Faith leaders gathered in Nairobi for East Africa symposium for gender justice

Home |  News | Faith leaders gathered in Nairobi for East Africa symposium for gender justice

Dignity, equal opportunities, equal participation, harmony, strong families … these were recurring words during a two-day regional workshop for East African faith leaders that took place in Nairobi, 23 – 24 November 2015.

The purpose of the workshop, held at the Desmond Tutu Conference Centre (affiliate of the All Africa Conference of Churches) was to deliberate on the various ways in which faith leaders can effectively lead and engage in conversations and dialogues that address barriers to gender justice. Participants from several East African countries shared their experience and considered the means and strategies for creating a formidable faith movement for Gender Justice in East Africa and globally.

The workshop was organised by a local, multi-agency planning group supported by the Side by Side Faith Movement for Gender Justice. The movement aims to mobilise faith leaders and faith communities to utilise their influence for the positive transformation of gender relations at all levels.

Over 40 participants considered what gender justice meant in their home countries. Whilst contexts differ they shared the view that it means creating opportunities for women and men, boys and girls, to thrive holistically. This involves extending gender equality across all sectors, enabling equal access to resources, and building strong families and communities.

They looked at what faith actors are already doing to foster gender justice at the individual, household and community levels and heard from each other about initiatives such as inter-church and broader community dialogues and training concerning gender-based violence; the provision of legal aid through community paralegals; and encouraging women to stand for election in national government.

Churches have also supported the self-development of women and men to climb out of poverty, and promoted the distribution of roles within families so that they live together more successfully.

Faith leaders’ have advocated for the implementation of existing national legislation intended to empower women and enable children to thrive, and for faith values to be reflected into national policy.

In Rwanda there has been an encouraging increase in the percentage of women in church leadership but it was recognised that across the region, more attention needs to be given to the formation of women for leadership.

Looking to the future, participants considered the next steps needed to increase momentum in the faith movement for gender justice in the countries of East Africa. Among their suggestions were that faith leaders could serve as gender champions and that their faith institutions should have gender policies, and model gender justice. Using Scripture they could address harmful cultural norms and lift up positive norms and traditions.

Participants affirmed that Churches are in the right place to reach women and girls who do not have access to health, economic and political participation, and education.

Recognising that partnerships between Churches and other faith institutions were limited, they considered the importance of networking and how others could be encouraged to ‘come on board’.

Read the final Declaration of Commitment.

Read more about the Symposium and the East Africa coalition here.

Posted by: Terrie Robinson | Wednesday, January 13th, 2016
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