Wendy Tyndale: Muslim women are standing up for their rights

From a speech by the research consultant for the World Bank, given to the UK One World Linking Association

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Economic development which may bring national economic growth, but which increases the gap between the rich and the poor, can certainly not be considered development. And this leads on to the concept, perhaps most forcefully articulated by Muslims and Christians, that development is about enabling people to exercise their rights. It is about social and economic justice and the rights of women

Economic development which may bring national economic growth, but which increases the gap between the rich and the poor, can certainly not be considered development. And this leads on to the concept, perhaps most forcefully articulated by Muslims and Christians, that development is about enabling people to exercise their rights. It is about social and economic justice and the rights of women

I have had a lot to do with two associations of Muslim women. One is the women's section of a huge Indonesian Muslim association called Nahdlatul Ulama; the other is the Muslim Women's Council in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The women of both these organisations have, through study and prayer and discussions with many scholars, reached the conclusion that Islam is in no way opposed to women taking part in their societies alongside men. On the contrary, the repression of women in many Muslim societies can trace its origin back to cultural traditions, some of which even pre-date the arrival of Islam in those countries. According to these women, it is not Islam but Muslim men who cause the problem. And they are doing wonderful work. The Addis Ababa Women's Council is working with some success to put an end to female circumcision in Ethiopia and also to reform the shariah courts in Ethiopia, which have denied women basic rights.

It is important to empower people by building up their self-confidence, their feeling of self-worth. For many organisations I know, this is the main aim of their development practice.

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