National Women of Faith Networks
Religions for Peace Global Women of Faith Network consists of more than 1000 national and local religious women’s organizations The Religions for Peace Global Women of Faith Network increases the visibility of women of faith as powerful agents of peace. The network is based on the recognition that women of faith are organized in groups within religious communities all over the world. The women of faith are already in the frontlines in their local communities providing care, working to heal war-torn communities, prevention violence, fighting poverty, defending human rights, and establishing a more just and harmonious society.
WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT
The tremendous inequalities associated with human poverty affect women disproportionately. The majority of those living in global poverty today are women and girls. To put their interests at the center of the fight to end poverty, Religions for Peace Global Women of Faith Network promotes the rights and empowerment of women and girls. From training women in leadership and providing small grants for vocational activities in Liberia, to working to address HIV/AIDS challenges in Uganda, women of faith have been working on the front lines to advance human development.
Example: Women of faith respond to HIV/AIDS in Uganda
Religions for Peace has designed and managed several initiatives on HIV/AIDS. One such initiative was a multi-country project named Breaking Barriers implemented in Uganda, Kenya and Zambia from 2006 to 2010, with funding from USAID and in partnership with Plan Care and Save the Children.
Through their volunteerism, networking and advocacy, Women of faith have demonstrated effective leadership in responding to HIV/AIDS through three main areas of intervention:
• Psychosocial support for orphans and vulnerable children
• High quality community-based care and support for all the needy
• Provision of services relating to access to education, treatment, referral systems, psycho-social support and community-based care for children and families affected by HIV/ AIDS.
Educational services for OVC
In Uganda, women of faith helped to support access to formal education for 6,782 orphans and vulnerable children (OVCS), 3,199 of whom were girls in the three districts of Kamuli, Luwero and Tororo. They provided educational materials and ensured their enrolment and retention in school through support.
The women of faith worked together with men through the Uganda Inter-Religious Council (IRC), and with other partners including the Family and Child Protection Unit in the Uganda Police and Probation department, the Social Welfare and Community Development department, and with the Ugandan Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development.
Capacity Building Training
The women of faith received capacity building training on psychosocial support, child protection, home-based care and advocacy. They enhanced their knowledge and skills on addressing trauma, stigma and social isolation relating to HIV/AIDS.
Support to Caregivers
Care-giving in most communities is championed by women and girls. The caregivers experience a lot of economic hardships, as well as stigma, denial and discrimination. Some of the caregivers were older OVC in child-headed households, or grandmothers whose sons or daughters had died of HIV/AIDS and left the children under their care. The Breaking Barriers initiative focused on supporting female caregivers, and building a network of male caregivers. A total of 919 (643 females, 276 males) caregivers were trained on management of income generating activities and small businesses. OVC caregivers were taught and learned business management skills such as record keeping, pricing, enterprise selection, savings and credit, and how to set up area cooperatives.
Economic Enterprise Services
Over 2,160 caregivers were facilitated to establish village savings and loan associations that mobilized funds that they lent to one another as micro loans. Deliberate efforts were made to link the caregivers to other service providers such as the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and Micro-finance institutions. These external partnerships with government and other public institutions helped a great deal in building capacity and access to additional resources. For example, in Tororo district, beneficiaries who were trained were given priority in accessing farm inputs from the government. In Kamuli district, the National Agricultural Advisory Services provided support to eight groups. Each group received 100 poultry and 15 bags of feeds. These were used for demonstration and learning purposes for beneficiaries to acquire the necessary skills and run their own individual poultry projects.
The women of faith worked with other religious leaders to review educational policies and legislation and identified gaps and barriers to OVC accessing education in Uganda. The policies reviewed included the policy on Universal Primary Education Policy and the Children’s Act and Statute
Barriers identified included poverty, lack of school fees and gender-related barriers such as early marriage, teenage pregnancy, sexual harassment and heavy burden of household chores on the girl child. Advocacy initiatives resulted in the enactment of bylaws and follow-up mechanisms for accountability and reporting, government banning of employment of children, and school visits by government officials and religious leaders to monitor implementation of universal education. The unique achievements of women as champions were evident in their faith motivations, persistence and hope where all seemed hopeless, and the efficiency of their local networks to communicate and deliver services in a timely and sustainable manner.