The maiden West Africa Conference to promote faith movement for gender justice on the sub-region opened in Accra with a call on faith leaders to design their messages to transform the society.

The conference has drawn participants, mainly faith-based leaders and gender activists, from the sub-region to initiate conservations for the establishment of the West African Chapter of the Side by Side Faith Movement for Gender Justice.

Side by Side is a global movement of faith for people of passion to end gender injustice. It is committed in removing barriers to achieving gender justice by using faith leaders including Christians, Muslims and traditional leaders.

The conference will also increase awareness, capacity and commitment amongst faith leaders of their need to challenge and change damaging social norms through gender audits, national symposiums and theological training.

The two-day conference is being coordinated by Christian Aid and the Christian Council of Ghana with funding from World Vision International among others.

Ms Jane Machira, the Gender and Inclusion Advisor, Christian Aid (Side by Side East Africa), said they believed that faith leaders had a powerful moral voice to transform society.

“If the transformation is being led by faith leaders, it will bring lots of differences,” she added.

She said though many organisations were working on gender equality and justice, their efforts were not properly coordinated and emphasised the need to harmonise all efforts in that direction to achieve results.

Ms Kadidiatou Dante, the World Vision International (Niger), noted that discrimination and injustice against women continued to hamper their interest in occupying political positions and to achieve their potentials.

She said over the years, faith and traditions perpetrated gender inequality and injustice and urged faith leaders to draw their messages on love and respect of each other to restore gender justice.

Mr Ernest Okyere, the Country Manager, Christian Aid, Ghana, said discussion on Gender Justice started over 100 years ago and had made tremendous progress and commended those who played diverse roles in realising that progress.

Mrs Ebun James, the General Secretary of Christian Council of Sierra Leonne, called for the need to strengthen existing movements for gender justice to achieve required results.

She said the Church, like any other institution, could not deny that there were gender injustice in society and urged all faith leaders to rise up and condemn the act to ensure love and peace prevailed in the society.

“Faith leaders must tailor their messages to promote peace and love, gender justice, and respect for one another,” she said, adding that there was the need to leverage the roles of faith leaders in transforming society.

Ms Otiko Afisa Djaba, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, in a speech read on her behalf, said gender justice was in line with government’s policy in streamlining justice in Ghana and commended the movement for the vision.

She urged faith leaders to use the pulpits ad mosques as a tool for transformation to end gender injustice globally.

The conference is expected to form national Coalitions for gender justice to implement action plans in support of the Sustainable Development Goals, among other things.

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