What are the next steps?

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What are the next steps?

What is required in terms of overcoming the main obstacles?  What is currently lacking?  What are the next steps in successfully applying gender perspective to faith-based peacebuilding?

  • What is required in terms of overcoming the main obstacles?  What is currently lacking?
  • What are the next steps in successfully applying gender perspective to faith-based peacebuilding?

Share your experiences, thoughts, ideas and questions by adding a comment below or replying to an existing comment!

Recommendations for women in faith-based peacebuilding

In September 2010 IFOR's Women Peacemakers Program organized a consultation on the subject (Inter)faith-based Peacebuilding: The Need for a gender Perspective. For three days, 35 women activists from 21 different countries, representing a variety of religion-inspired and secular organizations discussed issues related to gender, peacebuilding and religion. The group consisted of a mix of progressive female theologians, women’s-rights activists and grassroots peacebuilders. During the last session of the Consultation, participants formulated a set of recommendations for activists and policy makers in regard to supporting the involvement of women in faith-based and interfaith peacebuilding.

Support and sustainability

  • Religious interpretations and cultural practices have become closely intertwined, with patriarchal values infusing religious interpretations and practices at the expense of women’s equality and rights. In order to challenge these practices, it is crucial to support and invest in progressive religious scholars, theologians and activists who are reinterpreting religious texts from a women’s perspective. In that regard, education and capacity building – both of religious leaders and of the general public – are important areas of focus.
  • To sustain each other, it is important to create a network so as to be able to express support for each other’s work, exchange experiences, and support strong female religious leaders within the different faith traditions.

Building bridges

  • Involving progressive male religious leaders as allies in the work for more gender-sensitive, faith-based peacebuilding is crucial, as is actively co-operating with and including progressive men’s groups within each of the different faith traditions. The participants stressed that men are not the problem; rather, it is the patriarchal system that manifests itself in discriminatory and fundamentalist religious thinking. It is important to showcase examples of how men also become victims of fundamentalist interpretations and how women also contribute to sustaining this patriarchal system. An inclusive gender analysis is crucial if men are to understand and recognize their stake in the work for gender justice.
  • As religious leaders are important role models in society, their position on gender equality is crucial, since it will significantly impact public opinion. It is therefore important to include them in women’s peace work and get them “on board” in terms of raising the public’s awareness about gender issues.
  • Faith-based peacebuilding work should not take place in isolation from secular peacebuilding initiatives. Women of faith often create their own spaces, also because they may not feel understood or accepted by more secular (women’s) NGOs, which tend to perceive religion mainly as a source of oppression for women. It is important to get away from the “either/or” way of thinking, which pits religion against women’s rights. Placing the multitude of problems that women face within such a narrow framework will not help to address them effectively and can form an obstacle in terms of ensuring that gender is on the agenda of faith-based peacebuilding. Many women peacemakers do not want to choose between religion and women’s rights when working for peace and gender equality in their community, country or region. It is therefore important that both faith-based and secular women activists engage with one another in their work for gender justice and gender-sensitive peacebuilding. Work needs to be done in terms of claiming the right to redefine religion, bringing out its positive and empowering aspects in women’s lives while strategizing against harmful and discriminatory practices that are justified on the basis of religion.

Creating awareness and further education

  • Considering that ten years of UNSCR 1325 have yet to bring forth the results hoped for, it is crucial to “translate” UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions into the local realities and contexts, so that they will make sense to the local (religious) communities and people will be more apt to internalize them.
  • As the issues of women’s rights/religion/peacebuilding are complex, it is important to educate donors, policy makers, religious institutions, and civil society on how interfaith and faith-based peacebuilding impacts on women’s lives. It is important to recognize that religion can also be a driving force that leads women to engage in peacebuilding and other activist work. Likewise, it is crucial to acknowledge that religious leaders have an important voice in communities (with the potential to obstruct as well as to promote gender equality). Hence, religious leaders should not be ignored as stakeholders by those working for women’s rights and gender justice.

To readt the whole report, please visit: http://www.ifor.org/WPP/Report-Interfaith%20Consultation2010-web.pdf

the next steps

During the WPP 2010 Cyprus Consultation on gender-sensitive faith-based peacebuilding, participants talked a lot about the gap between secular feminist/ women's rights movements and women activists working for a feminist/ women's rights agenda within a faith-based context. Several of the women mentioned this division as a painful experience, as it lead to feeling mistrusted and absence of much-needed support and co-operation to change the societies both are working in.  

Although religions tend to be patriarchal, it is also true that this is the case for most domains in life - such as economics as well as politics. Yet, most feminists would not want to see women abandon the political arena, or stop being active in the economic system altogether. Rather, feminists make the case for opening up and reclaiming these domains from a feminist perspective. Hence this will also be important for the domain of religion, a domain that still holds a lot of power over the lives of many in this world, and which for many also plays an important role in their life. 

Right now, the common idea that religion and feminism are two opposites, actually helps to continue a situation where patriarchal religion can still go relatively unchallenged, as those struggling to challenge this from within often do so in an isolated manner, which makes them vulnerable and easily silenced.

It will be important for progressive gender activists - both from secular and from faith-based backgrounds - to come together and first of all define common ground. Defining common ground together - including the setting of boundaries - will be important, as it is also true that there are activists of faith who use the banner of women's rights to push women back into disempowering gender roles.

A next important step therefore would imply stepping outside of our niches and coming together as to strategically cooperate for our shared goals of gender equality and gender justice.

Thanks Isabelle for raising

Thanks Isabelle for raising this.  You actually reminded me of a comment made by an LGBTQI rights activist from India who said that he had never seen so many of his friends and allies come out as Hindu as after the 2002 Gujarat genocide. And it was because they did not want the Hindu fundamentalist forces to be able to define Hinduism according to principles of Hindutva-Hindu nationalism.

By the same token, for feminists to decide that religion is simply not a sphere we should engage in, on a personal level (and speaking just for myself as an individual, of course), I do fear that ceding that space leaves religion to be defined by men, by fundamentalists, by communalists, etc. Are we not better off trying to support our allies who are feminists of faith and who are struggling against patriarchy in religious institutions, faith-based organisations, etc., just as they would (I hope) stand up for secular feminists who struggle against the imposition of religious patriarchal norms on all of society (e.g., conscientious objection options for healthcare providers, or right to life from conception clauses in state legislation)?

 

common ground to common good

I would like to add to Isabelle's call for common ground, the ideas of common will and common good. Women of faith can take the moral or spiritual high ground and set global agendas of concern considering the desperate and fragile state of the planet, whether it is conflict, violence, environment, education or other critical issues. Women have a crucial current role to play collectively. Within reason and as a collective, women's voices are valued.

Dialogue, awareness and education

I would like to share few quotations with all of you and find out what are your comments on those:

  • "...there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women..." Kofi Annan
  • "The education and empowerment of women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all."., Aung San Suu Kyi
  • "There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it.", Alice Paul

I believe that the next step is empowering women in local communities through dialogue, awareness and education. I think that, as many of you already mentioned, people should be reminded of the original role that women have played in different religions. Mekka has already mentioned how the wives of the Prophet Muhammad have played a crucial and active role in society by advising and sustaining the Prophet.I think that in patriarchal cultures women should be encouraged to actively take part in society on the very basis of those religious priciples and beliefs. 

 

Hi Jamila Thanks for sharing

Hi Jamila

Thanks for sharing these quotes. It's crucial for people, both women and men, to recognize that it's impossible to achieve sustainable peace without the inclusion of women. And in particular people in leadership position have a leading role to play in advocating for this. They are the role models who can inspire others to reflect on their behaviour and to bring about transformative changes. And their voices can serve as support for us activists working on these issues. 

I do appreciate their speaking out and acknowledge the importance, especially since change takes time. In spite of eleven years existence of UNSCR 1325, which advocates for the inclusion of women in peacebuilding processes, there is still a long way to go. We need these voices, but we also need the action to match the words. And there is still a lot to gain on that level.  

 

Resources on applying gender perspective to peacebuilding

Here are some resources that might be useful in identifying next steps in this work:

United States Institute of Peace: Gender and Peacebuilding Resources

Faith-Based Initiatives to End Conflict and Sexual Violence in Eastern DRC - Ending sexual violence in eastern DRC requires sustained intervention by a wide range of stakeholders, including faith-based institutions. To assess intervention efforts thus far, USIP holds a discussion about effective policies and ongoing faith-based initiatives working to end conflict and sexual violence in eastern DRC.

Women, Peace, and Security: Fulfilling the Vision of 1325 - USIP conducted a working meeting to discuss the ten year anniversary of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, which focused on women's leadership in peacemaking and conflict prevention.  Panelists discussed its history, lessons and experiences of the last ten years, why it is still relevant, and how to move forward implementing its vision.

Women, Religion and Peace - This initiative, launched in July 2010, explores the connection between women and religion in conflict zones.

Faith-Based Initiatives to End Conflict and Sexual Violence in Eastern DRC - A panel of experts shared their perspectives on effective policies and faith-based initiatives to curb civilian rape of women in Eastern DRC.

An Exchange on Women's Roles for Peace: Is Religion a Source of Strength or an Obstacle? - This public event concludes a two-day symposium on women's approaches and work to build peace. With an emphasis on the roles of religion, meeting participants will reflect with a broader audience on their conclusions, concerns and ideas for making their work for peace more effective. A reception will follow at 5 p.m.

Rape in War: Motives of Militia in DRC - The launch and discussion of the new USIP Special Report "Rape in War: Motives of Militia in DRC" by Jocelyn Kelly.

Rape in War: Motives of Militia in DRC - May 2010 Special Report by Jocelyn Kelly
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820 signals a new movement in the international community to recognize widespread sexual violence against women in conflict as a threat to international peace and security.

How Conflict Changes Gender - A Workshop with Leading Researchers and Practitioners on Conflict and Gender

Displacement, Violence and Peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo - Reducing violence and conflict triggers in the DRC requires an effective and lasting solution to the problem of displacement.  UNHCR has programs to register displaced persons, provide legal and protection assistance, in addition to assisting refugee and IDPs with basic needs such as shelter and non-food items.  Measuring and evaluating the impact of these interventions is critical, particularly in view of the worrying trends in areas like SGBV.  In light of these challenges, panelists at this event examined opportunities and limitations for international engagement in the humanitarian, social and economic sectors.  

The Afghan Peace Jirga: Ensuring that Women are at the Peace Table - May 2010 Peace Brief by Palwasha Hassan

In late May 2010, the Afghan government will convene a Peace Jirga in Kabul to determine a national reintegration and reconciliation strategy. Afghan women have played a variety of social and political roles during the last three decades of conflict, including as peacebuilders, but now risk being excluded from current peacebuilding processes.

Applying gender perspective to faith-based peacebuilding

To overcome the obstacles identified, there must be funds for human resource development, conference , seminars and workshops for sensitization, enlightenment and advocacy.

Currently lacking is enlightenment and government support on bills and international instruments  for domestication. It is not enough for governments  to sign  these instruments but also ratify and domesticate them to re-orientate  the people into gender balanced society.

All religious  organisations must become gender sensitive in their teachings. For effectiveness, there must be capacity building programmes that will develop Ministers of God under them on matters on women’s human rights. The use of media by religious organisations should be additional advantage to propagation of women’s human rights for the overall protection of the girl child from all forms of abuse. Correct socialization process for the society to imbibe gender equality even as  entrenched in the scriptures is all encompassing for the good workings of all agents of socialization – home, school, faith based organisations, governments, peer groups and voluntary organisations .  We must work on them to be good instruments for gender equity and equality based on social justice for a just society with peaceful coexistence and accelerated development with sustainable political stability where every individual in respective of differences in religion, gender, tribe, race, language etc.

(Prof) Sabit Ariyo Olagoke

Executive Director

Center for Religious Cooperation and Tolerance (CRCT)

Email - centerprojects2004@gmail.com

Mapping and Analysis of Christian, Muslim and Multi-Faith Actors

Hi all, 

In addition to the various excellent resources provided by others, I'd like to share the following:

"Faith-Based Peacebuilding: Mapping and Analysis of Christian, Muslim and Multi-Faith Actors" , downloadable via: 

http://www.clingendael.nl/publications/2005/20051100_cru_paper_faith-bas...

While its a good resource, a gender analysis is lacking however. 

 

something practical

Hi all, thanks so much for all your sharings. When I look at the different discussion threats, I feel we all come to similar conclusions and recommendations, such as providing safe space for religous women, re-interprete the sacred texts from a gender-sensitive perspective, involve progressive religious leaders.


But how do we bring this to the next level? How could that really look like in practice? Is this something we can concretely outline already in a dialogue like this? I do believe there are enough great women (and men) out there, I have met myself some of them, so what seems to be needed is a strategy, a clear outline on how this implementation could take a form. I know that is difficult, otherwise I am sure we would be already some steps further. But maybe this dialogue could spark some new ideas and concrete plans?

Next steps - taking the conversation to the next level

Hi Merle and all,


This really is the core question for all of us - how do we take this discussion to the next level and implement these suggestions to ensure a greater gender persepective? I'd say through 3 primary avenues - education, advocacy, and affecting policy. We at Peace X Peace are doing all 3, and we each need to do what we can through our own organizations.


We provide education and outreach through weekly epublications to our network of 20,000 women in 120 countries. Our epublications capture stories from women on the frontlines of peacebuilding and how they affect change at the grassroots level. We connect across divides by exchanging stories, comments and ideas to hear from each other directly rather than through the filter of mainstream media. To me this is a powerful way of bridging divides, building peace and ensuring that women's voices are heard.


We also do advocacy on behalf of policies and legislation that supports and empowers women. Being here in the Washington DC area gives us access and enables us to collaborate with others to provide collective support for the kinds of legislation needed on behalf of women. And we are engaged with civil society to ensure that our recommendations are included and our voices heard in the development of a US National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security (see my post on our work on behalf of UN SCR 1325 in another thread).


We each have a role to play in ensuring a gender perspective in peacebuilding. The good news is that this is now being prioritized in governments throughout the UN, yet the challenge is ensuring we go beyond nice policies and tokenism to effective and sustainable action.


Kim Weichel, Peace X Peace

Not yet

Merle, what we are mostly all here in this conversation for is to be reassured by each other and to plug our own programs, not to discover new steps to take. Tactics are contextual, and most of us are pretty good at deciphering our own contexts. We don't need help with ideas, and that's why, although there are many reports of undertakings, few of them are synergizing in any way. Some of us, with luck, are discovering a few fruitful conversation partners for later -- maybe even concrete allies. That's a lot to accomplish, and is the best we can hope for from a gathering like this.


There are many people here doing wonderful work, but there is as yet no way for us to assist one another globally in any other dimension than the moral. I also argue that we may not need a strategy; that the best strategy is to ride the wave, and take the small step directly in front of us, and pray for each other. The most brilliant of strategies will not work if the time is not right. Our job, I believe, is ripening the time by doing our duty to the moment. When a sufficient number of people behave this way, the world changes itself. That may be deflating, but it is eminently observable.

How can women support each other?

Hi Rabia,


you say:


Rabia wrote:
There are many people here doing wonderful work, but there is as yet no way for us to assist one another globally in any other dimension than the moral.


Do you have any suggestions for changing this? While I know this is not the same thing, but a blog about women peacekeepers in Liberia made me think of the support that could be provided through online dialogues, having somewhere to ask for and share advice and experiences. While these could be considered moral support I would think it would be useful to see tried and tested actions undertaken in similar situations.

Other ideas for how this group could support each other

In addition to sharing advice and experiences, could this group of people support each other by:

  • sharing training resources and tools?
  • sharing networks of funders and trainers?
  • sharing networks of practitioners that is doing this work in order to carry out practical coordination and collaboration efforts to make this work more effecient?
  • and finally, having a network for the sake of moral support would be a fantastic outcome!  Many working in this field probably feel isolated and burned out.  Moral support is such an important part of sustainable activism.

Just a few thoughts...would love to hear your ideas!

sharing the richness of experiences

Hi all,

I entered this discussion only today and I am impressed by the richness of the experiences, ideas, knowledge and practical solutions that have been brought in. Can't we create a forum on the internet where information can be shared more permanently in a more structured way? Wouldn't it be great if we could develop a data base with clear headings and sub-headings that would allow all women and men that work in this field to share knowledge and build on each others ideas; to share experiences and give each other moral support; and to have access to approaches, techniques, tools, etc. that have contributed to peace in other settings somewhere around the world?

 

Next Steps


For me, a follow up to the Cyprus consultation will enhance the implementations of some of the recommendations and suggestions received.

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