Gender focus at Act Alliance General Assembly

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The third ACT General Assembly was held in Uppsala, Sweden from the 29th October to the 1st November. This GA featured a heightened focus on gender, and Birgitte Qvist-Sørensen, the General Secretary of DanChurchAid and newly elected moderator of the ACT Alliance, mentioned her commitment to gender justice as one of the reasons as to why she wished to run for moderator.

The day before the GA officially started the ACT Gender Community of Practice had a very interesting gender event where they heard different stories and reasons for engaging in fighting for gender justice. The head of the Church of Sweden, Archbishop Antje Jackelén, said that gender justice is imperative in the empowerment of women, men and children. As it leaves everyone empowered, achieving gender justice is a win-win situation. In her speech she also pointed out the responsibility Christians have to promote gender justice: “Following him [Jesus Christ] includes the call to eliminate the institutional, the cultural, and interpersonal systems of privilege and oppression that sustain discrimination day after day.”

Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women turned to history in her opening. She said that where other generations have taken up the battle to fight racism and slavery, it is our generation’s mission to fight gender injustice. She also pointed out that it should be common sense, but for some reason common sense it not always common. In order to change history, we need to take the situation seriously and be willing to act.

The assembly, in addition to gender, featured a focus on youth, and there was in fact a three-day youth assembly preceding the GA. In the conversation on gender it was pointed out that focusing on youth and focusing on gender are not mutually exclusive, but rather a part of the same conversation. The importance of partnerships was also highlighted in the fight for gender justice.

Several of Side by Side’s steering group members, as well as representatives of national chapters were at the GA and were very visible. Father Evangelos, who is the chair of Side by Side Kenya, was a participant in a panel discussion at the ACT Gender launch. In addition to engaging and involving youth he called for more men to join the fight for gender justice. Father Evangelos also highlighted that if the dignity, power and resources that are available to all humans, male and female, “are tampered with, then definitely injustice will come.” Then we do not live as God intended. That is why we have to continue to work for gender justice, as that is the way we can live as God wanted us to.

Dr. Azza Karam, Senior Advisor at the United Nations Population Fund and chair of the UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development, was the moderator for this conversation and closed the event by saying: “Gender Justice is fundamental to and foundational to every other justice that we can see and talk about and live in our reality.” This point can also be seen in two public statements on gender that the Gender CoP produced from the assembly, one general and one specifically about Latin American and the Caribbean. As the LAC region has the highest rates of violence against women, it is very important to raise awareness and get people to commit to the fight. The call to action in the statement underlines that as Faith Based Organisations and churches we need to take a stand and work for more gender just societies.

During the assembly the ACT Gender CoP had a couple of stands in the exhibition hall where the participants could come and learn about the ACT Gender Policy, how to formulate their own policy and talk to people from the Gender CoP about working towards gender justice. At the gender stand Side by Side material and badges were distributed and made Side by Side clearly visible at the GA. The other gender stand was about the ACT gender campaign where participants could contribute their ideas for the campaign. The stands were busy and created a buzz, which shows the importance and interest in gender and the intersecting issues.


Written by Ane Lemvik, Side by Side Intern

Posted by: Side by Side | Thursday, November 29th, 2018
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