As a leading interfaith organization founded by a woman, Juliet Hollister, the Temple of Understanding has long been interested in women’s full contributions to society as a pathway to peace. Our most recent Hollister award recipient is Ela Gandhi, an internationally recognized peace activist and the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi.
In February of 2015, she suggested we focus this work in a call:
Religions Protect and Respect Women
We call for religions to support women’s equality, starting with endorsement and action on the gender principles of the Earth Charter, a collective interfaith document widely vetted around the globe:
- Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.
- Secure the human rights of women and girls and end all violence against them.
- Promote the active participation of women in all aspects of economic, political, civil, social, and cultural life as full and equal partners, decision-makers, leaders, and beneficiaries.
- Strengthen families and ensure the safety and loving nurture of all family members.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which set standards for the next 15 years, acknowledge women as key agents of action towards building just societies. Education and full civic engagement, including women in governance and in all forms of work, are crucial for women (and men) to reach their full potential. We believe that these are the true seeds of peace.
Our purpose is not to debate systemic wrongs, but to affirm pathways forward. A respectful relationship with women goes hand in hand with a respectful relationship with our earth- the land, air, energy, and water that sustain life. The Sustainable Development Goals might more profitably be framed as sustainable community goals, as it is with right relationship with others that we can endure and thrive in the changes ahead. Peace is implicit in sustainability — war is devastating on all levels.
Rape and Domestic Violence
We are conscious of rape as a tool of war, whether in armed conflict or in civic life and of the roles of both men and women in changing the culture of rape. Domestic violence and other forms of abuse hinder women from reaching their full potential. Religious institutions have a role in saying “NO!” to violence towards women as a major step towards achieving peace and empowering women.
Inclusion and Agency
At the United Nations 2015 Commission on the Status of Women, we heard that women want to be part of the decision-making process at all levels. The resounding rallying call is universal for women: “nothing about us without us.”
We ask religious communities how they currently respect and protect women, how they ask women what forms of respect and protection women want, and how they act towards uprooting social norms of violence. There will be no peace unless we can end violence against women. We suggest that religions consider binding themselves to international human rights law as countries do, and assume those obligations.
International human rights law lays down obligations which States are bound to respect. By becoming parties to international treaties, States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfill means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.
A key international treaty is CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The Temple of Understanding works towards women’s rights at the United Nations through the Women’s Major Group, through participation in UN conferences such as the Commission on the Status of Women, and through the SDG process – Goal 5 calls for gender equality.
This interactive discussion assessed the specific contributions of faith-based and faith-inspired actors, when partnering with governments and UN system entities, in dealing with diverse forms of gender-based violence.
The Commission on the Status of Women in NYC is an incredible opportunity for connecting with others doing advocacy around the globe. So many of the sessions offer truly inspirational resources and are crucial for the systemic transformations we need.
The Temple of Understanding’s events at the 2019 UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) were well-attended and brought a heart-centered attention to the work.
This interactive panel will focus on pragmatic aspects of women’s empowerment and sustainable development. Speakers include Puerto Rican women working towards a citizen’s audit of the debt, a chaplain working on ratification of CEDAW in the US, and a former guerrilla now grandmother speaking on personal practices of peace.
The Temple of Understanding greatly enjoyed connecting with colleagues and friends at this year’s Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, Ontario. We are especially proud to have worked with environmental activist and food sovereignty advocate Dr. Vandana Shiva at her second Parliament.
Please join the Temple of Understanding at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions for programs featuring our staff and UN colleagues, as well as environmental activist and food sovereignty advocate Dr. Vandana Shiva.