An upcoming symposium will explore ‘2021: A Defining Year for Accelerating Gender Equality, Equity and Justice’. Scheduled for 26 January [commencing at 11 pm Brisbane time and closing at 3.30 am on 27 January], the event marks the 7th Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs.
Those gathered online will focus on overcoming pervasive gender inequalities and discrimination as an essential contribution to reshaping the world as we recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. The overarching goal is to provide the opportunity to explore together ways to scale up work for gender justice, and to recommit to achieving it.
Participants will explore how faith actors and institutions can work in tandem with governments, the United Nations, and broader civil society to accelerate the pace towards gender equality, equity and justice.
This edition of the Symposium is organised by the World Council of Churches, ACT Alliance, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, Islamic Relief, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Soka Gakkai International, United Religions Initiative, and UN Women and the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA, for the United Nations Inter-agency Task Force on Religion and Development.
Faith actors will also be invited to point to where and how they are hindering progress.
Given that the 64th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and Generation Equality Forum is expected to be held in 2021, the symposium is being held to gather information and advocacy points to present to the commission.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities. Evidence from service providers suggests that rates of domestic abuse have increased significantly in the context of COVID-19 lockdowns, as women and girls are trapped with abusers. In addition, the services on which many women rely have been shut down.
Evidence is also emerging that girls face heightening risks associated with economic fallout and school closures. Extensive closure of schools due to COVID-19 has interrupted the education of more than 1 billion children globally, exposing girls to a greater risk of gender-based violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, unintended pregnancies, and HIV infection with limited or no access to reproductive health services.
The UN Executive Committee recently endorsed a UN-systemwide political engagement strategy to engage influencers at all levels, and mobilise the social and cultural shift necessary to tackle gender-based violence. This strategy specifically recognises the importance of the UN system’s engagement with traditional and faith leaders.
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First published on the World Council of Churches website on 4 January 2020.