Strengthen gender justice and women’s leadership
Delegates to pre-Council of Women meeting look ahead to Krakow Assembly and anniversary of gender justice policy
(LWI) – Women leaders representing all regions of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) gathered in Geneva on June 8 for a pre-Council meeting where they discussed ways to advance the work for women’s empowerment and promoting gender justice. They looked forward to next year’s 10th anniversary of the adoption of a gender justice policy by the global communion of churches and shared challenges and hopes for the upcoming Thirteenth Assembly.
Rev. Katariina Kiilunen, LWF Program Manager for Capacity Building and Leadership Development, shared the progress of the LWF Fellowship Program, which has a strong focus on gender justice in its rollout of training in theology and diakonia. The new Hélène Ralivao Fund, launched in 2021, also offers scholarships and shorter courses in theology, gender justice and leadership for women and men in the Africa region. “How can we increase the number of applications and continue to support and mentor our students,” she asked, “especially in churches that still do not ordain women to ministry?”
LWF Gender Justice Advocacy Officer, Ms. Sikhonzile Ndlovu, highlighted the LWF’s commitments to support member churches and national programs in their work to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in the Church and society. These commitments include increased resource mobilization and financial support for survivors, as well as encouraging churches to engage more men and boys in promoting gender justice.
Progress in empowering and including women in church decision-making structures requires broadening the conversation to include both men and women in a holistic approach to gender justice work.
“While we often talk about social norms and cultural practices that are harmful to women,” she said, “it is also important to educate men and boys about the harmful, violent and limiting ideas of masculinity that drive them to act in a certain way towards women and girls. Council members agreed that further progress in empowering and including women in church decision-making structures requires “broadening the conversation to include men and women in a holistic approach to justice work from gender”.
Delegates discussed the impact of the Gender Justice Policy, which was approved by the LWF Council in 2013 and has been translated into over twenty different languages. Its adoption marked an important milestone in the LWF’s commitment to gender justice and its guidelines continue to inform the work of promoting equality and inclusion in many member churches.
Contextualizing the LWF Gender Justice Policy
Board members highlighted the need to summarize the vision of this document in a short, user-friendly version that can be contextualized and translated into other languages for use by local congregations and faith-based organizations. Participants called for a greater focus and sharing of additional resources on the theological and biblical roots that underpin all LWF gender justice work.
Participants also noted that there is “still fear and silence around sharing stories of discrimination or injustice” in some churches. “We still have a long way to go to implement the comprehensive vision outlined in the Gender Justice Policy within our member churches,” said Rev. Dr. Marcia Blasi, LWF Gender Justice Program Manager. gender and women’s empowerment.
Looking ahead to the LWF Assembly, to be held in Krakow, Poland, next year, participants noted the continuing difficulties in meeting the required quotas for the participation of women and youth in all meetings of leadership. In 1984, the LWF approved a quota system requiring 40% women and 20% youth representatives to ensure meaningful participation of all members of member churches. “It is important for us to find ways to encourage churches in all regions to meet their commitments and meet these quotas,” Blasi stressed.