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IRADA Strategy

Introduction

Marie Stopes Society’s four-year IRADA Strategy (2012-2016) represents an important and innovative development in the evolution of Behaviour Change and Communication interventions focused on sexual and reproductive health across Pakistan. By incorporating a strong emphasis on cultural and contextual suitability, and the importance of Reproductive Health as an essential human right, MSS’s IRADA Strategy symbolizes the emergence of novel public health approaches and techniques.

By addressing the socio-cultural and religious determinants, which influence women’s Family Planning decision-making, IRADA will identify and seek to reduce the contextual and demand-side obstacles to care which occur at both micro and macro levels of society. Specifically, and through the medium of culturally appropriate and religiously sensitive BCC programming, the objective of IRADA is to mobilize Islamic doctrine in order to empower both women’s and men’s health decision-making and service access. By specifically building on deeply engrained Islamic notions of gender equity and individual and collective well-being, the IRADA Strategy is broadly supportive of the cultural, religious and also political changes required at household and community levels in order to improve

Against the backdrop of Islamic history and jurisprudence, the IRADA Strategy will thereby reduce the misunderstandings, stigmas, and barriers which have systematically constrained Pakistani women’s use of necessary Reproductive Health services and products. Indeed, the strength of the IRADA Strategy is evidenced by its ability to establish and propagate the socio-cultural and religious rationalizations and pre-conditions required for Family Planning usage and to strengthen contraception’s social acceptability and Islamic permissibility particularly among Pakistan’s most impoverished and vulnerable communities.

IRADA also requires that the Islamic doctrine which establishes the permissibility of Family Planning be conveyed through community-based activities, development, and dialogue which involve not only women and healthcare providers, but also men and women at both community and organizational levels. IRADA therefore provides women, their families, Community Health Workers (CHWs) and providers with religiously affirmed and economically facilitated means by which they can consider and act on their Reproductive Health needs.

What is IRADA?

Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) is a complex process which drives an individual to adopt certain attitudes and convert them into practices. Itis based primarily on moral values, cultural norms and religious interpretations passed down from generation to generation. Attempting to promote behaviours that appear to challenge norms and power distribution can be daunting, and at times a dangerous task. In a conservative, religiously motivated environment with prevalent perception of Family Planning being a foreign agenda, it is imperative that the issue at hand is framed using culturally and religiously relevant terms. Ensuring relevance and identification with messages is key to influencing thought. The BCC Strategy therefore derives strength and relevance from its strong underpinnings of concepts originally explored in Islamic schools of thought. Early Muslim scholars, between the 7th and the13th century, wrote extensively about the human nature (Haque, 2004; Muhammad, 2008). Abu Zaydal-Balkhi and Ibn Zakaria al-Razi (Rhazes) were the world’s first cognitive psychologist and psychotherapist (Deurase & Talib, 2005). Ibn-e-Sina (Avicenna) described the role of the mind and its relationship to the body and well-being. Several modern day psychological constructs of behaviours were defined by Islamic scholars as early as the 11th century (Haque, 2004).

Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali (1058-1111), (Algazel in English), used Islamic and Sufi psychology to describe four constructs of human nature:

  • QALB (heart or feelings)
  • RUH (spirit)
  • AQL(intellect)
  • NAFS (self, ego)

Ghazali describes NAFS (self) as having an inherent yearning for an ideal, which it strives to realise and it is endowed with qualities to help realise it. Ghazali’s framework for behavioural determinants identifies AQL (intellect) as the fundamental rational faculty that enables people to acquire ILM(knowledge). Ghazali posits that IRADA (will, intention) develops when a person has the right ILM(knowledge), appropriate QALB (feelings) and IKHTIYAR (choice/control) on that action. Knowledge, feelings about behaviour and control thus form the three pillars of intention. An interpretation of these earliest discourses, in the light of modern behaviour change theory results in the depicted framework.

(See IRADA book for complete details)