”Religious beliefs which have been influenced by patriarchy, have often resulted in discrimination and oppression against women and girls. Church of Sweden International Work, collaborates with other faith based and civil society organizations to change this”, writes, Erik Lysén, Director for Church of Sweden’s international work.
Every day, around 47,700 girls under the age of 18 are forced to marry. Daily, at least 5,500 girls are subjected to female genital mutilation. That is why today, October 11th on the International Girls Day, we are especially highlighting the vulnerability of the girl child.
We already know, but need to be reminded repeatedly that a child born as a girl has very different opportunities that than boys. Her gender affects the chances of receiving a birth certificate, how much food she will receive and how long or if at all she will have access to education or remain in school. This affects her capability to choose whether and when to marry and if and when she will carry children.
The bodies of girls and women are often seen as men’s property, and their primary value is linked to childbirth. Forced marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual violence and violence within the family are examples of abuse that girls are continually exposed to. Teenage pregnancy can lead to severe injuries and often mean that girls are not allowed to go to school.
In The Church of Sweden, we are painfully aware that religious beliefs which have been influenced by patriarchy, have often resulted in discrimination and oppression against women and girls. The perspectives and experiences of women and girls have long remained invisible in many religious traditions, often supported by a particular biblical interpretation. Scripture has been used as a tool to limit role of women and girls in homes and communities. Religious belief has even been used to justify sexual and gender based violence.
Therefore, The Church of Sweden International Work advocates for girls’ rights. We do so out of the deep conviction that every human being is created and loved by God, and, has equal dignity and rights. Gender equality is the main objective of many efforts, focusing on combating gender-related violence and strengthening women’s participation in churches and society. Church of Sweden International Work has strategically targeted health work, agricultural development or peace building to achieve this.
Gender equality is not just about women and girls, and must of necessity include working with men and boys. Church of Sweden International Work strives to strengthen the realization of the inherent right girls and women’s have to their body. This includes but is not limited to the right to contraception, sexual education and maternity care, as well as efforts to counter stigmatization around menstruation. As a member of ACT Alliance we join other religious development actors to advocate for the realization of human rights for women and girls in the UN and beyond.