This week, Islamic Relief (IR) continued to formalise its commitment to ending gender-based violence with the launch of two newly-developed policy papers at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) conference in New York, USA . The policies focus specifically on tackling female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and early and forced marriage (EFM), both of which are prevalent in some of the communities we work with.

At a launch event, IR shared its strong organisational commitment to ending harmful practices which disproportionately affect women and girls around the world. IR is leading the way in taking steps to eradicate FGM/C completely and advocating for a minimum age of 18 for both men and women to give full and free consent to marriage. Building on the organisation’s Gender Justice Policy launched in 2015, the policies provide an Islamic humanitarian perspective on giving women and girls their God-given rights, with IR’s interventions based on the principle of ‘do no harm.’

Shahin Ashraf, Global Advocacy Advisor at IR, said, “Harmful traditional practices can have a devastating physical impact but also lead to psychological trauma and a generational impact on survivors and their families. We know that culture is not static – communities can change behaviours when they understand from a faith perspective the hazards and indignity of certain traditions.”

IR also continues to promote the importance of working closely with faith leaders to dismantle misconceptions that are attributed to faith and which lead to cultural traditions being carried out from generation to generation.

Delegates heard from Duretti Haji, Disaster Response Manager in IR’s Ethiopia office, who shared stories of survivors who had undergone FGM/C and EFM, as she described the success of a recent pilot programme that educated local religious leaders on the harms of EFM and FGM/C.

Angela Peabody, Director of Global Women PEACE Foundation, also shared her work to tackle FGM/C, which includes playing an instrumental role in criminalising the practice in some US states. She reiterated the strong partnership between the Foundation and Islamic Relief, as the world’s largest Muslim humanitarian organisation.

IRW CEO Naser Haghamed, said: “Many women and girls around the world are suffering in silence as victims of domestic abuse, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Causing terrible harm to the victims that suffer these traumatic ordeals is not Islamic. It doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be this way.

“Islamic Relief’s launch of its policy papers on gender based violence gives empirical evidence and advice on how as an organisation we can work to reducing the prevalence of practices through our programmatic work around the world. However, these papers are just a start. They expect and deserve much more than this. We need to look beyond our own sphere of influence to start a debate and ensure that girls and women and live, learn, play and work without fear of harm or their childhoods being torn to pieces due to trauma.”

Waseem Ahmad, Director of Programmes at IRW, said: “The EFM and FGM/C policy briefing papers are part of our Gender Justice Policy and gender strategy to prevent these practices and achieve justice for all. We have already been addressing issues of EFM and FGM/C in some of our programmes, where they were identified as root causes of poverty and suffering.”

Affan Cheema, IRW Head of Programme Quality, added: “We are committed to tackling harmful practices such as EFM and FGM/C through inclusive, protective and integrated programmatic approaches in order to ensure that all women and girls live free from violence and discrimination.”

This event formed part of the annual two-week conference hosted by the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. This year’s theme at CSW62 is to explore the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.

For more information on Islamic Relief’s work on gender justice, including details and summaries of the events, follow the latest updates on the IRW website.