ACT Alliance at Inter-religious Convention 2023

Reflecting on the faith methodologies for gender justice, ACT forum representatives from Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe shared their experiences working as faith-based organizations.

In Ethiopia, the forum ‘s methodology looked at theological reflections, through two major lenses of the Ethiopian Orthodox as well as Evangelical churches, who are also part of the ACT forum. Through the theological reflections on gender justice, they developed resources for integrating gender into the curriculum, especially in parishes as well as in theological colleges. Read more here.

One of the added value working with faith actors in theological reflections for gender justice is how we can get to communities and influence, through the church structures,” says Million Shiferaw, NCA and ACT Ethiopia forum member.

In Uganda, addressing transformative masculinities is one of the key areas that the forum engages in gender justice work, countering cultural norms through media campaigns and working with male faith leaders as champions for gender justice.

There is a need to appreciate transformative masculinities as one of the key pillars in ensuring human rights protected at the community level and affirming human dignity and justice for all” Vincent Mayega, RACOBAO, representing ACT Uganda forum.

In the Zimbabwe forum, one of the approaches, working with the ACT Zimbabwe forum’s gender community of practice, was on integrating gender in peacebuilding work. During the 2023 general elections in Zimbabwe, the forum members monitored gender-based violence (GBV) and provided referral pathways. In addition, the forum has been active in the 16 days of activism campaigns, working with several other actors.

Working with faith actors in Zimbabwe has enabled us to reach out to communities and as Ecumenical Church Leadership Forum (ECLF), use the Gender Transformative Approach (GTA) which influences the change of attitudes, behavior and norms that are at the very core of unequal power relations and gender inequality. The approach has been key to addressing the root causes of gender-based violence,” says Pamhidzai Thaka from ACT Zimbabwe forum and ECLF

In advancing reproductive justice, Dr. Paul Mmbando brought the perspective on how the voices of faith leaders are unique in bringing a transformative impact on reproductive justice. Church hospitals, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), provide access to information and reproductive justice services. Dr. Paul ,Who is also a medical practitioner noted the added value of working with faith actors in Tanzania, as one of the effective advocacy avenues in reaching communities, as well as in influencing policymaking.

In our work, we work a lot through inter-faith approach and we have made great strides, when faith leaders speak, they bear with them a unique language,” says Dr.Paul

ACT Alliance’s global gender justice program is of great essence in bringing together members through conversatorio, learning together as well as working as ACT Alliance at local context on gender justuce work.

“One of the major work for the global gender justice program has been to address gender inequalities that are considered taboo or difficult by engaging members and other stakeholders in dialogues to listen to one another and working at local context.” says Elaine, ACT’s Global Gender justice programme manager.

Co-hosted by ACT Alliance and other partners , the inter-religious convention brought together over 160 faith leaders and activists from more than 25 countries globally  to deliberate on 3 main thematic areas on gender justice , justice and peace as well as freedom  of religion and belief and inclusion.

The three day  convention, from 3rd to 6th December  brought a unified voice of faith  as change makers, in affirming human dignity, justice and freedom for all.


Why is crucial for Faith-Based organizations to work on the intersections of economic and gender justice

A blog post by Simagaliso Hove,  Lutheran Development Service  (Zimbabwe) and ACT Governing Board member

Why is crucial for Faith-Based organizations to work on the intersections of economic and gender justice?

Economic inequality and injustice remain one of the major obstacles to gender justice as women in most countries continue to be disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to equitable access and distribution of economic and financial resources and privileges. Therefore, economic gender justice issues are part of fundamental human rights.  By their nature, Faith Based Organizations are in a better position to influence traditions and norms in most communities as religion plays an important role in most people’s everyday lives.  FBOs are also respected by governments and other duty-bearers and participate in platforms where they can influence necessary changes in policies that continue to perpetuate discrimination. A lot of work is already happening with FBOs raising awareness and working towards the prevention of GBV, child marriages, gender pay gaps, and unjust legislation among many others.  However, to be able to achieve more sustainable results, FBOs should start focusing on where gender justice and economic justice intersect rather than continue with fragmentation or compartmentalization.

What are the main learnings on this intersection, that you can share from your work in Zimbabwe?

  • A lot of women will continue to suffer from gender-based violence and young girls forced into early marriages if they do not have economic and financial means to survive daily. Women need to have livelihood options that provide income security to enable them to make decisions about their lives, and their bodies and escape from domestic violent relationships. Traditionally, women in Zimbabwe take more responsibility for childcare and household chores than their male partners.  This may mean that mothers take less-paying or less stressful jobs than they are qualified for.  Attaining their career goals is delayed due to these family responsibilities that they are neither paid for nor can they include in their curriculum vitae.  In Zimbabwe paid maternity leave is 90 days only and one has to return to work and leave the child with a paid carer, at times this is someone the family doesn’t even know and as a mother it is in our nature to worry about the safety and quality of care your child gets in your absence.   Women of childbearing age with young children may not perform as well as their colleagues, male or female, who have nothing to worry about hence these women may not move up the ladder as fast as their colleagues.  There is a need to have programs (employer-led or government-led) to help women reach their potential and not be limited should they choose to be mothers.
  • Women need income to take care of their special needs like sexual and reproductive health necessities like contraceptives, menstrual hygiene, and other well-being needs. Medical care is very expensive in the country and medical insurance is a luxury that can be accessed by a privileged few.  There is a need for special allowances or allocations for women either through income tax reduction (being gender-responsive in the national budget) or employer-assisted allocation or even family budget allocations for these special needs.
  • In rural Zimbabwe, women earn their incomes from farming activities. This implies that they need access to land. Most Zimbabwean rural women are discriminated against in land ownership, particularly, in rural areas due to customary restrictions and patriarchal culture.   Although rural women work tirelessly in their fields, they are aware they may lose it once their husbands marry another wife or divorce them.  Gender equality and economic justice are at the centre of land ownership for these women, it is not an either-or case but both, for them, there is a seamless connection with the land as a major economic resource and gender-inclusive laws in its allocation and ownership.  If they do not own the land, they work they will continue to be under the control and influence of sometimes abusive partners or guardians.

What this has taught us is that there cannot be a real struggle for gender justice without addressing issues of economic justice.

What are the main challenges?

  • Inconsistencies in the law and practice; in the cities, land ownership is through title deeds and anyone (regardless of gender) can buy land, whereas in rural areas most women have access to land through their husbands, husbands’ families or their own families as land is communal owned. In rural areas, land ownership is traditionally a male privilege.
  • The national budgets are not gender-responsive as nothing is providing for special needs for women and girls.
  • Women and girls remain marginalized both in church and society as there are still practices that discriminate against their access to resources, and decision-making positions (positions of power and influence) as well as blocking their appointment to higher offices.

How economic justice and gender justice are grounded in faith, from a diaconal perspective?

The current LDS Strategy 2019 – 2023 is titled “And by our actions, we demonstrate our faith”.  Faith influences a lot of the diaconal actions we do, it influences how we engage with communities and duty-bearers.  It moves us into action.

Our actions are motivated by the fact that ‘every being is created in God’s image’ and is therefore equal in the eyes of the Creator.  If all are equal, no one should be discriminated against in accessing opportunities and protection.  Our environment should be able to listen to all voices without discrimination or preference.  This is how our actions can demonstrate our faith.  It is the practice of our faith through diaconal initiatives that transform us to achieving the “leaving no one behind” commitment.  Our diaconal activities are supposed to work hard in promoting equal opportunities for economic empowerment – an economy where no one is left behind, responding and preventing GBV – an economy where if one member is injured all work together to repair and get rid of the hurting, empowering women to rise to higher decision-making positions (in the church, in society and in politics) – an economy where all voices are equally important, as well as advocating for more caring and inclusive economic systems that do not discriminate against gender.

ACT Global Advocacy: for a future where everyone thrives

“We bring members in the Global South to speak to the UN in New York and at other global forums. Equipping them to tell their own powerful stories is a central part of our advocacy work,” says Alison Kelly, right, with ACT members at the United Nations in New York. PHOTO: Simon Chambers/ACT.

We spoke with Alison Kelly (UK) the ACT Alliance Representative to the United Nations, based in New York, and Dr. Marianna Leite (Brazil), ACT Alliance’s Global Advocacy and Development Policy Manager about their goals and hopes for ACT’s global advocacy work. 

By engaging in effective advocacy at local, national, regional and global levels, ACT Alliance contributes to positive and sustainable change in the lives of people affected by poverty and injustice.  ACT’s advocacy work is faith- and rights-based, grounded in evidence and rooted in the experience of forums and members.

Q: Why is advocacy important for ACT Alliance? 

“I think everyone should carve out at least ten percent of their time to think about advocacy,” says Dr. Marianna Leite, ACT’s Global Advocacy and Development Policy Manager.

Marianna Leite (M): It’s our responsibility to fundamentally change how things are now and envisage a future where everyone and the planet thrives. Policy and advocacy are deeply connected to humanitarian and development work. There is also a theological aspect to it – really believing in our prophetic voice and raising a faith voice and the voices of the communities we serve.  

Alison Kelly (A): There’s an increasing sense of urgency.  With climate now being seen as an existential issue, there’s an urgency to advocate for transformational change.  

M: We need to make some waves – positive waves of change. ACT has a role both in attending to urgent needs and striving for everyone to be able to enjoy basic rights in future.  

A: Transformation also means switching our thinking. The economy is a human system that should work for people and the planet. Our advocacy strategy is solutions focused. That’s really important. We know what works from our members’ experience in their communities.   

M: And we are all advocates.  We all try to influence each other; it’s part of being human. One of the things we say in the ACT Advocacy Academy is that advocacy can be as big as your creativity can reach.  

A: It’s opening the discussion. Advocacy can be local, it can be behind the scenes, it can be private; there are all these different mechanisms.  

M: Informal and silent advocacy can be much more impactful than any visible external advocacy. It is crucial for members to consider when to say yes or no to advocacy and to do a risk analysis. 

Q: What are the challenges and opportunities facing ACT’s global advocacy programme?  

M: A major challenge is the toxic anti-NGO or anti-civil action narrative that now permeates society.  Governments are cutting funding for the lifesaving work we do. The same negative undertone comes from fundamentalist groups that are backtracking hard won human rights. It’s hard to avert more damage because a narrative has a life of its own. Yet this is also an opportunity for ACT.  We are a faith actor promoting human rights as part of a transformative approach to sustainable development. We can push back against the pushbacks. ACT is unapologetic about our support to International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, and their principles. 

A: We speak to the moral and ethical dimension of issues, and we have the technical expertise to be credible. Holding faith and rights together gives us a strong platform.  

M: How to maintain hope is also part of our role as faith actors. We can hope for a better future, and we can be the change that we want to see in the world. I see that as part of ACT being prophetic. 

Recent global advocacy initiatives

Addressing COVID vaccine inequity 

By early 2022, it was clear that global COVID-19 vaccine distribution was not as rapid as the virus’ mutation and spread. Most doses of the vaccines were acquired by and administered in developed countries. The most vulnerable people, especially in developing nations, were yet again left behind. 

ACT responded by continuing to advocate for vaccine equity and addressing vaccine hesitancy. We published resources and hosted regional workshops on Vaccine Equity and Hesitancy in the Africa and Asia Pacific regions. ACT called on governments to support the creation of a binding treaty on pandemic preparedness. ACT’s General Secretary, as a civil society representative to the COVAX facility, pushed funders to make sure that vaccines reach those in developing nations.  

New Advocacy Package 

Developed over three years with ACT’s advocacy and policy reference group, an approvals process for all documents produced under the ACT banner was piloted in 2022.  Created for forums and all groups of ACT Alliance members that want to do joint advocacy, it is part of a new advocacy package meant to ensure that ACT always speaks with one united voice with coherent and mutually reinforcing language. Member suggestions led to adjustments and user-friendly resources and design templates along with a forum-centred advocacy guidance, all part of the final package to be launched in 2023.  

This interview appears in the ACT Alliance Annual Report 2022, available in English, French and Spanish.









Faith Actors come together to Advance Gender Equality

Picture credit: Karin Hugsén , Act Church of Sweden

Over 25 diverse faith-based organisations attended Women Deliver 2023, which concluded yesterday in Rwanda. ACT Alliance co-convened a ‘meet and greet’ at the conference, for faith actors to connect, share, and strategize on our collective work for gender justice.  
Rising fundamentalisms, which are pushing back hard against women’s rights at every level and across the world, religion can often be perceived as only contributing to the problem of gender inequalities. Patriarchal gender norms continue to be packaged in the language of religion because it legitimises them, it makes them appear divinely ordained and unchangeable. Anti-rights actors are mobilising religious language to block or even reverse progress on gender equality.  

Nearly 84 per cent of the world’s population identifies with a religious group. Many faith-based organisations, who participated in Women Deliver, are advocating for the importance of engaging in faith-based partnerships to advance gender justice.   

A focus of the Women Deliver conference is advancing Sexual and reproductive health and rights, which will not be achieved simply by changing laws, reducing poverty, or improving education and health care services. While these are all essential steps, we also need to challenge and eliminate discriminatory social norms that constrain bodily autonomy, agency and rights. To this end, the ACT Gender Justice Programme is working closely with our members, national and regional forums and platforms to harness the value-based power of faith actors to advance Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.  

For example, the ACT Argentina Forum is confronting fundamentalist and hateful discourses which oppress, manipulate, and deny the fundamental freedoms of women and girls in all their diversity. The forum is developing and sharing liberating faith narratives and theological perspectives that encourage the rereading of sacred texts and cultural contexts. It is also creating safe spaces of trust, which are open, intimate and focused on active listening without judgement. Together, we are working to support and amplify those prophetic voices who are courageously calling for transformative action to achieve justice for all.  

In the report, Looking Back to Look Forward: The Role of Religious Actors in Gender Equality since the Beijing Declaration’, which ACT Alliance co-published, we argue that understandings of the gender-religious nexus is critical for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5, and make the following recommendations:  

  • Choosing partners who are leaders on gender issues in their contexts: International collaboration and partnerships are pivotal for achieving all SDGs, especially now as the world tries to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic. Achieving SDG 5 is deeply interconnected with achieving all SDGs. 
  • Encourage religious literacy: Development agencies need to provide training throughout their organizational structures that convey a basic understanding of the ways in which religious discourses are context-specific, historically situated, internally diverse, continually reinforced and altered by both internal and external factors. 
  • Conducting comprehensive gender analyses prior to projects and partnerships: A comprehensive, context-specific, and theory-based gender analysis can highlight the religion-gender intersection in each locality and facilitate the inclusion of religious actors. It can also uncover the patriarchal power dynamics behind religious arguments supporting gender inequality.  

Keeping Faith in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Five Key Takeaways from ACT Alliance’s participation CPD56

Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the ICPD Programme of Action, and while progress has been made, this remains too slow and uneven. ACT Alliance convened a global delegation of members to participate in the 56th UN Commission on Population and Development, with representation from Argentina, Ethiopia, Nepal, Kenya, South Africa, and Brazil. ACT members were also part  of the national government delegations of Sweden and Norway.

As we reflect on our participation, here are our 5 key takeaways:

  1. Multi-stakeholder partnerships and feminist allies are critical to amplify a collective voice. To implement the ICPD Programme of Action, and advance SRHR, we must break silos and be catalytic collaborators, working across different sectors. For example, ACT Alliance has been participating in the broad civil society platform of  International Sexual and Reproductive Rights Coalition and actively collaborating with secular feminist organisations, UN Agencies, and Member States, to create collective calls and collaborations for reproductive justice, and counter backlashes on human rights, including SRHR.
  2. When governments talk about sex – they might really be talking about geopolitics. Many adolescents and young people, including the most marginalized young people, continue to face structural and societal gendered barriers in terms of accessing education, which was the focus of this year’s commission. The crux of the negotiations focused on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), which can support adolescents and young people’s decisions concerning their sexuality, health and well-being. Yet, the relationships between nation-states (the geopolitical context) were apparent, as Member States navigated an overtly politicised and polarised discussion on the right to education.
  3. Religion and human rights continue to be polarised in UN spaces. Whenever religion enters the public sphere or becomes powerful in politics, it tends to orbit around gender issues. Patriarchal gender norms, which block progress on advancing SRHR, are packaged in the language of religion because it legitimises them. You can read more on the nexus between religion, gender and development, in our co-published report, The Role of Religious Actors in Gender Equality since the Beijing Declaration (Khalaf-Elledge 2021: 44). However, this does not reflect the reality on the ground and ACT members and faith-partners engaged in ICPD show the importance of working with religious actors to advance SRHR.
  4. Anti-rights actors are coordinated and have money. The 1994 UN Population and Development Conference in Cairo affirmed aspects of SRHR and a number of crucial aspects in regard to healthy, sustainable population and human lives around the world: “179 world leaders reached a consensus and adopted a programme of action, which enshrined individual reproductive rights as a basic human right.”. Yet, nearly 30 years later, strategic anti-rights alliances, which are often well-funded, are creating resistance to reproductive justice. In the case of the 56th CPD, the pushback on gender equality prevented an agreement by Member States from being reached.
  5. ACT Alliance’s diversity is our strength, we have a powerful role as a rights and faith-based alliance, to reclaim religious narratives for gender justice.  


“Whatever our faith or cultural background, let us give every girl the protection, information and resources she needs to thrive.” – Dr. Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA;

“It is important to adapt the language of SRHR to the local level, faith communities are the potential translators for what this means.” – Nirmala, World YWCA, Nepal;

“Promote new narratives, aligning with bodily autonomy, by creating narratives close to the ground. Norms and values are not static; they are open to interpretation and change.” – Paula, CDD Mexico;

“As communities of faith we cannot be silent when girls and women in all their diversities are being threatened and inequalities exacerbated.” – Zanele, ACT Ubumbano, South Africa.

Our delegates contributed to Side Events, bi-lateral meetings with member States, strategy sessions, and networking with civil society actors. As faith actors, who are rooted in communities, our members powerfully shared how methodologies and practices are advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, including in an oral statement. As part of our advocacy we co-hosted the Side Event, ‘Between Taboos and Freedom: Religion, Rights and Reproductive Justice’, which you can watch on UN WebTV here.

CSW67: We need transformative courage on the road to equality

The 67th UN Commission on the Status of Women, focusing on gender equality, technology and innovation, has concluded. After over 85 hours of negotiations, member states reached the so-called Agreed Conclusions, and decided on new normative language on gender equality.  

The ACT Alliance Gender Justice Programme, our members, advocates and partners, joined forces, mobilised and coordinated to strategically advocate for gender justice and speak up for those voices who could not be represented in New York.  

The diversity of our delegation, the National Forums, the Regional Communities of Practices, and the global membership, provided us with a constellation of perspectives and lived contexts that enriched our collective calls for action.  

We made sure that our faith and rights-based voice and the experiences we have collected in decades of working in and with communities were brought to the discussion table. For these reasons, we co-hosted three Side Events with governments (Sweden, Mexico, Finland, Liberia, Denmark, and Chile) and UNFPA, two Parallel Events with faith-based actors, a Networking Event with feminist allies (including Fos Feminista, Equality Now), and a Strategy Workshop with 30 faith actors (including LWF, WCC).  

Throughout CSW67, we strategized with our members (both in-person and virtually), to analyse draft texts, deliver oral statements, advocate to country missions, participate in bi-lateral meetings and amplify our collective call for gender justice.   
Policy frameworks and UN agreements can feel far removed from our daily lives, but these platforms contribute to shaping our rights and realities. It is crucial that we actively participate and speak up.  During the discussions at CSW about who has been hurt online, the power that AI has on restricting rights or targeting women and girls in all their diversity, and the importance of access to technology to ensure participation, we are reminded that this year’s theme raises concerns that must be addressed urgently and cannot be side-lined.  

The results of the CSW negotiations are crucial to ensure that national and international advocacy efforts can continue and   push for transformative change at country and community levels, to address the root causes of gender inequalities.

The following are reflections on the importance of the Agreed Conclusions from our delegates: 

“To address the gender digital divide requires Member States to embark on national policy enactments, which mainstream gender and ethics, to counter the risks of having digital inequalities being the new frontier of gender inequality. As we look forward, the intentionality on inclusive language will ensure that digital innovations, including AI, are cognizant of the unique online safety and security needs of women and girls, and their participation in politics, economics and social life.”  

  • Gladys Nairuba, DanChurchAid & ACT Africa Gender Community of Practice, Uganda  

“At CSW67, we heard how religion is being used as an argument against gender justice and reproductive health and rights. Some religious actors are claiming traditional values and are allowing themselves to be instrumentalised in a global push back against equality for women and girls in all their diversity. That’s why it’s critical for faith actors, who affirm human rights, to engage in UN processes. We welcome that the Agreed Conclusions, in the context of technology and innovation, recognise that faith-based organisations are critical stakeholders for gender equality. We must continue to mobilise our communities to reclaim religious narratives and counter backlashes on gender justice.” 

  • Rev. Dr. Antje Jackelén, Archbishop Emerita, Church of Sweden 

Women human rights defenders are frequently victims of digital violence in Latin America. Moving forward, we must continue to promote coordinated strategies with various actors to guarantee safe spaces. We will continue to denounce such violence, and work together to ensure women and girls receive necessary support online.”  

  • Laura Chacón González, LWF & ACT LAC Gender Community of Practice, Colombia  

The Agreed Conclusions provide a vision and new policy framework when it comes to gendered technology and innovation. For instance, we are particularly encouraged by the inclusion of references to adolescent girls, women’s and girls’ right to privacy and the need to protect personal information as well as the strong emphasis on policy actions for the elimination and prevention of gender-based violence that occurs through or is amplified by the use of technologies. The reference to freedom of opinion and expression is another important element.  

However, the push back on rights is something we need to carefully monitor and fight against. We lament the erasure of text that references ‘gender-transformative action/innovation’, ‘women and girls in all their diversity’, ‘intersectional lens’, and ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights’, including ‘comprehensive sexuality education’. References to ‘Multiple and Intersecting Forms of Discrimination’ were also minimised in the Agreed Conclusions, and there was some resistance to recognising girls as rightsholders. This means that young people who are on the frontlines of the digital revolution, and those on the margins of our societies, are further neglected. 

Policy frameworks must address the lived realities of women and girls in all their diversity. The change we seek must be transformative and intersectional and we, faith actors must play a vital role in building gender-just societies and provide a fearless voice that calls for transformative courage.

We continue, together,  on the road to equality.  

Digital divide: who is to fill the gap?

A blog by Palwashay Arbab, Community World Service Asia

Technology is a double-edged sword. This is especially true if we look at gender equality for which, technology is promoted as an enabler. But as much as technology bridges the digital divide, increases access to communication and makes the world a global village, it also contributes to creating gaps and inequalities. As it amplifies the voices of some, it limits the participation of others. As much as it brings people together, it also drives them further apart. As much it gives liberty and freedom, it also creates loneliness and isolation.

Is it the new bitter-sweet symphony, I ask myself? Maybe.

As leading advocates of digital equality, I wonder if the organisers of the UN CSW67 considered the use of technology to ensure the effective inclusion and participation of delegates who face access constraints?  It is safe to assume that some of the key players in the fight for gender justice and closer to those suffering from abuse and lack of human rights cannot participate in the commission in New York.

But what is it proposed to ensure that their voices are heard in this pivotal platform where important decisions about them, their life, their rights and their future are made?

Undoubtedly there are various virtual spaces and side events that those interested can participate in. These are great learning spaces. But there needs to be a plan for ensuring the equal access as virtual delegates for those communities that would otherwise go unheard. Yes, most governments are there to represent their people and their issues, but one cannot deny the difference in perspectives that a government representative and a civil society activist or a community member has and like to echo at an important platform like this one.

The digital divide can be conquered and ensuring access and meaningful participation is a way to dominate it. We have a tremendous opportunity to ensure equal and full participation for everyone, in every corner of the world with the use of technology.

Many potential delegates like myself who require a visa to just reach New York, were denied access only because we could not reach the country physically. However, we could participate and contribute if given the chance to participate virtually – as equally as those present at the headquarters. I can still participate in the conversation by writing this blog post.

But then I wonder – what about countries like Afghanistan? My women colleagues have been barred from working. They still do, from home, trying their best to complete all the tasks hidden from view.

Their roles and responsibilities have been changed to ensure working from home is possible and project activities continue. But some things can only be done by women. For instance, only a woman communicator could get a story from an Afghan woman or girl. Only she could ask them about their needs or if the support is meeting their requirement?

Who is to fill that gap?

These are the challenges we need to overcome. And it is their voices we need to hear the most if we truly want to achieve gender justice. It is their story that needs to be told, and they need to be able to tell it.

We cannot let technology and the digital divide leave them behind.  We must do more, and we must do better. We must allow it to be an enabler and we must create resources and opportunities for those voices that risk to be otherwise silenced.

Blog: Not so new resolutions – promoting economic justice as transformative change 

Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT, South Sudan.

By Dr Thorsten Göbel and Dr Marianna Leite

The new year presents an opportunity to analyse situations afresh and reassess the main priorities for the upcoming months. However, this is an uncanny period that reflects worrisome trends around the globe.  

Why now? 

This week, world leaders are meeting in Davos at the World Economic Forum to discuss issues such as the care economy, climate finance, trade and financial inclusion. Oxfam notes that, despite the political rhetoric, ‘at least 1.7 billion workers live in countries where inflation is outpacing their wage growth, even as billionaire fortunes are rising by $2.7 billion (€2.5 billion) a day.’ These trends are increasing due to the effects of the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, COVID and other crisis-profiteering created a new billionaire every 30 hours while many people faced extreme poverty. 

Promoting economic justice from an ecumenical perspective 

In 2012 the Global Ecumenical Conference on a New International Financial and Economic Architecture organized by the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), World Council of Churches (WCC) and Council for World Mission (CWM) lead to the creation and publication of an Ecumenical Action Plan for a New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) which promotes an Economy of Life for All and is endorsed by ACT Alliance. 

A preceding NIFEA statement developed with Global South actors in São Paulo, Brazil states that ‘[c]urrent economic systems pose a profound obstacle to the justice and peace we need as one humanity for our life together, today and tomorrow.’ It adds that ‘[t]he pursuit of profit, when it is held up as an ultimate value in itself and when it becomes the purpose of life, is sinful.’ The endless thirst for profit is ‘spawning violence, inequality and climate change and obscures the vision of God for unity, peace, and plenty for all of God’s creation.’ This work calls for changes in the financial sector, sustainable and equitable public finance and debt, and inclusive and transformative global governance. 

The work of ACT Alliance and its members 

What does this mean in practice? Economic justice is a cross-cutting theme under the  ACT Alliance Global Strategy 2019-2026: Putting People First. ACT Alliance and its members have a proud history of campaigning for economic justice and change.  

A recent briefing paper published by ACT Alliance on the intersectionalities between economic and gender justice affirms that ‘ACT understands economic justice as a set of principles around macroeconomic policies wherein the ultimate goal is to enable the realization of human rights and to create an equitable environment that ensures people and planet thrive. There is no economic justice without gender justice. Similarly, there is no transformative economic change if policies and actions are not human rights-based and/or connected (…).’ 

ACT Alliance member Christian Aid commissioned a collection of essays unpacking what a feminist, anti-racist, eco-social contract for people and planet would look like. These essays flesh out what a rights-based economy means, how to ensure bottom-up approaches, and how a transformative social contract can be realized.  

ACT member Norwegian Church Aid produced a report in 2022 calling for a UN Tax Convention and exploring the merits and feasibility of a new international convention on tax and financial transparency. Similarly, Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (Evangelical Church in Germany – EKD) published a report which was strongly supported by ACT member Brot für die Welt, calling for a complete overhaul of our current financial system.  The EKD report states that ‘[t]he financial scandals of recent times […] have clearly revealed the deficits in the financial economy’s understanding of responsibility, the deficiencies in their control through politics and the constitutional state, and the inequalities in the growing national and global economics.’  

New year, old resolutions 

It is evident that the current global economic system and its governance structures reinforce a vicious cycle of inequalities by keeping political and financial power in the hands of a small elite. Religious discourses have been used to justify these inequalities and perpetuate violence, systems of privilege and structural exclusion. Meanwhile, the unfairness of entrenched inequalities is not only felt by those who are economically marginalised, but increasingly shared by ordinary people across the globe. 

Our faith emphasises the shared commitment of caring for our common home together, with cooperation and solidarity rooted in justice, care and sustainability. States and world leaders meeting in Davos this week must move from an economy that exploits and makes care invisible towards fundamentally transforming the role of the economy: to set a direct path towards equality, sustainability, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic benefits. 

Dr Thorsten Göbel is ACT Alliance Director of Programmes. Dr Marianna Leite is the Global Advocacy and Development Policy Manager at ACT Alliance.



The Collective Road to Sexual and Reproductive Justice

Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, ACT Alliance General Secretary  

I am writing this blog from Zanzibar, where I am gathering with fellow High-Level Commission members to launch our new report. The report published today charts some of the gains and gaps in the progress of the 12 Global Commitments contained in the Nairobi Statement on ICPD25. 

Central to the report is a call for sexual and reproductive justice, which emphasise the importance of locating women’s reproductive choices within a broader analysis of the racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on women’s agency and power. 

In 1994, the year that saw the adoption of the historic ICPD Programme of Action, a collective of 12 Black feminists coined the term “reproductive justice”, transforming the narrow “pro-life versus pro-choice” debate dominating reproductive, economic and social rights discourse in the United States of America.   

While ‘reproductive justice’ is not founded by religious traditions, the concept of justice is intrinsically part of our faith tradition, which also includes dignity, ethics, self-determination, liberation, and autonomy. Justice is embedded in sacred texts and enables people of faith to better understand the interconnected injustices that undermine human rights and dignity.   

I believe we are called not to work only for individual rights, ‘my body, my choice’, but for sexual and reproductive justice, which emphasises the communitarian. This is especially important in many of the southern contexts, including my own in Brazil, which has still many community-oriented spaces, often communitarian organised life, in groups, and associations.  

One of the key recommendations of the report launched today calls for a broader engagement with faith-based leaders and organisations. We know that eighty-four per cent of the world’s population identify as members of a faith group, and that faith principles and religious and traditional leaders shape social norms and values, while also influencing government policies and practices. 

A narrow version of religion, in particular Christianity, is often mobilised and instrumentalized in global policy arenas, which has blocked progress on achieving universal and inter-dependent human rights: “Whenever religion enters the public sphere and becomes powerful in politics, it tends to orbit around gender issues. Patriarchal gender norms are packaged in the language of religion because it legitimises them. It makes them appear divinely ordained and unchangeable.” (Khalaf-Elledge 2021).  

The role of traditional and religious leaders and faith-based organisations is key in ensuring the rights and needs of people in communities are upheld and met. Our ACT Alliance Gender Programme is working closely with our members and national and regional forums, to harness the value-based power of faith actors. For example, investing in new faith narratives/theologies for reproductive justice, confronting rising fundamentalisms, and advocating for and contributing to the implementation of Comprehensive Sexual Education. 

We hope that the report launched today illuminates a path forward to achieve the ICPD25 commitments through a sexual and reproductive justice framework. The road to sexual and reproductive justice is long and the stakes are high. There are no quick fixes. Yet, it is critical that we continue to move forward, and not give ground to those who want to push women’s rights back.  



Climate and gender justice are not stand-alone issues

The 66th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women is now underway. This is the UN’s principal intergovernmental body for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. This year the focus will be on the interconnection between climate change and gender justice, and ACT Alliance is working with our members to be a collective prophetic voice for justice. In preparation, ACT Members have been working together in strategy sessions, where ACT Alliance’s delegates exchanged views on the work they are doing at a national and the regional level, sharing how to advance understanding of the impacts of the climate crisis on women and girls in communities around the world.

Patricia Mungcal, of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and co-chair of ACT’s Youth CoP, shared some alarming insights. “Young women and girls in disaster-stricken areas are more prone to gender-based violence,” she said. “Without policies based on mutual agreement, mutual respect, and recognition of territorial and patrimonial rights, the climate crisis will only exacerbate an ongoing economic crisis that endangers the lives of all people. Climate and gender justice are not stand-alone issues but are both centered around civil and economic justice.”

Joel Kelling of theAnglican Alliance, based in Jordan, and a member of the MENA Climate Justice Community of Practice raised a key issue shared by other participants. “How do we engage people in the severity of the situation when we don’t typically have rapid onset natural disasters here?” he said. “The city of Alexandria in Egypt might be under water in 50 years, and yet there is a distinct lack of immediate and urgent action in response.” Financial support is crucial and must be channeled towards communities, he said. The good news is that there are churches in the Middle East that are beginning to provide more support for climate and gender justice.

Sostina Takure, who is the coordinator of the ACT Zimbabwe Forum highlighted how changes in climate patterns are affecting rural women and girls and food security in communities. Zimbabwe, like many other countries, relies heavily on agriculture to support their economy. “Recently there has been a mixture of natural weather phenomenon, and also politics, that have contributed to our economy dying,” she said. The region has experienced extreme droughts and devastating cyclones which affect communities’ livelihoods.

Human rights abuses, specifically abuses against women and children, have increased due to economic and political insecurity. Women still cannot own land in Zimbabwe and access to education is limited. Rural women have little access to information and are often not included in decision-making and knowledge sharing activities. Although women living in urban areas may be more educated, they are still being excluded from conversations about climate justice and climate solutions.

Zoyara Urbina of LWF and the LAC Gender Equality Community of Practice spoke about how the most impoverished countries are struggling to cope with a climate that is changing too quickly for them to adapt to or mitigate the effects. The region is known for its biodiversity, yet Central American countries are already showing the negative effects of climate change. As in other parts of the world, rural communities are affected the most and this is now part of the daily lives of millions of people.

ACT Alliance is advocating at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in many ways. We are coordinating Side and Parallel Events, lifting up the voices of national and regional members on the frontline of the climate crisis. We are also working as a delegation to strategically reach out and influence the Member States. Working with sister and ecuemnical agencies, we are hosting a virtual exhibition booth at CSW66, which is a space to connect and raise awareness of the role faith-based actors are playingat regional, national and local levels, to achieve gender and climate justice.
Central to our participation in this space is to highlight the voices of those living in communities affected by the climate crisis. Delegates are sharing stories, information, tools and solutions to advance gender and climate justice.

You can visit our exhibition booth here, which also includes a programme of events. 
To learn more about what ACT is doing at CSW66 check out our dedicated page:

To add your voice, tweet your insights on gender and climate issues by using the hashtags #TheRoad2Equality and #CSW66