Religion and Gender Equality – A Way Forward

by Sofia Caseiro – Polytechnic of Leira; Working Group on Gender Equality

This International Women’s Day post is part of a spotlight on the work and focuses of the IF20 Working Group on Gender Equality. See the working group page for more information.

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Equality is a value that most people identify as relevant and essential in a peaceful society.

The challenge, most of the time, is to achieve it. Equality is not achieved at the same time or in the same situation by everyone. For different situations, different conditions should be provided to achieve equality. This is why engaging in meaningful conversation about gender equality is urgent.

Women’s empowerment lifts all

The world of humanity is possessed of two wings – the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as men – until she enjoys the same arena of activity – extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized.

-Abdu’l Baha

History shows us women’s fight for a seat at the table, a voice in decision-making, and an equal stance in society. History has also shown us that the empowerment of women makes communities thrive and changes generations to come, breaking a cycle of prejudice, discrimination, and violence.

The dangers of stereotyping

To be on the right side of history is to engage in dialogue and to participate in the change of gender stereotypes and misconceptions. These stereotypes maintain fruitful conditions to justify violence against women and are also obstacles to equality amongst all genders.

Every person has a certain set of characteristics and gifts that make them unique and valuable to the ever-evolving construction that is humanity. Every time we associate a certain characteristic—emotional, physical, or psychological—to a certain gender, we are limiting someone’s ability to reach their full potential.

How do we avoid discrimination on the basis of gender?

We do it by engaging every actor, decision maker, and voice in the discussion; by allowing everyone to have a say and respecting everyone’s voice. Every religious community needs to be engaged in this conversation—this is the only way to respect creation and promote peace among all.

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Sofia Caseiro is an Assistant Lecturer at Polytechnic of Leiria’s School of Education and Social Sciences, and has worked extensively in the areas of human rights and gender equality. She currently serves as a member of the G20 Interfaith Forum’s Working Group on Gender Equality, and has a post-graduate in Human Rights and a Master in International Public Law and European Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Coimbra.

For more information on Sofia’s views on Gender Equality and its importance to the G20 Interfaith Forum, watch her section (49:59 – 52:13) of this recent interview with PAIS (Partnership for Advancing Innovative Sustainability) as part of the SDGs Lead Series: