Ulama (Muslim legal scholars) are widely respected and often perceived as among the few reliable channels of communication, especially among the rural population and in areas where literacy is low and access to mass-media is limited. Through a wide network of mosques and seminaries, ulama are endowed with a powerful platform for shedding misperceptions and promoting positive behaviors, especially among men who congregate regularly in sizeable numbers, e.g. for Friday prayers.
The Ulama Intervention entailed mapping locations of influential mosques and religious personalities in rural areas through a Central Shora (committee), created for the purpose of this intervention and comprised of nationally renowned and well respected ulama, providing strategic oversight and policy guidance. Committee members and local ulama form a district pool to meet individually with ulama, identified through mapping, for sensitisation meetings using a range of evidence-based material together with a small book entitled “Role of Ulama in Promoting Maternal, Newborn and Child Health,” which uses Quran and Hadith, foundational Islamic texts, as its main reference points. They are encouraged to advocate for MNCH issues and promote positive behaviours in their sermons and lectures, especially during the Friday prayers. Follow-up meetings and group meetings reinforce and reward those who deliver lectures and sermons on MNCH issues.