And that echo will be heard in several countries where Muslim Aid works with women, including Somalia where it is teaming up with the Puntland Ministry for women’s development and family affairs in a campaign to raise awareness on gender equality and women’s rights.
In addition, Muslim Aid’s Lotifa Begum, who heads global advocacy, will be present at the UN headquarters in New York to attend the annual Commission on the Status of Women, which runs 11-18 March and hammers out key priorities to advance women’s rights globally.
But watch the sidelines at the UN meeting. Muslim Aid in partnership with the Side by Side Network, a Christian movement tackling gender based violence, Islamic Relief Worldwide and UNFPA are hosting an event on 'Overcoming Cultural Barriers facing Women & Girls Around the World.'
The talking point is social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure. These three aspects are central to the successful implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which Muslim Aid has been working towards to promote gender equality.
“There’s no escaping that gender violence touches on the Balance for Better theme, and is a vital debate to understand and push women’s rights and equality forward particularly in places like Somalia,” said Lotifa.
“My keynote message is that you have to bring the voices of the communities most affected by gender inequality to policy making forums like the UN to bring about transformational change,” added Lotifa. “And we can also learn from work on the ground in countries like Somalia and other countries where we work.”
Muslim Aid which is a signatory to the path-breaking Islamic gender justice declaration, which calls for action from Muslim leaders and communities to uphold the rights of women and girls according to faith-based teachings, works with women in north-eastern Somalia.
Muslim Aid in partnership with UNFPA runs a one-stop referral centre named Maatokaal, that means helping the vulnerable. The project was sensitively named to avoid the women using the facilities facing any stigma linked to gender-based violence.
The programme has supported more than 1000 women who are survivors of gender based violence with medical, psychosocial support as well as dignity kits to overcome deep cultural practices, and legal aid to help bring the perpetrators to justice under newly enacted sexual offenses laws.
Cultural barriers and social stigmatisation are difficult to overcome. Women all too often lack access to education and political representation. Few participate in the legislative process in countries which often lack laws and enforcement on gender rights.
“The role of faith leaders in advocating for women and girls rights under Islamic law is vital in countries like Somalia and is key to bring about the needed change in the attitudes toward women,” said Lotifa.
Muslim Aid is working to ensure the inclusion of women and girls in education, livelihoods, maternal healthcare, access to water and sanitation and in tackling gender based violence in a range of countries from Pakistan to Bangladesh, Sudan to Myanmar.
“I’d like to come away from New York thinking effective policies and frameworks have been thought through by both those affected on the ground and governments to ensure a more balanced world for women and girls,” said Lotifa. “It’s a huge task and challenge but it can be done if the political will is there.”
Muslim Aid is also partnering the Muslim Council of Britain on Sunday 31st March for the Muslim Women's Conference at the University College London, a day-long programme with a series of workshops to tackle gender inequality faced by Muslim women.You can sign up and attend by booking your ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mcb-womens-conference-tickets-54062955756.