Monday, March 21, 2011

International Conference on Women, Religion & Politics in Lahore, Pakistan

The Heinrich Boell Stiftung Pakistan and Shirkat Gah Women's Resource Center co-sponsored an International Conference on Women, Religion and Politics on March 18-19 in Lahore, Pakistan. Invited guests spoke on different religious and political paradigms and their impact on women's lives in various countries around the world through case studies and surveys from Iran, Pakistan, Poland, Turkey, Sri Lanka and the US. Presentations were made by women academics and independent researchers, elected political officials, laywers and students.

There's some wonderful press coverage of the conference here and here. I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate, and for that I am very grateful. As for underlying themes, one can identify women's lives and women's bodies the world over as the contested site of religious beliefs and practice. If anyone doubts that this is the case, I cite an example of a woman I know who is an ordained priest employed at a church in the US. Over 60 people in the congregation have said to her: It's wonderful that your husband lets you work.

Here's a summary of the first day of 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. 

The presentations over the next two days included a number of case studies. I'll be doing another blog on the content of the presentations. One of them entitled, "Red Hot Chilli Peppers Islam: Is the youth in Elite Universities in Pakistan Radical?" is made available here

This conference is the last one of a series. HBS has previously held conferences on Women and Religion and published the results here

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