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Regional Women of Faith Conference; Advocating for Freedom of Religion and Belief

Regional Women of Faith Conference; Advocating for Freedom of Religion and Belief

Ethiopia is hosting a Regional Women of Faith Conference which will draw women of faith across various countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritius, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Guinea and Cameroon. The 5-day gathering will have several engagements such as training on advocacy, mediation, and engagements with the Africa Union.

The conference will address Women of Faiths role in advocating for Freedom of Religion belief (FoRB). FoRB and gender equality intersect in many ways with its violations affecting women differently from men, example hidden violators, sexual violence, forced marriages, extreme social control, and honour bearers. Women’s FoRB can be undermined in different ways from men by patriarchy, cultural and religious traditions, religious laws and religious nationalism. Therefore, women play an important role in advancing FoRB, such as preventing radicalisation and in bridging other faith communities.

It is with this that Mensen met een Missie (MM) and JISRA Partners in Africa are organizing a training session for the Africa Women of Faith Network. This will focus on lobbying advocacy and establishing connections with the African Union. The main goal of the training is to empower members of the Africa Women of Faith Network to become knowledgeable, confident, and well-connected advocates for women’s Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) and Gender Equality. The training aims to equip participants with the skills to influence policy and drive positive change for women across Africa.

In 2021, MM in collaboration with the African Council of Religious Leaders – Religions for Peace (ACRLRfP) and other JISRA partners including the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK) facilitated consultations among women religious leaders under the theme Building Partnership for Transformation: Freedom of Religion and Belief (Forb) And Gender Equity in Africa. The consultations involved women religious leaders and actors from Kenya, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Guinea, Togo, South Africa, Mauritius, Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the consultations, the WoF leaders reflected on their experiences, milestones, and challenges in advancing gender equity and Freedom of Religion and Belief in their local contexts. These meetings resulted in a memorandum for the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The memorandum advises, among other things, that the AU hold coordinated conversations on FoRB and gender, based on the experiences and evidence presented by local women of faith networks. Engaging with the AU aims to use religious resources to achieve greater gender equality in Africa.

This 5-day engagement seeks to create a road map for strengthened cooperation and dialogue by Women of Faith for advancing FoRB and gender equality. It also seeks to empower Women of Faith to have a greater understanding of the intersection of factors that undermine women’s rights to equality and FoRB and how they can be resolved and advocacy framework for including aspects of women’s religious or belief identities by African Nations.

This first ever Women of Faith Conference will bridge the gap between policymakers and daily practice, strengthen mutual cooperation, and promote interfaith action and gender equality through dialogue.

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