In April 2016, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) published a report on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in South Africa. A literature review found that “the cause of GBV cannot be attributed to a single factor, but an interplay of individual, community, economic, cultural and religious factors interacting at different levels of society.”

“Factors ranged from gender inequality between men and women, social constructions of hegemonic masculinities, social perceptions of what it means to be a man, normalisation of violence, and cultural practices,” the report stated.

In accordance with the prophetic example of speaking out against injustice, Islamic Relief’s challenging advocacy and campaigning efforts give vulnerable and marginalised communities a strong voice, and actively lobby for positive change. The organisation has adopted an integrated approach to protection and defines GBV as any harmful act carried out on a person whether they are female or male. This may include domestic violence, sexual harassment, human trafficking, forced marriage and many more.

“Our programmes usually take a rights-based, community-based and survivor-centred approach to the individual, family and community levels. We also mainstream protection principles into our humanitarian interventions which adhere to core humanitarian standards,” Islamic Relief’s policy on GBV and Child Protection (CP) reads.

As part of its objective to promote gender justice and child protection in order to change behaviour in communities, Islamic Relief South Africa partnered with World Vision International for the Channels of Hope for Gender training workshop, which took place in Cape Town last month.

Religious leaders can inspire entire communities

According to IRSA workshop convenor, Taariq Mathiba, the programme was aimed at equipping faith leaders to promote principles of equality to build harmonious relationships within families, faith groups and communities. “Channels of Hope for Gender is an innovative approach to exploring gender roles, relations, norms and values from an Islamic perspective. The methodology challenged Imams, Ulema and community leaders to acknowledge and act upon gender injustices in their communities.”

“Faith leaders are often among the most influential members in a community. Their beliefs and values can inspire entire communities to care for and love one another. Without proper information and insight, the misunderstandings of faith leaders can inadvertently promote stigma and discrimination,” Mathiba added.

Islamic Relief  Worldwide’s senior policy advisor on Gender, Iman Pertek, it was “important to engage faith leaders in dismantling myths and religious or cultural misinterpretations that support the abuse of girls and women.” She added: “Faith leaders were best positioned to educate, inform and influence the views of the community, especially in Muslim-majority contexts.” As South Africa commemorates Women’s Month this August, Islamic Relief will be hosting community dialogues based on some of the outcomes of the Channels of Hope workshop with its’ rights holders at the Osizweni Community Centre in Ennerdale, south of Johannesburg.

In addition, Islamic Relief SA will also be rolling out its ‘12 for 1’ sanitary pad campaign, which was aimed at rallying the community to donate sanitary pads that were handed out to schoolgirls and young women. The project was initiated last year and 284 learners from the Bonteheuwel High School in Cape Town, received a year’s supply of sanitary pads.

For more information about Islamic Relief SA’s initiatives to promote gender equality – email

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