25 Years On: Birgitte Qvist-Sørensen reflects on the Fourth Women’s Conference

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Birgitte Qvist-Sørensen is a Danish theologian, DanChurchAid Secretary General and ACT Alliance Moderator. 

I still remember clearly when I attended the fourth women’s conference as a young UN officer. The enthusiasm and excitement about the promising prospects of the Beijing Platform for Action.  We had come to an agreement among governments, international agencies and civil societies, including women’s movements, on a very strong document that to this day provides a solid framework for global and local action.

Therefore, it is also an area of great concern for me, that despite of progress on gender equality in many areas, this progress has been uneven and much too slow. Even worse, in recent years we have been experiencing serious push backs on women’s rights.  We need to move forward and with much more concentrated effort to achieve gender equality.

Through my work in DanChurchAid and in our ACT Alliance, I have seen how women and girls are often left behind in the development process and how gender discriminatory norms and practices constitute barriers to women empowerment and gender equality. Women, who get cash in hand in humanitarian actions, report that they give the cash to their male partners to avoid gender-based violence, while women who have been empowered to participate on the political arena sometimes give up after just one term, due to doubled workload and pressure from the family. The high level of gender-based violence is not confined to pockets but is happening on a global scale and it is simply outrageous.

A critical factor during the Women’s Conference in Beijing was the low representation of faith actors. Faith actors play a significant role in shaping and challenging social norms and in advancing gender justice. As faith actors, we know it is crucial to understand religion and to understand what influences and what drives religious and cultural norms and practices – including harmful practices. These practices are not stagnant and do not operate in isolation. They are influenced and motivated by the social, economic and political contexts in which they operate. Faith actors are in a position to influence as these practices are motivated by values and beliefs. Faith based actors are therefore vital when it comes to ending harmful practices, such as gender-based violence.

We need to support religious narratives that are pro gender equality. We must all set the bar high and focus on transformative actions towards gender justice.

Posted by: Side by Side | Sunday, March 8th, 2020
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