MANILA, Philippines – Several Muslim religious groups and organizations have signed a manifesto advocating the practice of breastfeeding among Muslim women.
The signing took place recently at a two-day Writeshop Activity at Orange Place Hotel in San Juan in which the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy partnered with United Nations Children’s Fund for this event that recognized the importance of breastfeeding in Muslim communities.
Prior to the signing of the manifesto, Muslim figures from the government, health sector, religious groups and the academe formulated khutbah (sermons), fatwa (Islamic ruling) and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials to promote breastfeeding as a cultural and religious practice especially in Muslim Mindanao.
PCID President Amina Rasul emphasized that “this initiative aims to mobilize faith-based support to create social change process in support of breastfeeding practice and policies through networking and linkages, religious preaching, capacity development, awareness-raising activities and media events.”
The project “takes advantage on the religious context” of breastfeeding in Muslim communities. The khutbah and fatwa will be delivered each Friday in mosques throughout the Philippines.
In the Holy Qur’an, breastfeeding is encouraged to mothers for up to two years.
While the project seemed to be an offshoot of breastfeeding advocacy programs from UNICEF and Department of Education, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Commissioner Professor Moner Bajunaid said that what they formulated was modified to fit the practice of Muslim community.
The Department of Health in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao lauded the PCID for this initiative to revitalize the norm of breastfeeding among Muslim women. ARMM Health Secretary Kadil Sinolinding Jr. emphasized that “breastmilk is the best halal and natural food for babies. It is a gift from the Almighty offering many immediate and long-term health benefits for babies and their mothers and promotes emotional bonding between mother and child.”
According to a National Demographic and Health Survey report, the Philippines has a breastfeeding rate of only 16%, with a “very dismal rate” for decades in the ARMM.