This report presents findings from a mapping initiative by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that aimed to capture how faith-based organisations (FBOs) respond to violence against women (VAW) and girls in the Asia-Pacific region. As a collaborative initiative between UNFPA and the Asia-Pacific Women Faith and Development Alliance (AP-WFDA), it sought to identify examples of strategies used by FBOs.
FBOs that were already known to be working within the broad framework of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Violence against Women (CEDAW) were invited to participate in the mapping exercise. The report brings together the experiences of 58 organisations collected through an online survey supplemented by in-depth interviews conducted with selected agencies.
It was found that many organisations work in isolation on gender-based violence (GBV), though many feel that, due to using compassion as a basis for their work, they are well situated to be effective. This has resulted in a call for broader networks among the FBOs that can result in direct contact among them. It also pointed to the need for faith-contextualised materials addressing violence issues. Limited technical capacity and resource constraints were also frequently mentioned. The document suggests a need for assessment of and capacity building in conceptual clarity and positioning on issues of equity and rights as "essential pre-requisites for partnerships with FBOs to ensure common understanding....There is scope however for secular women’s organizations and technical agencies to provide skills and knowledge to enhance the work of those faith-based organizations that show a strong commitment to address violence whilst, reciprocally, themselves benefiting from the networks and outreach of faith organizations." The capacity and programmes of FBOs could strengthen multi-sectoral responses to GBV.
Strategies reported include direct services to women and girls, including counseling, referrals, health and medical support including HIV testing and counselling, and self-help groups. Awareness raising and education on GBV through sermons, workshops, training, and with women’s groups are other strategies. For example: "The House of Sarah Project in Fiji takes an active approach to directly addressing beliefs arising from interpretations of religious texts that hinder progress on ending violence against women." Some FBOs work with community stakeholders (e.g., teachers, health workers) and provide education to children and young people in schools, youth clubs, and universities. Some provide theological publications, faith-based resources, or materials, and some work with men’s groups. FBOs directly raise awareness of violence issues among faith leaders.
FBOs also campaign publicly and engage in advocacy by participating in public campaigns to end violence against women, using community outreach approaches, including wall painting, posters, street plays, community theatre, and songs, to promote their messages. Some have engaged with the media and facilitated or participated in inter-faith dialogue on violence against women and girls. A number have formed networks, including ecumenical networks, within communities and countries to work on GBV. Some FBOs work on national legislation, including using CEDAW to address the issue nationally with lawmakers.
The document includes detailed survey statistics from its mapping effort and concludes with an appendix of participating organisations.
The UNFPA website, accessed on June 5 2013.