The final consultation on the ground-breaking Islamic Declaration has brought together leadership in a ‘historic event’ held last week.

Islamic Relief Worldwide led a high-profile consultation on Thursday 14 February to finalise a first-of its-kind Islamic Declaration on Gender Justice. The event brought together senior leaders to discuss the Declaration, a landmark initiative which presents key Islamic faith principles of justice and balance to challenge harmful cultural practices and social conditions.

Over 60 people took part in the consultation, entitled ‘Faith and Gender Unleashed: challenging gender stereotypes through the faith lens,’ including representatives from international NGOs, UN bodies and governmental organisations.

Islamic Relief CEO Naser Haghamed launched the event and highlighted that this was a “historic event showing that many organisations, including Islamic Relief, are serious in their commitment to tackling gender injustice.”

His comments were echoed by Shahin Ashraf, who is leading the Declaration as Islamic Relief’s Head of Global Advocacy: “We are proud to say that this Declaration is the first of its kind globally, bringing together organisations and individuals from across the world under the universal message that we will stand firmly for justice.”

Reaching out to people of all faiths and none

In her key note address, Dr Azza Karam of UNFPA praised Islamic Relief and partnership organisations for beginning the challenging but necessary step of bringing together organisations with a visionary, ambitious and strategic approach. She said: “It is no minor feat to launch this Declaration; a Declaration which sets out a deliberate vision and reaches out to people across faiths, and none, in the challenging context we see today.”

Panellist Mohammad Naciri, Regional Director for UN Women, expressed support for the Declaration and its potential to inspire a movement, suggesting that faith could provide a powerful lens and an important tool to inspire change in many global communities.

University of Warwick Professor Shaheen Ali also shared insights in to the relationship between sharia law and gender, and its application to the declaration. The audience also heard from DFID’s Mike Battcock who said: “DFID’s is committed to using faith partnership principles in its work with communities particularly through opportunities for collaborative engagement.”

Sharing expertise and insight to shape the Declaration

Participants also heard from senior leaders including Muslim Aid CEO Jehangir Malik, Action Aid CEO Girish Menon, Dr Rachel Tavernor of Side by Side, Dr Ziba Mir Hosseini of SOAS, Matt Jackson of UNFPA and Waseem Ahmad, Director of Programmes for Islamic Relief Worldwide.

International NGOs, UN bodies and governmental organisations were represented in the consultation.

The panel discussions were followed by workshops exploring the implementation of the Declaration and its global potential. The sessions gave participants an opportunity to share their expertise and insight on behalf of international NGOS, civil society organisations and UN bodies.

Feedback from the consultation will go towards shaping the final Declaration. Following previous consultations across the world including at the UN CSW in March 2018, Pakistan and Niger, the launch of the Islamic Declaration on Gender Justice is expected in June 2019.

The Islamic Declaration of Gender Justice affirms the God-given rights of all human beings as well as our duty to stand up firmly to uphold justice. The proposed Declaration aims to mobilise global and regional action and advocacy, and calls for signatories to pledge their commitment to ending gender injustices.

The Declaration recognises and respects the diversity of thought and opinions within the Islamic tradition and Muslim cultures, as well as those outside the Islamic community and among allies. In doing so, it focuses on establishing common purpose and commitments without being prescriptive of strategies and approaches.

The Declaration is part of a bold programme of action by Islamic Relief as we stand up for gender justice worldwide.