The Women’s Dignity Assembly opened with a special video message from Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan and built on the momentum from the first Women’s Assembly in 2015. The 2018 Women’s Task Force Chair, Dr. Elizabeth Ursic, gave an overview of the projects initiated by the members of the 2018 Women’s Task Force that included: the 1,000 Women in Religion Wikipedia campaign, the Dignity of Women Sacred Teachings project, and the International Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders and Advocates to End Sexual Violence. She then introduced a free downloadable poster created for the event titled, Dignity of Women Across the World’s Wisdom Traditions, with young women reading scriptures from their respective faith traditions with female elders from the traditions standing at their side.
This Women’s Assembly proved to be as historic as the 2015 inaugural assembly. The first female chair of the Parliament,
Audrey Kitagawa, was announced during the program and performances by Dance to Change the World, singer Roula Said,
and Friends of the Red Tent movement performed throughout the assembly, refreshing everyone’s spirits. Female practitioners of all major faith traditions were represented during several of these performances.
The 2018 Assembly called for the end of violence against women and more female representation in faith and interfaith leadership circles. Members of this women’s movement recognized that they have made progress in their efforts but that there is still much work to do.
In all faiths, women’s participation enriches communities’ experiences and traditions, yet, some people seek to restrict women’s rights in the name of religion. All speakers called for an end to violent practices rooted in sexism by appealing to the belief in human dignity for all, shared by most religions. Phyllis Currott who organized the inaugural Women’s Assembly in 2015 said that “we shifted the moral compass by collectively declaring that the justification of discrimination and violence against women and girls on the grounds of religion is unacceptable.” The 2018 speakers shifted that compass even further.
Having women in leadership positions in every part of society is, as Reverend Susan Johnson describes, an affirmation of women’s personhood. When women assume powerful positions, their unique views enrich decision-making and make their organizations more representative of 51% of the global population. And yet more often than not, young women are socialized to believe that leadership is a “male” descriptor. Kiran Bali emphasized the critical importance of female leaders believing in themselves, “And if we have that self-belief, that conviction, and that fearlessness, no barrier or no prejudice can halt our journey.”
Throughout the world, individuals are working to undo the sexist systems that keep women from achieving their potential. From Margaret Lokawua’s Ugandan Indigenous women’s organization to Hugh Locke’s Haitian small-holder farms initiative to Armene Modi’s Indian bicycle bank for young girls, people of faith have worked in their communities to enfranchise women and girls.
Ultimately, the assembly motivated women and allies to work on their projects to promote women’s rights in their communities and stand up for their beliefs despite the durability of misogyny.
© Parliament of the World’s Religions