FAITH BREAKS BARRIERS ACROSS COMMUNITIES TO PREVENT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS
Violence against women and girls, and in particular domestic violence, is a major global issue. One in three women globally has been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime (World Health Organisation). Intimate partner and sexual violence is the result of factors occurring at individual, family, community and wider society levels. Violence against women and girls can be prevented if it is addressed at all these levels. It requires successful interventions and strategies that can challenge existing norms, reform discriminatory laws and provide legal and medical support.
Through our Womanity Award Program selection process we shortlisted a unique and influential approach to addressing gender-based domestic violence – through the power of faith. To learn more about the Womanity Award, visit our website https://womanity.org/launch-of-the-womanity-award-4/
Scripture Union West Africa (SUWA) based in Nigeria, and United Mission to Nepal (UMN) in Nepal are one of the three pairs of finalists for the Womanity Award Program on prevention of violence against women and girls. They plan to work in partnership to adapt a program to prevent domestic violence across their countries. Their story is a unique one that not only leverages faith, but also brings communities of different faiths together in a combined effort to prevent violence against women and girls.
Faith brings people and communities together. Religion plays a major role in people’s lives. Faith leaders have a strong influence over what is accepted and what the norms are for the community. They can therefore play an important role in challenging discriminatory and existing norms that will help in the prevention of gender-based violence.
The two organisations (SUWA and UMN) that came together for the Womanity Award proposal have leveraged the power of faith leaders in bringing about positive societal change. Through the scriptures and their interpretations, faith leaders have educated both men and women in what it takes to leave in peace and harmony.
“Take the issue of inheritance. Where in most cases, the women will not get the money or inheritance. Women are thrown out of the family when their husband dies. We went through the scriptures, and way back it was written that some of the wills included their daughters. When we shared these scriptures, even the communities that seized inheritance from women gave it back because somewhere it was written in the scriptures. That’s the power.” – Rhoda Udanyi, Executive Director at SUWA
INTER-FAITH COLLABORATIONS UNITE PEOPLE
What is most inspiring about the faith-based approach adopted by UMN and SUWA, is that while they are Christian based organisations that leverage Christian scriptures to forward their cause, they also work closely with communities of different faith and religions.
They believe that this is possible because all faiths and religions believe in the empowerment of women and in their rights. All the writings (whether these are Christian scriptures or Hindu or Muslim readings) have stories and examples of how women must be valued and treated. This common foundation, along with the common goal towards the prevention of violence against women, have brought different faiths together to collaborate on how best to bring awareness to this issue and address it in their communities.
“Our stories of marriage and family – the Muslims have the same in the Quran. So they reference their readings in their community and we all talk about the same thing – the same message. It’s all there – it’s just lost and we have to find the writings.” – Rhoda Udanyi, Executive Director SUWA
The Muslim community that SUWA works with, adapts their program to their faith context, using examples and writings from the Quran and other Muslim readings. SUWA and UMN aim to work together to do a similar adaptation with the Hindu communities in Nepal.
While UMN is a Christian based organization, it has a long history of working closely with inter-faith communities (Hindu and Muslim communities in Nepal which are the majority groups). They have already established a strong collaboration working towards their mutual goals of peace and justice in the region.
“We have been working for several years very closely with communities of different faith and there is a massive mutual trust between us. In fact, when we complete a project the community doesn’t want us to leave as we form a strong connect” – Sabu Tamang, Cluster Team Leader at UMN
SUWA and UMN are planning to collaborate is on a project based on “transforming masculinities”.
“Transforming Masculinities (TM) is an evidence-based, gender-transformative approach for faith communities to promote positive masculinities and promote gender equality, as a means of preventing Sexual and gender-based (SGBV), including Domestic Violence (DV). T.M uses participatory activities and critical self-reflection, together with scriptural reflections within faith communities to create and embrace new understandings of gender, masculinities, and gender equality through the lens of faith. This process challenges unequal power, hierarchies, harmful norms and systems that perpetuate gender inequality to create a more equal society.” – SUWA & UMN Proposal
The TM is an inclusive approach that engages with both men and women. Behavioural change in society has to include everyone and men need to understand the urgency and importance of the issue.
“After the program, we have seen men write letters of apology. Talking about how they have seen things from such a different perspective now and how they are sorry for how they treated women earlier. The men are now transformed into becoming defenders and protectors at home and in the community, instead of being bullies, intimidating and terrorizing family members.” – Rhoda Udanyi, Executive Director, SUWA
UMN will use their expertise to adapt this program to their local context and communities, which are predominantly Hindu and Muslim faith communities. Follow The Womanity Foundation, SUWA, and UMN for more information on how this will be adapted from Nigeria to Nepal across different faith groups. We wish both these organisations every success in their endeavors and goals.
“The collaboration between SUWA and UMN is a unique chance to understand each other. It defines trusted and mutual relationship and shared responsibilities to achieve our common goal for ending domestic violence against women and girls through this partnership. It will also be beneficial for both of us to share our experiences, skills, and resources to achieve the goal.” Sabu Tamang, Cluster Team Leader at UMN
SUWA started in 2003 to respond to community needs. SUWA’s approach to addressing gender based violence in West Africa is to promote positive masculinities and gender equality. Focusing on domestic violence, participants have reported having a more peaceful home with better parenting skills. The main thematic areas their our work are: Peace Building and Conflict Transformation, Sexual Gender Based Violence, Family Life development, Health, livelihood support, Life skills development and Orphans and Vulnerable Children. SUWA’s approach is inclusive in that they believe that involving men is key for transforming socio-cultural norms.
United Mission to Nepal (UMN) strives to address the root causes of poverty as it serves the people of Nepal. Established in 1954, UMN is a cooperative effort between the people of Nepal and a large number of Christian organisations from nearly 20 countries on 4 continents. Their focus has been health, education, rural development, and hydro power development. Community transformation is their key outcome and approach. They seek to tackle this through changing mindsets, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours.