06 June 2024

Historic Women of Faith Conference connects female religious leaders to policymakers in Africa 

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In a groundbreaking initiative to promote gender equality and freedom of religion and belief across Africa, Mensen met een Missie, the African Council of Religious Leaders, and the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya are organizing the first-ever Women of Faith Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from June 10th to 15th, 2024. This unprecedented event aims to bridge the gap between female religious leaders and policymakers, fostering dialogue and collaboration to address the intersection of women’s rights and freedom of religion and belief (FoRB). 

Addressing the Intersection of Women’s Rights and FoRB 

Having the freedom to practice one’s religion is an essential human right. However, for many women, cultural traditions and religious laws make it difficult to fully exercise this right. The conference will look at how women’s rights to equality and religious freedom are often seen as conflicting issues. By including female religious leaders from across Africa, we aim to highlight their perspectives and push for policies that uphold both gender equality and religious freedom. 

Empowering Women of Faith Networks 

Networks of Women of Faith exist all over the world to connect female religious leaders from various backgrounds. These networks allow women to share their experiences, raise awareness on issues such as child marriages and gender-based violence, and work to combat extremism. They play an important role in promoting religious freedom and increasing women’s leadership in interfaith movements worldwide. At this conference, African Women of Faith will have a rare opportunity to directly engage with policymakers. This will foster cooperation and enable the women to contribute more to policy discussions. 

Shamsa Abubakar from Kenya is one of the Women of Faith attending the conference

A Unique Opportunity for Collaboration and Dialogue 

Over the course of five days, the conference will feature presentations, panel discussions, and lobbying training sessions. Participants will have the opportunity to engage with ambassadors and representatives from the African Union, to advocate for including women’s religious rights in policymaking. This direct dialogue between religious leaders and policymakers is a unique and vital step toward creating effective policies on religious freedom and gender equality across Africa. 

Towards a More Inclusive and Equitable Future 

While many African countries lack strong policies on religious freedom, especially regarding women’s rights, this Women of Faith Conference represents important progress. By amplifying female religious voices and facilitating dialogue, we aim to develop policy recommendations and a roadmap for better addressing religious freedom from the perspective of women. This event demonstrates Mensen met een Missie’s commitment to creating a more inclusive future for everyone.