Freedom of Religion or Belief Conference
19 / 12 / 22
07 / 03 / 23
My name is Laura and I am the Programmes Coordinator for Greater Manchester at F&BF. I identify as non-religious, specifically as agnostic. I have worked at F&BF for just over a year now and love my job because I feel that I am making a positive contribution through my work and helping to bring people together across difference.
As a woman working in interfaith there can be the same challenges as women across all sectors may face, such as encounters of a lack of respect or condescension from some men, or feeling the need to prove oneself capable in a way that a man may not. However, for the most part my experience has been a really positive one, especially as I work closely in a team of other passionate and talented women and am given the opportunity to empower young girls through my work in schools, which is very rewarding
My role at F&BF is to run our schools’ programmes in the North West. This includes our Encountering Faith and Belief Workshops, which we are providing for children from reception age right up to A-levels. These workshops allow students to interact with people that they might not otherwise meet, as well as to make them reflect upon their own identity. We take an intersectional approach to our work, celebrating all aspects of peoples’ identity, not just their faith or belief background but their gender, sexuality, race, class, etc that make them who they are. That is one of the reasons why we felt that women’s day was important for us to mark as a school’s team. In the North West we have delivered 11 workshops since November last year, reaching 256 pupils, and have 21 more booked in so far. I am very excited to keep growing the number of children and young people we reach in the region over the rest of the academic year.
My name is Amy and I am a coordinator in the programmes team at F&BF, leading on our work in schools. I have been with F&BF for over two years now and absolutely love working in this field and as part of the team at F&BF! I feel that every one of our programmes, smaller projects, events and interventions make a difference, whether it is personally for an individual, professionally for teams, or across whole communities, educational institutions or workplaces, we can see a positive impact.
I believe in the Sikh faith. I was raised Sikh and am now raising my children following a Sikh ethos. From a young age, my parents instilled in me and my siblings the importance of equality. From its inception through the teachings of Guru Nanak (the founder of Sikhi) the oneness of humanity was taught and promoted in the Sikh faith. This has been at the core of my views on gender and has heightened my awareness of the repression of women in society and driven me to rebel against my own experiences of this as a woman. My bi-cultural identity (as both being born British and of Indian heritage) has meant that I have seen and experienced the ways in which Women are suppressed in two cultures, this has led to many moments
of frustration for me. Although the Sikh faith teaches equality and the promotion of women and men as equals, the influence and power of culture has meant that some Indian traditions (which promote the perceived lesser value of women) have been conflated and confused with religious traditions.
My parents raised me, and my siblings as equals regardless of gender. The tradition in Indian culture had (and still can be in some families) to celebrate the birth of a boy but not of a girl. My dad would tell me the story of when I was born, I was the second daughter born to my parents and he was asked by some people, why he was celebrating my birth? He would stand proudly and say that he will celebrate all his children regardless of them being a boy or a girl. This was progressive thinking all those years ago. These days there are whole movements challenging this inequality from birth (movements such as The Pink Ladoo Project are shining a light on how gender preference through the guise of traditions is the very vehicle for misogyny and need to be eradicated https://www.pinkladoo.org ).
My name is Alejandra and I am the education officer at F&BF. I joined the organisation 5 months ago and it has been a very enriching experience. Growing up in Colombia I didn’t have the opportunity to hear or learn from other faith and beliefs, as the predominant religion in my home country and the Latin American region is Catholicism.
That is the reason why working at an interfaith organisation has been unique. To see how people from different faith backgrounds can come together, share their experiences and see how they connect and celebrate the difference in multiple scenarios has been truly inspiring. Additionally, being part of the school’s team has given me the opportunity to be creative and ambitious, learn from my female colleagues and to support each other.
Currently my work is focused in three boroughs in London where we deliver our EFB workshops to primary and secondary schools. The return to the classrooms after the pandemic has been slow, however, with every workshop we deliver I confirm that these spaces are contributing to a better understanding amongst people as well as they promote critical thinking and dialogue skills. I remember one of the teachers talking to their class after we finished our workshop, they congratulated their students because they had an open attitude, were listening carefully and expressed their interest with their body language. Hearing the stories of others is really something very special!
I remember seeing only men occupying roles within the Catholic church; women couldn’t celebrate masses or any other ceremonies, nor have a career in the institution. Apparently, the conversation about the possibility for women to have a more active role in the Catholic church has started. I would like to see women celebrating baptisms, officiating weddings, and leading their local churches, although I don’t identify myself as Catholic anymore and don’t practice the religion.
On International Women’s Day we will be running a live webinar for secondary schools across the country. We would love to see as many of you there as possible! You can sign up here.
This will be the first in a series of webinars we are planning to hold to mark specific days that are of significance to us all. The next one will be for Earth Day on 22nd April, so please keep an eye out for further info on this!
We think it is important that we all celebrate International Women’s Day because we need to be actively valuing, promoting and celebrating the richness and value that women have and bring to the world, the great value that women bring to the world and that is so often ignored within the patriarchal systems we live in. It’s important that women’s stories are told and celebrated and that women are made to feel empowered. It is also important for events such as our webinar to be open to all school students regardless of gender. It is everyone’s responsibility to challenge the systems of patriarchy and misogynistic and sexist behaviours and traditions.
There are incredible women working in interfaith contexts, creating community, strengthening the social fabric, and believing that there is brighter future for all. Our webinar seeks to open the space for these women to share their stories and reflect on about their own journey and how they have lived through their faith or belief. Within the schools’ team we are certain that the young people attending the session will learn, growth their knowledge and maybe formulate more questions not only to the women who will speak on that day, but to society to challenge it and promote a change.
19 / 12 / 22
24 / 11 / 22
08 / 09 / 22