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Religious leaders as mediators

This step considers religious actors as mediators of knowledge and skills on sexual wellbeing
NAKAI GODFREY NENGOMASHA: Why is that religious leaders in our communities, we look at them as community leaders? They are actually community leaders. A lot of people listen to them. They have a voice. And because of that voice, we have also tapped into that and look at their influence that they have on people. To make sure that they disseminate the messages, like GBV. We actually also working with churches, and religious leaders, that they have gender policies within their churches. So when they have gender policies, they can now respond to GBV in a non-discriminatory way. But they have a certain way of following a channel, because now they can follow the procedure.
To say, in this congregation if GBV OKs, this is how we deal with it. So you realise that when we started working on that piece of work, some religious leaders could not understand why a gender policy within the church. So after some sensitisation, and some work, they embraced the idea. And then they reformulated the gender policies under what we call gender and faith network. Where we’re looking at how faith networks can actually link with the work on GBV. So it’s one part– of one of the things that we have started working on.
VUSI CEBEKHULU: In the continent of Africa, there’s two gatekeepers. They are regarded as above the politicians. So, because they spend more time teaching and holding the values, the principles of culture and the beliefs. So if you sideline them, it makes it difficult to reach to ordinary men and women in the communities. Remember that these are the priest who goes to church, who shapes our attitudes, who shapes our thinking, who shapes our values. So they play a huge. role. Whether it’s negative or positive, but they play a huge role. So it’s very important that we keep on working with them. Yes it’s not an easy thing. Remember that when you go to the religion.
Religion, it’s something that started a long time ago. So you can’t expect that you come now, and all of a sudden you expect changes. So you have to be patient. Yes, I know the word patient is not enough for the one who’s oppressed, It’s painful. But at the same time, the reality is says, we need them. So that we can actually start to engage their communities. But at the same time, the very same leaders, they are not from a different planet. They are very– they come from the very same society. They were socialised in that way. That men are superior than women. So if you start engaging them slowly slowly, you will see results.

In the article on sexual wellbeing in the context of religious and cultural diversity, you have seen how pastor Rachel Theodor Smith addresses sexuality in the church. In doing so, she developed herself as a mediator between public health organizations that struggle to give people from religious and cultural minority groups access to knowledge and skills to realize sexual wellbeing.

Please watch the video in which Vusi Cebekhulu from Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa and Godfrey Nakai from SAFAIDS in Zimbabwe explain why their organizations work with religious leaders to transform gender based violence and inequality.

Reflect on the following questions:

  • What reasons do they give that suggest that religious leaders should be mediators of knowledge and skills on gender and sexual wellbeing?
  • Can you think of other actors in religious communities that can play mediating roles (consider gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity etc.)?

We invite you to share your thoughts in the comment section.

This article is from the free online

Religion and Sexual Wellbeing: Pleasure, Piety, and Reproductive Rights

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