not brides,” she said.