This year again the Women and Gender Desk of Mission 21 offered a Women’s Human Rights Advocacy Training. With fundamentalism on the rise and a deterioration of gender equality worldwide, it is of utmost importance that we as a worldwide network find a voice in defending women’s rights. The offered online training re-enforced knowledge and capacities in advocacy for Mission 21 partner and other faith-based organisations.

With growing numbers of domestic violence and a backlash in women’s human rights in general, faith communities cannot stay silent. Often faith is used to hinder gender justice, this makes it for religious institutions necessary to address the discrimination of women and girls in their communities. One way of addressing such discrimination is through advocacy. The aim of advocacy is to facilitate the conditions for discriminated and disadvantaged people to raise their voices so that they can publicly demand their rights. The training showed how to make use of important advocacy instruments.

Mission 21 partners are placed within local communities and can therefore identify and address the burning issues of women and work with them. The training, which was carried out in October and November 2020, helps to connect and get to know other actors in the regions which are working in the field of gender justice. The training had a focus on how to raise awareness of human rights violations at UN and national level. For example, the participants learnt how to use the most important women’s human rights instrument: the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

A strong alliance of gender justice activists

The training is organised by Mission 21 together with the Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches, the Church of Sweden, Church Aid of Finland and Act Alliance. It enabled more than 70 participants from all over the world to exchange experiences. Networking is paramount because together we can strengthen demands such as better protection against domestic violence during lockdowns. Strong alliances must also be formed to have a strong voice against the abuse of religion by fundamentalist movements.

The training also allowed advocacy leaders from partner countries of Mission 21 the opportunity to pass on their valuable experiences. For example, Obertina Johanis from Indonesia reported how her network of women theologians PERUATI reads the Bible with a feminist perspective. And Silvia Regina de Lima Silva, director of the Ecumenical Research and Training Centre DEI in Costa Rica, gave an insight into her campaign “What Really Matters”, which shows an alternative to misogynist fundamentalism. Thus, the seeds to formulate a strong advocacy action plan to push for women’s human rights are planted. Now, we must act.

A focus on regional platforms

After six years in a row, the organizers of the Women’s Human Rights Advocacy Trainings face the important challenge to empower multiplication activities through regional platforms in every continent. Crossing institutional and economic barriers, the Women and Gender Desk looks forward to opportunities for coordinating the planning of advocacy strategies in regions, countries, and organisations. It is time for advocacy leaders to build regional gender justice platforms.

A crucial step for strengthening network was the participation of members of the Unity Women’s Desk of the Moravian Church in this last training. The Moravian Mission is one of the three supporting associations of Mission 21, its strong commitment to including the Advocacy for Women’s Human Rights perspectives in their Unity Women’s Consultation meeting in 2022 bring signs of hope for building up strong regional platforms for gender justice. Let us grow together an active network of women’s human rights defender!

Text: Eva Sidler

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