Speaking for Jewish Women on Women & Girls in Conflict

ICJW’s representative at the Religions for Peace organization was one of the speakers at their virtual parallel event during the UN 68th Commission on the Status of Women on March 13.  This event was entitled:  “At the Frontlines: Multi-Stakeholder Action for Women & Girls in Conflict.”

Religions for Peace is an international coalition of representatives from the world’s religions dedicated to promoting world peace. Evelyn de Falck, who chairs the ICJW Interfaith & Intercultural Committee, was the Jewish  voice on their panel, along with women and youth from other religious and faith groups and leaders from various sectors. They addressed the intersectionality between faith, gender, and peace and security, to catalyze multi-religious and multi-stakeholder discussions, in the hope of fostering positive peace and advancing sustainable infrastructure for the empowerment of women and girls.

The following is a transcript of Evelyn’s speech:

Official virtual parallel event to the 68th Commission on the Status of Women on March 13, 2024: “At the Frontlines: Multi-Stakeholder Action for Women & Girls in Conflict”

Dear Friends and co-panelists.

First of all, I want to thank Religions for Peace for having invited me to this panel.  It is my honor and privilege to be here.

On October 7, 2023 at a music festival, the State of Israel was attacked by the terrorist group Hamas. A genocide with a mass rape of women took place. Women were raped by a group of genocidal, misogynistic, terrorist organization next to their friend’s dead bodies. Several of these rape victims appeared to have been executed, others were kidnapped to Gaza, several girls were paraded through Gaza streets some of them half naked. If you are a woman, if you are a man, if you are a human being and you are not outraged by this, this is a very serious problem

It is difficult to explain what a Jew anywhere in the world feels when something happens in Israel and if it is difficult to explain, it is even harder to understand.

Not a single day passes by that I don’t think of those mothers, children, families who are hidden somewhere in the dark corners of Gaza desperately wishing to see the light of day, to breathe the fresh air, to live.

Not a single day passes by that I don’t think of all those international organizations that are supposed to protect and defend the rights of women and children who are absent and not shown any solidarity towards the hostages and their families.  Where are they?

Let me remind you that Jewish women are the pillars of their home, they are the teachers and leaders within their communities, their religious role is important for the continuation of Judaism, including traditions and rituals.

As we just “celebrated” Women’s International Day, I must reply by saying that we the Jewish women of the world stand by the captive women of Israel and plead to let them go back home

Having said this, I must add that the women and children in Gaza are also undergoing a terrible experience. I also pray for their freedom and wellbeing.

Within this context, multi-religious dialogue, which must be increased, serves as a critical avenue for promoting understanding, tolerance, and cooperation among diverse faith communities. Through dialogue and education, engaging in open and respectful conversations, religious leaders of different religious traditions can explore the teachings and scriptures that promote gender justice and equality within their respective faiths and can also challenge harmful interpretations of religious texts that perpetuate gender-based discrimination and violence

At the governmental level, policymakers can enact legislation and implement policies that includes measures to ensure equal access to education, healthcare, economic opportunities and political representation, as well as initiatives to combat gender-based violence and discrimination.

Apart from direct assistance to girls and women, most faith communities do not address the problem openly in many, if not all, of the Latin American countries.  There is an urgent need for the religious communities, together with the government officials who are in charge of social assistance, to get together and plan strategies to change this situation.

The private sector also has a responsibility to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through corporate social responsibility initiatives and gender-sensitive business practices.

In the area of education, efforts should be made to ensure equal access to quality education for girls and boys. Access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including family planning, maternal healthcare and sexual and reproductive education, is essential for women’s autonomy, health, and rights.  By investing in girls’ education and promoting gender-responsive education, Latin America can empower future generations of women leaders.

The main factor that inhibits the empowerment of women in Latin America is that it is a male dominated society. It depends on the economic situation, the poorer the social group, the worst the situation of women. However, there has been a great change in the political arena, whereby a few women have reached the presidency. Such as Argentina, Chile, Peru and Brazil among others.  Today in Ecuador in particular, where I live, half the cabinet is composed by women.

In conclusion, the empowerment of women and girls is essential for fostering sustainable peace, development and social cohesion. By promoting multi-religious dialogue, multi-stakeholder collaboration, and sustainable infrastructure for empowerment, Latin-American countries can create an enabling environment for women and girls to thrive and contribute fully to society.

As members of the Religions for Peace community, we have a responsibility to advocate for gender equality and women’s rights and to work together in solidarity and cooperation towards a future where all women and girls can realize their full potential and live with dignity and respect.

Thank you.