Global Platform on Gender Equality and Religion launched

Date: 20 March 2017

Building on the growing recognition that the role of faith-based organizations in addressing the needs of women and girls is critical, a global Platform on “Gender Equality and Religion” was launched on 15 March at the on-going UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The Permanent Mission of Canada hosted the event, with UN Women, UNFPA, DFID and International Partnership for Religion and Sustainable Development, collaborating on this new initiative.

UN Women is currently developing its own strategy on “The Role of Religion in Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment”, which is founded on the belief that faith actors are critical in dismantling structures and practices that promote inequality. The strategy aims to provide a deeper understanding of faith-based actors and expand the engagement of faith organizations and institutions at all levels of UN Women’s work--normative, programmatic and advocacy--with the goal of achieving gender equality and empowerment.

This newly launched Platform synchronizes with UN Women’s faith-based work. Using a religious lens, this Platform aims to build a unique approach of combining gender equality and faith-based principles to boost the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, ranging from eradicating poverty, to health, environment, and peace and security. It will convene faith-based organizations and civil society groups, bringing together religious leaders and development experts to find ways to effectively pursue the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

The Partners

The Platform launch was led by UN Women, on behalf of the UN’s Interagency Task Force for Religion and Development(UNFPA/UNIATF), together with UK-Aid/ DFID and the International Partnership for Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD). At the launch, a broad range of stakeholders were invited to become part of the Platform, including Member States, religious leaders, faith-based and civil society organizations and women groups, as well as representatives from inter-governmental bodies like Organization of Islamic Council and the UN system.

“This platform is about planting the seeds of a movement that brings together faith actors and gender equality activists armed with both human rights obligations and moral persuasion,” said Lakshmi Puri, UN Women Deputy Executive Director. “Faith actors, feminists and social justice movements are forging new partnerships at all levels. This Platform is an effort to overcome the barriers and misunderstandings between faith and secular actors to tap into the rich possibilities for collaboration within, inter, across and outside of faith,” she reiterated at the launch event.

The Platform seeks to increase women’s leadership and participation in religious institutions, and will draw in as many female religious leaders as possible, providing a space to share their contributions and honing their skills and leadership.

Role and value

The main objective of the newly-launched Platform is to develop a much needed religious discourse—through a groundswell of support from faith-based communities—that positions women at the centre of the  narrative, and recognizes their fundamental human rights, their contributions, role and agency as well as their particular needs. These narratives would aim to influence local level decisions as well as that of policy and legislation on the national, regional and global level, and become a part of norm-setting and implementation of a progressive gender equality agenda.

Knowledge sharing and advocacy are key pillars of the Platform, and the initiative will showcase best practices, data collection, tools and resources between faith and development communities, building an exchange of ideas and discussions leading to a digital library for resources, and publications.

Closely in line with other advocacy efforts such as UN Women’s Planet 50-50, HeforShe, and the UNITE Campaign, this faith-based Platform endeavours to work with global citizens, in partnership with civil society organizations, public and private sectors, traditional and social media, to engage on gender equality and influence the discourse on women’s rights.

Related links:

Speech: “The agenda of creating a planet 50-50 cannot come true if religion, religious leaders and faith actors remain outside the conversation”—Lakshmi Puri