We promote gender equality and women’s rights

Faith leaders and organisations have the power to influence gender norms and values in communities where religion is an important dimension of culture. By engaging faith leaders and organizations as an important pathway of eliciting change, Faith to Action Network helps address various forms of gender discrimination and promotes women’s rights.

Increasing awareness of policies and norms on women’s rights: Often decision making suffers from accountability gaps, and resulting policies remain toothless paper tigers: For example, African Union policies are unknown to the public, who consequently cannot demand for their domestication at home. Faith to Action Network increases faith organisations’ knowledge and awareness of policies and empowers them to be powerful change agents challenging restrictive gender norms that constrain women’s rights.

Opening up spaces for faith organisation participation in policy making. The African Union’s Constitutive Act ensures the ‘participation of African peoples in the activities of the Union’. The establishment of ECOSOC opens space for faith organisations to participate in African Union decision making. Many more consultative mechanisms exist, e.g. AUC-Women, Gender and Development Directorate, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women. However, little engagement actually takes place. Faith to Action Network opens up decision making spaces and facilitates meaningful dialogue, thus increasing faith organisations’ participation in African decision- and policy making processes related to women's rights.

For many women and men, faith organisations are repertoires of spiritual sustenance and social networks. Many faith organisations play a crucial role in supporting women’s daily survival strategies, whether in terms of surviving material hardship or developing the inner spiritual strength to cope with emotionally difficult circumstances. Faith organisations adopt a holistic approach that addresses both the spiritual and material aspects of well-being. Faith organisations do not only engage with material development but with the spiritual dimensions of well-being as well. Faith organisations have a more holistic view of development since “their theories about change do not only concern outward, social but also inner and personal transformation” (Tyndale 2006). Faith to Action Network leverages this role to empower women and men, girls and boys at the community level.

Faith organisations may be challenging gender norms on one level and reinforcing it on another. The nature of a faith organisation’s gender agenda is difficult to determine, because often a single organization takes different standpoints on various gender issues. Caution is needed in engaging with gender agendas as if they are “a package deal”. In some cases, faith organisations will address harmful gender practices on the ground while simultaneously lobbying against policies. By connecting scientific evidence and faith scripture, Faith to Action Network offers technical assistance to faith organisations grappling with gender equality and women’s rights.

Women’s agency in faith organisations: It’s complicated. The way in which some faith organisations provide women with a range of spiritual and social activities while at the same time delineating the ways in which they are expected to exercise their agency is complex. In the analysis of women’s agency and power, what becomes critical is not only whether women have opportunities for assuming leadership positions within faith organisations, but the conditions of their participation. Faith to Action Network encourages its members to develop institutional gender policies and provides technical support in drafting and applying them.

 

The #RightByHer campaign works across Africa to make women’s rights a reality.

For the first time, a unique coalition of youth-serving organizations, faith organizations, feminist groups and sexual and reproductive health and rights activists has come together to develop a joint campaign to promote women’s rights in Africa. The #RightByHer campaign works across Africa to make women’s rights a reality. We research the status of inequality, advocate for change, raise awareness, and empower civil society.

Through membership to Faith to Action Network, the campaign engages religious leaders and faith organizations of all denominations. In addition, the campaign comprises Young Women Christian Associations with a membership of 900,000 young women, 38,000 volunteers of International Planned Parenthood Federation member associations in 43 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 30 African First Ladies who coordinate their advocacy work through Organisation of African First Ladies (OAFLA). Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), Stiftung Weltbeölkerung (DSW) and Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) contribute their excellence in research and knowledge creation, communication and advocacy capacity.

Faith to Action Network's most recent efforts to promote gender equality and women's rights