Conference on Women, Religion and Politics – HBS and Shirkat Gah mark 100 years of women’s activism

LAHORE – Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBS) and Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre held an International conference titled “Women, Religion and Politics” at a local hotel to mark 100 years of International Women’s Day on Thursday. The two day conference is the last of the series of events exploring engendered dimensions of various religious and political paradigms and their impact on women’s lives at local as well as international level. Distinguished international scholars including Yesim Arat from Turkey, Magdalena Mosiewicz from Poland, Dr Hema Goonatilake from Sri Lanka, Homa Hoodfar from Iran, Professor Deirdre Good from USA and Roshan Dhunjibhoy from Germany will present conference papers on the challenges faced by women in relation to religion and politics.
Former special assistant to the prime minister Shahnaz Wazir Ali, MNA Bushra Gohar, Heinrich Boll Stiftung Country Director Britta Petersen, Shirkat Gah CEO Khawar Mumtaz, Shirkat Gah Research Director and United Nation’s independent expert in cultural rights Farida Shaheed, Sheen Farrukh, Sahar Gul, Ayesha Tammy Haq, Neelam Hussain, Dr Rubina Saigol, Nabiha Meher Sheikh, Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, Nishat Kazmi, Justice (r) Metha Kailash Nath Koli, Dr Anita Mir and Naeem Shakir also presented at the conference.
Academics, current and former government representatives, national and provincial parliamentarians, civil society representatives, students, media personnel and human rights activists attended the first day of the conference. Britta Petersen welcomed participants on behalf of HBS and Khawar Mumtaz spoke on the background and political significance of the International Women’s Day. Anne Jenichen from Germany presented findings of a United Nations Research Institute of Social Development study, focusing on the functions religion assumes in different national and cultural contexts, their implications for women and the role of democracy in helping women defend their rights against conservative interpretations of religion. Farida Shaheed from Shirkat Gah delivered the key note address exploring the challenges posed to gender equality by certain religious institutions and various state-influenced religious notions across the world.
She said the use of state’s institutions and resources in combination with religious ideology promotes an insidious change of mindsets towards more conservative gender notions concerning motherhood and the domestic sphere. Yasim Arat and Homa Hoodfar examined the gendered implications of the intertwining of Islam and politics in Turkey and Iran. Dr Hema Goonatilake examined the contemporary inequality of women in South East Asian Buddhist countries. Magdalena Mosiewicz discussed the negative impact of the Catholic Church on democracy and women’s rights in Poland. Shahnaz Wazir Ali spoke on the challenges faced by Pakistani women politicians. MNA Bushra Gohar talked about women’s achievements in Pakistani politics and strategies for creating spaces for women political parties and the parliament.
In a session on Women and Media, Sahar Gul analysed the portrayal of women by media by reviewing religion-oriented television programs in Pakistan. The two day conference will end today with a poetry recitation session by renowned feminist poetess Kishwar Naheed and a musical performance by Zeb and Haniya.



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