Side by Side West Africa Conference 2018

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The Role of Faith Leaders in Achieving Gender Justice

 

On 15th and 16th May 2018, Side by Side brought together over seventy people from ten different countries to discuss faith, gender and justice. The Side by Side West Africa conference was organised by Christian Aid Ghana and Christian Council of Ghana, with valuable support from World Vision, Kerk in Actie and PMU. The focus of the conference was on the powerful role of faith leaders in achieving gender justice.

We enjoyed an inspiring and thought provoking two days. The conference included a diverse range of speakers and participants from across the region: religious, community, grassroots, academic and NGO perspectives were shared. An ambitious conference programme included theological reflections on gender, country perspectives on gender injustices, and the story of Side by Side so far. The programme also included action planning workshops where participants identified how the Side by Side movement can tackle gender injustices in our countries.

We will soon be publishing a full report on the conference with all the presentations. The following is an insight into some the presentations and reflections that were shared during our time together:

 

 

Ernest Okyere, Country Manager, Christian Aid Ghana
Ernest welcomed the guests gathered and thanked them for travelling from across the region to witness the launch of Side by Side in West Africa. Ernest emphasised that a highlight of the conference is that we are coming together from different faiths, including Christian, Muslim and African traditional religions. Ernest shared how our Side by Side movement is part of the ‘big picture of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals’ and that we can make a unique contribution, due to our focus on faith, in achieving gender equality.

 

 

Kadidiatou Dante, Programme Effectiveness Director, World Vision Niger
Kadidiatou, on behalf of the co-chairing organisations (Christian Aid, Christian Council and World Vision), shared how like-minded organisations with a passion to end gender injustice had formed the inception group. She emphasised how the conference was a way to drive the gender justice agenda forward, by standing side by side with governments in the region, civil society, faith institutions, and individuals. Kadidiatou concluded:
“In addressing the issues of gender injustice, we must always measure our success not just in terms of whether needs are met, but also whether through meeting those needs, we have also empowered those we are serving, and worked to ensure greater equality between men and women.”

 

 

Jane Machira, Gender and Inclusion Advisor, Christian Aid
We were delighted that Jane Machira from Side by Side East Africa was able to join the conference and share how Side by Side engages and collaborates with faith actors. Jane emphasised the powerful moral voice that faith leaders have in our societies: “They have great influence to challenge and change harmful gendered social norms and can create an enabling environment for gender justice at every level: individual, household, community, national and international.”

 

 

Ebun James, General Secretary, Christian Council of Sierra Leone
Ebun James recognised the moral authority that different faiths wield, it is a crucial ingredient in our long fight against long-held norms of gender injustice:
“Faith leaders have the ear of almost 80% of the world’s population! But what messages are faith leaders giving in the Kutbar or the sermon?… every day we can do things differently. And here at this conference we all can say that; enough is enough, we will no longer accept the marginalisation and subordination of women and girls – we want God’s creation to flourish to its full potential, for women and men, as we have been called to do.”

 

 

Dr. Rita Owusu Amankwah, Director for Social Protection, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection
The conference official opening was made by Dr. Rita Owusu Amakwah on behalf of the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Hon. Otiko Afisa Djaba. Dr. Rita acknowledged that gender equality is a top concern for the current administration but that there is room for improvement. She encouraged faith leaders to use the pulpits and the mosques as tools for uniting and inspiring people towards addressing developmental challenges. These spaces can be used to “break the silence” that surrounds the indiscriminate abuse of women in our society, and for holding the hands of women up and lifting them from positions of abject servitude.

 

 

Kassoum Coulibaly, President & CEO, The Global Institute for Women’s Empowerment
Kassoum Coulibaly affirmed in his opening that the Quran is against all gender injustices. He discussed several key concepts of gender justice in the Quaran, which included gender equality of creation and common responsibility. As well as equality in marriage, inheritance and divorce. He concluded with the following recommendations:

1. To accelerate interreligious dialogue (Muslims, Christians, Traditionalists, etc.)
2. Deepen studies and research into gender and religion.
3. Amplify education and training on gender and faith.
4. Support information and communication on gender justice.
5. Develop technical assistance and advice to tackle gender injustices

 

 

Dr. Angela Dwamena-Aboagye, Ark Foundation, Ghana
Dr. Angela Dwamena-Aboagye opened her talk with the United Nation’s definition of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), which is violence directed at, or which disproportionately affects members of one sex. Dr. Angela shared statistics that show the pervasiveness of GBV and acknowledged that these forms of violence often go unchallenged and unsanctioned. She identified that GBV is part of the problem of sin and needs the redemption of Christ. Like any other sin, requires repentance, forgiveness, sanction, and reconciliation as far as possible. Dr. Angela recognised that we are all responsible, and all have role to play in tackling, the injustices in our communities.

 

 

Country Perspectives on Gender Injustice and Action Planning for Gender Justice
Throughout the conference we worked together to identify the gender inequalities within our countries, including national, community, faith and household injustices. During these group sessions the conference room was filled with conversations on how together we can tackle the barriers to gender justice. At the end, we shared our country action plans with one another and made a commitment to work together, Side by Side, to make gender justice a reality in our world.

 

 

Communique, Candles and Cameras
We concluded our time together by representatives from each country reading our Side by Side communique. We were honoured that the media could join us for this special occasion and help spread our regional call for gender justice. To celebrate our time together, and to commemorate World Families Day, we lighted one another’s candles, and sang:
“No longer men in front and the women at the back. Women and men walking side-by-side.”
We were delighted that Jeanne Kamara was able to teach us this song from Sierra Leone.

 

 

Special thanks
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the Side by Side West Africa Conference. This conference was made possible by different organisations, faiths and people working together. Special thanks to Abena Afari (Christian Aid Ghana) and Joyce Steiner (Christian Council of Ghana) for their leadership in organising the conference.

 

Join our Movement
For more information about Side by Side West Africa, visit their coalition page. You can join the movement by pledging your support for gender justice today.

 

 

Photographs by Doe Anapey, Christian Aid, May 2018, Accra, Ghana

Posted by: Rachel Tavernor | Monday, July 9th, 2018
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