Stop using religion to oppress women. This was urged by Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa while opening the Women in the Frontline Conference in Lautoka.

“While it must be acknowledged that faith and religious actors can be part of the problem of gender injustice, underpinning discriminatory practices, they are increasingly becoming, and seen as part of the solution,” she said.

“We really need to stop using religion to oppress our women – that is not what faith teaches – definitely not Christianity and I can say this being a Christian myself. We can use our faith to help women rise just as Women on the Frontlines is doing. Faith based actors can contribute to building a value basis, which includes an inclusive approach based on human rights and equal access to social protection and justice.”

Hon. Vuniwaqa said gender equality couldn’t be achieved in isolation and took more than policies and programs; they took changes to mindsets, changes to power relations between men and women and societal changes to the basic attitudes towards women.

“This is why organizations and events like yours have my respect and the support of my ministry,” she told conference participants.

“Faith-based organizations have tremendous power to change the way our women are treated because the language of faith is the most important to many if not all. In fact, 84 percent of the world’s population self-identify as members of a faith/religious groups.

“Faith/religious actors play an important role in the formation of people’s values, norms of acceptable behaviour and life roles. Consequently, faith actors occupy a unique position to make transformational and sustained progress towards gender equality.”

The three-day conference has gathered over 100 women from various Christian denominations around the country and Australia.