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Over 100 faith leaders renew pledge to advance rights of all girls and boys in South Asia

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UNICEF
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Regional forum reinforces collaboration between prominent faith leaders and UNICEF on challenges faced by children and youth in the region

KATHMANDU, 10 May 2022 - South Asia is home to most of the world’s religions. For decades, religious and faith leaders have been able to reach the hearts and minds of millions of people in the region through their deep and trusted relationships with families. In our era of COVID-19 and crises, their contributions are critical to help meet the increasing needs of children and their families deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing incidents of humanitarian crisis and natural disasters.

From 8-10 May, UNICEF South Asia hosted the ‘Regional Faith Engagement Forum’ in partnership with the Religion of Peace and the Joint Learning Initiative (JLI) on Faith and Local Communities. At the regional meet, over one hundred religious and faith-based leaders from South Asia unanimously endorsed the Regional Faith Engagement Strategy to promote child rights. The strategy lays a strong focus on accelerating progress for adolescent girls by ending child marriage, revolutionizing learning, addressing mental health, and fostering leadership by girls and women in a changing world.

“Religious leaders and faith organizations have the power to convene and shape values, promote responsible behaviours and unite communities under a common cause,” said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia. “Religious and faith-based leaders were vital during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in keeping families safe and promoting kindness and solidarity. We value our longstanding partnership and look forward to working together to tackle the deepening inequities and rising needs of the most vulnerable children and their families.”

Faith actors and UNICEF have been working together for decades on various child related issues and it was in 2018 that UNICEF, Religions for Peace and Joint Learning Initiative jointly launched the Faith and Positive Change for Children Initiative. Since then, religious, and faith-based leaders have helped reduce harmful practices, discrimination, inequities, and vaccine hesitancy in South Asia.

"The Faith and Positive Change for Children Initiative partnership in South Asia envisions to strategically embed faith engagement within existing organisational strategies and country plans. This fosters strong collaborations and investments towards our shared goals of meeting the needs of the most vulnerable children and their families in the region,” said Ms. Kirsten L. Muth, Chief Executive Officer of the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities.

“It is critical for religious institutions, faith leaders, faith-based organizations, and experts to work together for the rights and well-being of children, their families, and communities. That is why Religions for Peace, is pleased to partner with UNICEF and JLI to expand the global Faith and Positive Change for Children Families and Communities (FPCC) initiative in the region,” said Deepika Singh, Associate Secretary General and Director of Programmes, Religions for Peace.

"Religions for Peace greatly welcomes the partnership with UNICEF South Asia and other faith-based organizations. Our role on the frontlines, especially as first responders to emergencies and humanitarian situations requires us to continually collaborate and invest in our ability to build resilient societies where our children can live, play, and thrive," said Reverent Dr. Yoshinori Shinohara, Secretary-General, Asian Conference of Religions for Peace.

Globally, UNICEF works in partnership with Religions for Peace, with over 50 years of multi-faith collaboration for advancing children’s rights and well-being; and the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities with a network of more than 800 diverse faith actors and academic partners. In our era of COVID-19 and crises, these relationships between UNICEF and religion and faith-based organizations are only becoming stronger and are essential in the fight to build a better world for all children.

Media contacts

Pravaran Mahat

Regional Communication Specialist

UNICEF ROSA

Tel: +977 9802048256

Email: pmahat@unicef.org