At a high profile conference in Norway today, Islamic Relief has called for more focus on using faith-sensitive approaches to end sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

The Oslo conference in is the first in a series of high level events to be held this year to address SGBV in humanitarian crises, which has wide-ranging negative consequences for survivors and their communities.

“Faith is often seen to be part of the problem, but at Islamic Relief we believe it must be part of the solution,” said Islamic Relief CEO Naser Haghamed, addressing the conference today.

“When societies and states break down, faith is sometimes the only thing people have left. It can unite people, providing a sense of belonging, and faith leaders can be agents for creating change.

“As the largest independent Muslim faith-based charity globally – working on the frontlines in many of the world’s worst humanitarian crises – we have seen that faith leaders can be instrumental in helping to prevent gender-based violence; and that faith has a role to play in helping survivors heal.

“Islamic Relief’s efforts to prevent the sexual violence and forced marriages that are, tragically, so common during crises include mobilising faith leaders to speak out against SGBV.

“In addition, we are working with women to provide psychosocial support, safe housing/safe spaces, and micro-finance activities to help them start their own businesses.

“But more must be done to ensure faith-sensitive approaches to GBV are prioritised by all stakeholders in the sector. This year we are launching our Islamic Declaration on Gender Justice.

“It is the first Islamic call to action that will secure pledges from dozens of organisations on addressing discrimination and violence against women and girls, including during humanitarian crises.

“It also provides a framework for secular and non-Muslim faith-based organisations that work with Muslim communities to use faith, to promote the God-given rights of all people to justice, dignity, equality and freedom from harm.

“Working together with many of you here today – such as colleagues from UNFPA and IFRC – who have endorsed the Declaration, we will commit to increasing our focus on protection in emergency and disaster situations. We will ensure that religion is no longer used as a cover for violence but becomes a powerful tool to address it.”

The two-day conference, which ends today (24 May), is hosted by Norway, Iraq, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, UN OCHA, UNFPA, ICRC and other partners.

Learn more about Islamic Relief’s work on gender justice.