Date:                          February 28, 2022


U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Hearing
Women’s Roles in Advancing International Religious Freedom

Tuesday, March 8, 2022
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Virtual Hearing
Register Here

Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual hearing on the role of women in advancing international religious freedom.

In 2020, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief expressed concern over gender-based discrimination justified in the name of religion or belief and emphasized that states are responsible for enabling environments that advance non-discrimination and freedom of religion or belief for women and girls. Freedom of religion or belief benefits from the protection and advancement of gender equality, as international human rights are interlocking and interdependent. Additionally, women are proactively working to protect this right for themselves and others around the world.

From Malaysia, where women fight for the right to interpret Islamic text through a gender-inclusive lens, to Sudan, where women played an integral role in ending an authoritarian regime that placed significant restrictions on religious practice and discourse, women’s approaches to advancing religious freedom globally are varied and diverse. They include advocating for the repeal of blasphemy laws, fighting discrimination against religious minorities, combatting anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bias in their communities, fighting for the rights of women and LGBTI individuals to interpret and practice religion as they choose, and leading programs to promote interfaith tolerance and reduce violent extremism.

Women play a vital yet often overlooked role in protecting freedom of religion or belief and advocating for the rights of religious minorities. This hearing will explore the strategies and means through which women work to promote and protect religious freedom abroad, and how the U.S. government can better support such efforts. 

Opening Remarks

  • Nadine Maenza, Chair, USCIRF
  • Nury Turkel, Vice Chair, USCIRF
Panel I
  • Rita Stephan, Regional Coordinator for Religious and Ethnic Minorities, United States Agency of International Development
Panel II
  • Dr. Nazila Ghanea, Associate Professor of International Human Rights Law, University of Oxford
  • Dr. Azza Karam, Secretary-General, Religious for Peace, founder of the Multi-Faith Advisory Council of the United Nations Interagency Task Force
  • Palwasha Kakar, Interim Director, Religion and Inclusive Societies, United States Institute of Peace
This hearing is open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the public, and the media. Members of the media should register online and can email 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for any questions or to schedule an interview. The video recording of the hearing will be posted on the Commission website. For any additional questions, please contact Nina Ullom at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (202) 322-0232.