Nairobi, KENYA, 05 JUNE 2018 (F2A) – Faith actors across Africa have mapped out a series of policy making processes to participate in going forward. The processes are contained in action plans developed during a recently held boot camp to build the actors’ advocacy skills.
Speaking while delivering the event’s key note address on “Positioning women rights as agenda in inter, intra and extra-faith dialogue and decision making spaces”, Rev Canon Grace Kaiso, Chairperson of Faith to Action Network said faith communities are aware of the obstacles and challenges facing women, and must contribute in bringing change. “All religions uphold social justice towards the poorest and most vulnerable. Justice is also about giving equal rights and treatment to others,” Canon Kaiso said. He added that the pursuit of social justice for the poor and oppressed is the decisive mark of being people who submit to the will and way of God. Canon Kaiso challenged faith leaders to use tools at their disposal in bringing about social change. “You enjoy legitimacy, respect and influence; please use this immense potential to bring behavioral and attitudinal change in the society, your contribution to development and implementation of value-based policies at local, regional and global levels is very much needed,” he said.
The boot camp was attended by fifty-five (55) faith leaders representing 49 Faith organizations, all of them engaged in promoting rights of women through actions in the areas of gender violence, harmful practices, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. Participants were drawn from 19 countries and represented Muslim, Hindu and Bahai faiths as well as various Christian denominations. Participating organizations also operate at continental, regional or national levels. FBOs that serve marginalized persons, specifically persons with disabilities, also took part in the boot camp.
A combination of presentations, panel discussions and parallel sessions were used to facilitate sharing of knowledge between participants through interactivity and experiential learning. Reverend Winnie Muvunyi shared an example from Rwanda on how to ensure equality and realize women’s rights: Elders identified women’s historical position in society – “The man is the head of the family, and the woman is the heart of the family.” After better understanding the roles of men and women, this needed to be translated into contemporary life. The man is consulted as the head and the woman is consulted as the heart. They collaborate in organizing the family.
The champions were also challenged to use media as an ally in their advocacy actions. Ms Nagwa Eldeeb, Project Manager at the Egypt-based Ibrahimiya Media Center (IMC), trained camp participants on press releases, news articles, radio and television segments and social media as essential elements of any media campaign. media coverage. “Media coverage provides a spotlight on the problem as a way to seek a solution, and on the solution, as a way to seek an implementation,” Ms Nagwa said.
Father Jean Paul Mihigo, Director of Justice & Peace, Caritas Diocese of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo facilitated training session on “Working with faith-based champions for women rights: stories from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)“; Dr. Seed, a consultant with the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) on “Building capacity of FBOs“; and Dr. Emma Rachmawati (Muhammadiyah Organization, Indonesia, and member of F2A’s Steering Council) on “Rights of Muslim Women: stories from Indonesia.“ Other facilitators included Prof Dr Ahmed Ragab, (Professor at Al Azhar University, Vice Chair of Faith to Action Network, Member of FP2020 Reference Group, Chair of Family Culture Committee, of Egyptian Family House) on “Sexuality in the Media: Emerging Issues in Africa“ and Dr. Douglas Huber (Christian Connections for International Health & member, Faith to Action Network Steering Council) on “Provision of FP services at faith-owned facilities for women with violated rights“.
Content of the boot camp training program was informed by the recently concluded Organizational Advocacy Capacity Assessment (OACA) conducted under the aegis of the State of African Women Campaign. It was designed to increase faith leaders’ awareness of continental frameworks such as African Union (AU) Agenda 2063: The Africa we want, AU Policy on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment and Agenda 2063’s Ten Year Implementation Plan, Maputo Plan of Action II, African Women Decade among others.
Plans are already underway at Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) to have a national women’s prayer day during which it will hand a petition to the speaker of parliament, issue a Bishopric pastoral letter and conclude the day with a press conference. Kenya’s Kaya Elders Association, whose Secretary Boniface Tsuma participated in the Nairobi boot camp, used its annual cultural festival known as Chenda Chenda to promote education of the girl child, eliminate early marriage and teenage pregnancies, and also improve the sexual and reproductive health of women and men in the communities.
The Evangelical Association of Malawi said it will push for member churches to adopt and apply its model SRHR policy. Speaking at the Nairobi boot camp, Rev. Howard Kasiya, EAM’s Health Commission National Coordinator, said Rev Charles Makata (EAM Peace and Justice Commissioner), Rev Father Mtekateka (Chair of the Karonga EAM Churches Consortium), and Ms Tusumie Mwaibasa (Advocate of the Karonga EAM Women Land Rights Advocacy Programme) are some of the religious leaders already leading this process in Malawi.