As the world’s largest Muslim faith-based organisation, Islamic Relief Worldwide hopes to play an important and influential role in promoting gender justice across the Muslim world. We are particularly well-positioned to challenge misconceptions about the position of women in Islam, as well as the misuse of religion as a justification for the suppression of women, by setting a positive example through our policies, programmes and advocacy campaigns. Through our activities, we highlight the principles of justice, harmony and equality of human worth that are enshrined in Islamic teachings.
Guided by Islamic principles, set out in the Qur’an and Sunnah and operating to international conventions and agreements, Islamic Relief Worldwide is committed to enable and empower women and men as colleagues, partners and beneficiaries in working towards a just world. Islamic Relief Worldwide makes this commitment both because gender justice contributes towards processes of development and, simply because it is the right thing to do.
Literature on sexual violence in armed conflict indicates that rape and Violence against women and girls (VAW) prior to, during and after conflict, is extensive in scope and magnitude. Other forms of sexual violence that tend to increase in armed conflict are exploitation, trafficking and domestic violence. In some cases, such violence is systematic and used as a ‘weapon of war’ and may be physical, sexual, psychological, economic or socio-cultural in nature and perpetrated in private or in public settings.
More broadly, Gender based violence (GBV) is associated with increasing instances of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, unintended pregnancies, gynaecological problems, induced abortions and adverse pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage, low birth weight and foetal death. Women are often disempowered by rape, the threat of rape, HIV infection, trauma and disabilities resulting from GBV. Girls too are disempowered because of the threat of violence when they cannot go to school, are abducted for trafficking or when their families disintegrate or must flee. In some conflicts, men are also affected by sexual violence and boys can be exploited or forced to become child soldiers. At Islamic Relief Worldwide, we respond to humanitarian need in many man-made disaster contexts, such as wars and internal strife and we aim to safeguard our beneficiaries from such threats of violence.
Gender justice’ refers to the treatment of all human beings with dignity and respect and the creation of an environment in which all people can realise their full potential, irrespective of their gender.
Islamic teaching is at the heart of Islamic Relief Worldwide’s work on gender justice and our work is guided by the principled application of justice and fairness for which the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) stood. For example, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) took significant, historic and globally significant measures in the positive treatment of women and girls, which were radical for his time considering the wider socio-cultural context of seventh century Arabia. Through his leadership and personal example, for the first time in human existence, women gained the right to retain ownership of their own wealth, business and property and acquired inheritance rights. He further banned female infanticide and emphasised the education of girls.
It is in this spirit of justice towards all human beings, which is so central within Islamic law and which was embodied in the prophetic model, upon which Islamic Relief Worldwide strives to operate.
Poor reproductive health is a major concern in the developing world, including in all of the countries in which Islamic Relief Worldwide operates. More than one thousand women per day die unnecessarily from pregnancy and childbirth related health issues and nearly all of these are in the developing world. This means that annually, more than half a million women die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth complications.
Higher mortality rates among women, infants and children are strongly associated with the risk factors of giving birth when a woman is too young or too old, birth spacing is too close, there are multiple births, or a woman has a pre-existing health condition.
Islamic Relief Worldwide is committed to improving reproductive health in our operational countries, through which we contribute towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. This requires better antenatal, delivery, postnatal and newborn care; providing services for family planning; eliminating unsafe abortion; combating Aids, STIs and harmful practices; and promoting sexual health education
Islamic Relief, as an international humanitarian and development organisation, is well-positioned to make a significant contribution in the area of gender justice, which is exemplified through its unique combination of faith-based approach and access to communities, particularly to affected parts of the Muslim world.
Our development work in gender justice focuses on poverty eradication; humanitarian aid; emergency relief; fragility; conflict; education; healthcare; access to infrastructure, financial services, markets and business-enabling environments; water supply and sanitation; transport, mobility, migration and freedom of movement; and access to information and communication technologies.
Further, through our faith-inspired policy work, we are able to tackle challenging issues within Muslim societies, which impact long-term development goals, such as marriage and family life; empowerment; and reproductive and sexual health. We are also committed to tackling issues around climate change, which greatly impacts women and girls as a consequence of climate related disasters in the long-term, through, for example, our Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programmes.
Islamic Relief is further committed to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) pertaining to gender, which impacts four of the UN’s eight MDGs: Goal 3: promoting gender equality and empowering women; Goal 4: reducing child mortality; Goal 5: improving maternal health; and Goal 6: combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Islamic relief is also proactively engaged in discourse on the post-2015 agenda, advocating for more action, fairer treatment, better access to services and the eradication of harm to women and girls in the developing world.