• Connect With Us:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

'God commanded' family planning, says this Muslim leader in flood-ravaged Malawi

Last Updated by Sam Eaton on

Listen

/

For two villages in southern Malawi, climate change and contraception have become intertwined. So much so, that long-held cultural assumptions are starting to change.

Sheikh Mosa is chief of one of the villages, Mposa. He says there’s been a massive shift in mindset toward family planning as people in the villages begin to feel the effects of population growth and climate change first-hand.

Look no further than the recent flooding in Malawi that has washed away many of his people’s crops. Devastating floods in January displaced nearly a quarter million people, and half the country became an official disaster zone.

Women from the Mchilima Mothers Support Group in Mposa sing songs about the importance of family planning. The group was formed in 2012 in response to an increase in child marriages and school dropouts among girls, a trend they hope to reverse by promoting smaller family sizes.

Credit:

Sam Eaton

Mosa says the larger families in his village are struggling with hunger. With less food, kids drop out of school. Young girls may be forced into marriage or prostitution. But families with fewer children, he says, will find it easier to recover. 

Mosa says the struggles the villagers face today take precedence over any cultural or religious resistance to family planning. Even so, as a religious leader, he sees little conflict with Islam. 

He notes the Koran says women should breastfeed for two years to encourage child spacing. So modern contraceptive methods, he argues, are "really in line with what God commanded us to do."

Mosa’s village has been leading the family planning push in this part of Malawi. It formed a mother’s support group that spreads the message of modern contraception and smaller family sizes through words and song. The group also rescues girls from child marriage and teenage pregnancy, ensuring they stay in school — all without a penny of outside financial support.

They’re doing this not because someone is telling them to, or paying them to, but because, as Mosa says, their future depends on it.

Story Act Newsletter

Follow Across Women's LIves
Receive weekly email updates

Sosten Chiotha, Southern Africa regional director for the sustainable development NGO, LEAD, says climate change and population growth in Malawi are not separate issues.

“I think maybe 20 years ago, they may not have been interested in these linkages because the population was low ... the land was still fertile, there were still a lot of forests. So I think there was not so much pressure then to try and understand. But now they do understand,” he says.

The problem, Chiotha says, is that Malawi's people lack access to family planning services. Malawi is a country that, for the three decades leading up to the mid 1990s, banned not only birth control but sex education and even miniskirts, thanks to the conservative beliefs of then-president Hastings Banda.

Story Act: Poll Malawi AWL

newshour-logo-hires.pngMore News from PBSNewshour

News from PBS Newshour

Here’s how Republicans and Democrats feel about science news

Bill Nye leads the March for Science in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 2017. Photo by Michael Rios Republicans and...

Does Medicare make sense for seniors with employer health coverage?

In the past, writes journalist Philip Moeller, I usually told employees turning 65 that they did not have to get...

Senate Republicans say they’ll push ahead with plan to repeal Obamacare

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters about proposed legislation to repeal Obamacare at the U.S. Capitol...

WATCH: Obama speaks at global health event

Watch former President Barack Obama speak at the event on Wednesday. Former President Barack Obama spoke at the Bill...

WATCH: Melania Trump to UN: ‘Step up’ to protect children

Watch first lady Melania Trumps U.N. speech on Wednesday. NEW YORK — First lady Melania Trump on Wednesday called on...

WATCH LIVE: Day 2 of UN General Assembly debate

World leaders deliver speeches for a second day at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday. You can watch...

U.S. to give $32 million for Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees

Rohingya refugees walk on a muddy path after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Bangladesh, on Sept...

Facebook should testify in Russia probe, Senate intelligence chairman says

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on stage during a town hall at Facebooks headquarters in Menlo Park, California....

What’s in the new GOP health care bill, in one (simple) chart

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks about the Republicans new health care bill on Capitol Hill on Sept. 13, 2017...

Trump urges more nationalist worldview in first UN address

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioJUDY WOODRUFF: For President Trump today, a time to press a new world view and lay...

Powerful 7.1 earthquake will test Mexico’s emergency response

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioJUDY WOODRUFF: In another major story today: An earthquake shook Central Mexico...

First Irma, now Maria. Here’s how U.S. territories are preparing for disaster

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioJUDY WOODRUFF: As this afternoons earthquake struck Mexico, another hurricane...

AP Report: GOP tentatively agrees to $1.5 trillion plan on tax cuts

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) talks to reporters as he arrives for the weekly Republican caucus policy luncheons at...

News Wrap: Senate Intelligence Committee cancels private interview with Trump lawyer

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioJUDY WOODRUFF: In the days other news: Senate investigators canceled a private...

Erdogan questions why U.S. has armed Syrian Kurdish ‘terrorists,’ disputes claims of dictatorship

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioJUDY WOODRUFF: Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led Turkey since 2003, first as prime...