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Is Religion Bad for Women's Development and the Pursuit of Gender Equality - Essay Example

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Historically, religion was seen as counterproductive to development primarily because religious leaders tended to defend traditional moral standards, romanticize poverty and condemn materialism and wealth. …
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Is Religion Bad for Womens Development and the Pursuit of Gender Equality
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Download file to see previous pages However, since the Second World War, religions have become increasingly involved in developmental projects and in particular have played a significant role in bringing relief to the poor. For example, in 2006, when the UK’s Minister of finance implemented an immunisation programme for raising 2.1 billion pounds for children under 5 globally, the first significant contributors were Pope Benedict XVI, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Hindu Forum of Britain and the Network of Sikh Organizations (Clarke & Jennings, 2008). Thus in determining whether or not religion is bad for women’s development and the pursuit of gender equality, it is important to avoid focusing narrowly on extremism and radicalism and to look more closely at the contributions of moderates (Clarke & Jennings, 2008). It is also important to acknowledge that secular approaches to development and the reduction of poverty have proven to be ineffective (Haynes, 2007). For example, despite secular projects in which governments have partnered with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), millions of people around the world, particularly “women and the poor” do not have “adequate healthcare” and/or opportunities for education (Haynes, 2007, p. 9). As a result, there has been a growing belief that secularism and faith-based organizations (FBOs) are both needed to ensure development and poverty reduction. Despite religion’s long and firmly established support of education for women and the poor, some doubt that religion can make a significant contribution to development (Aiken, 2010). Religious organizations and FBOs have persistently lent their support to the poor and destitute. This is especially true for victims in war torn areas and areas suffering the after-effects of natural disasters. Religious organizations and FBOs provide aid in these kinds of circumstances for two reasons: they recognize the “values of charity and mercy” and they adhere to the belief that all human beings have value (Ferris, 2005, p. 313). How can these values and beliefs, particularly when put into practice, be anything but good for women’s development and the pursuit of gender equality? In particular, since secularism has largely failed to achieve developmental objectives, religion was arguably the missing link between achieving development of women and gender equality. Moreover, NGOs have been more productive and effective in promoting equality and development across genders, races, ethnic groups and for providing relief to the poor and the destitute. As Ferris (2005) observes, NGOs have a much greater presence than governments across the globe. Many NGOs are not only operated by religions, but are also supported by religions. For example, in Asia, “thousands of NGOs” are operated by religious groups and “individuals with religious convictions” (Candland, 2000, p. 356). Moreover, Candland (2000) argues that despite the lack of empirical evidence: ...it is quite likely that a higher percentage of family income is contributed to social welfare groups in Buddhist and Muslim Asian societies, despite the absence of tax incentives, than in European and North American Societies. Buddhists and Muslims devote significant amounts of their income to private social welfare organizations (p. 357). Therefore compared to secular states, religious states have a greater awareness of social justice. In this regard, it can be argued that since religious practices, values and beliefs are manifested by a greater awareness of social and welfare justice, religion is not bad for the development of wo ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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