Learning center

Equal rights and dignity for all

Our Christian values emphasise the inviolable value of every person. Human rights are universal, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or belief.

The person who is aware of their rights has a greater chance of standing up for them. Every person has the right and the ability to reflect and make informed choices about how they want to live their life. The starting point in all of our work is the principle of universal human rights. We call this a rights-based approach. Human rights are valid for all without discrimination. This is the reason why we work for equality in all situations; not just equality between men and women but between all people. As a faith-based organisation, we have special knowledge and experience about how freedom of religion or belief connect to issues of other human rights and further strengthen them.

Gender equality
A better world is equal

Our view of equality comes from the belief that every person is created in God’s image. Therefore all people have the same rights, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Poverty and oppression afflict people in different ways. We see this in our international work. Generally, women are especially vulnerable to discrimination—economically, socially, culturally, and politically. In our work for equality, we want to change this.

To us, being created in God’s image means that all people, regardless of biological gender, gender identity or sexual preference, should have the same conditions, opportunities and rights to shape their own lives and influence society. This can be, for example, about the right to education, the right to decide over ones’ own body and the right to freedom of religion and belief. We believe that all people benefit from increased equality.

Religion and equality

Religion is often associated with conservative values that constrain women as a group and favour men as a group. But in our work we see that religious leaders and denominations can challenge traditional values and contribute to increased equality in different ways. You can read more about this in our learning review Scratch the Surface or Dig Deeper and our anthology For Better for Worse.

Why should religious leaders talk about sex and relationships? Check out when JP Heath, ACT Church of Sweden, explains this.

This is how SMC works with gender equality

SMC's policy on HIV and Aids - Also available in French and Spanish
Scratch the surface or dig deeper? - Learning review report from SMC about religion and equality
For Better for Worse: The Role of Religion in Development Cooperation (2019) - Our anthology on religion and development. Gender equality is especially addressed in the chapters of Gerald O. West and Emma Tomalin.

This is how others work with gender equality

Women's rights

UN Gender Equality page - With an overview of UN equality work, with links to both human rights and Agenda 2030
Women and Religious Freedom: Synergies and Opportunities (2017) - A report on synergies between women's rights and freedom of religion and belief from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
Affirming Women’s Human Rights - Resources for Faith-Based Organizations (2019) - A handbook from the Lutheran World Federation that provides faith-based organizations support in impact work, focusing on the United Nations Women's Convention (CEDAW)

Tools for analysis and effort management

Sida:s Gender Tool Box - Tools for gender equality analysis and gender mainstreaming, but also material on gender equality in humanitarian work, etc.
Diakonia’s Gender Mainstreaming Toolbox - provides support for gender mainstreaming throughout the effort cycle, from planning to evaluation, also available in French and Spanish
Lutherska världsförbundets policy för genusrättvisa (2013) - The policy, which is available in 15 languages, can serve as an inspiration for Christian organizations who want to design or update their own gender equality policy

Gender Equality and faith: in-depth material with different perspectives

Church and Gender Equality. Resource and Tool Box från PMU (2017) - This material deals with both theology and development work. It contains examples, reflection questions and concrete exercises
Transforming Masculinities: a method material on gender equality and masculinities from Tearfund (2017) - The material is designed for a longer educational program, but conversational questions, Bible studies and exercises can be used independently.
Side by Side's resources for theology and worship - A global, faith-based network for equality. A collection of resources on theology, scripture study and worship - mostly Christian but also Muslim
Tamar Campaign Contextual Bible Study Manual on Gender-Based Violence (2007) - A Bible study material on gender-based violence that has become a classic. Produced by the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa (FECCLAHA)
Wake Up, Rise in Strength: Training for Women Leaders (2017) - A study material on women and leadership from the World Evangelical Alliance

The organisation Operation 1325 educates to inrecrease women’s influence in peace processes. The SMC member Swedish Equmenical Women’s Council is one of their members. 

Thematic Focal Point:
Desk officer
Rights based approach
Every person has rights

All people have equal value and rights. This is the foundation in the UN’s universal declaration of human rights and in our Christian values.

Human rights are based on core human needs that are closely connected with our work to support a better world through reduced poverty, sustainable development and global justice. We believe that everyone is created in God’s image and has a sacred human value with the right to live life in freedom. Universal human rights to all is therefore the starting point in our work. We call this the rights-based approach.

Our theory of change builds on the rights-based approach

The rights perspective is the foundation in our theory of change and our way of viewing the world. Therefore, our international development cooperation is permeated by a rights-based approach. In this approach, we build on four given principles:

Non-discrimination– because all people have the same rights

All people have the right to all human rights and should not for any reason – such as gender, age, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or health status – be discriminated against in development cooperation.

Participation – because all people have the right to affect their situation

Every person has the right to shape his or her own development and affect the society that they live in. This means developing and encouraging broad and active participation in planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of our work.

Accountability – so that people in power fulfil human rights

An important part of the rights-based approach is advocacy and to demand accountability from the state, institutions and other people in power. Therefore, it is important to seek contact with those in power, such as politicians, judges, and religious leaders so that they fulfil their obligations.

Transparency – provides opportunities for insight and influence

Transparency is a precondition for active participation and effective accountability. All actors who participate in development cooperation need to be open for review and questioning. These actors can be states, government authorities and businesses, but also organisations within civil society like ourselves and our member organisations.

This is how we at SMC work with rights based approach

SMC:s Five steps to Human Rights based Programming - Basic English language five-step instruction for RBA planning
SMC’s Quick Guide to Power Analysis - Basic English-language guide to power analysis.
Films on accountability the FORB Learning Platform - Click Access to Justice! The films take freedom of religion and belief as an example, but the principles apply to all human rights

This is how others work with rights based approach

UN portal for rights-based work - Explains how the UN views rights-based work and has a lot of resources
UN Sustainable Development Group: Human Rights-Based Approach - The UN Group for Agenda 2030 explains how rights-based work is anchored in the UN human rights conventions
Rights-Based Approach - A Reference Material: Applying RBA in the Project Cycle (LWF Uganda Programme 2011) - A reference material from the Lutheran World Federation's Uganda office, with both theoretical starting points, exercises and examples, and suggestions on how a rights-based approach (RBA) can be practically applied
Gender-Inclusive Rights-Based Manual - A five-part training manual on working on rights-based work with a clear gender perspective, compiled by ACT Alliance (2015)
Thematic Focal Point:
Freedom of religion or belief
Freedom of religion or belief - a human right

Freedom of religion or belief gives every person the right to have, to change, or to leave his or her religion or belief. It is a human right to practice one’s religion or belief alone or together with others, privately or in public, for example through worship, preaching, or teaching.

Freedom of religion or belief gives the state the responsibility to protect all citizens against coercion and discrimination on the grounds of religion or similar reasons. Still, more than three fourths of the world’s population live in countries where freedom of religion or belief is greatly constrained by the state or by social antagonism which give rise to hate crimes, violent riots or terrorism linked to religion.

Freedom of religion and belief for all

In many of these countries, our member organisations and their partners are working for a better world. We know that women are often more severely affected by violations against the freedom of religion or belief than men. For this reason we see freedom of religion or belief as key in our work for gender equality, and also vital in furthering other rights such as the right to freedom of speech.

On the basis of our Christian values, we believe that every person is created in the image of God with a free will, ability, and with a mandate to take responsibility for this world. Violations of the freedom of religion or belief prevent people from living their lives in fullness; therefore preventing the development of equal, peaceful, and democratic societies. This is why we work for the freedom of religion or belief as a human right for all regardless of their belief or religious affiliation.

Educating about freedom of religion and belief

We believe that freedom of religion or belief should be a prioritised issue in Sweden’s and the EU’s foreign policy. We therefore dialogue with and educate responsible civil servants so that they develop a deeper understanding about the issues. Together with our member organisations, we also educate local actors in countries where freedom of religion and belief is greatly constrained. This creates better conditions globally, not only for freedom of religion or belief, but also for equality and democratic development.

Do you want to contribute to a culture of religious freedom?

You can make a difference by learning more about freedom of religion or belief and reflecting on how your own values affect the rights of other people.

Our tools for working with freedom of religion or belief

On the FORB Learning Platform you can find videos, exercises and written text which you can use on your own or together with others to understand how freedom of religion or belief affects you and the society that you are a part of.

The FORB Learning Platform is an initiative of the NORFORB network where we work together with other organisations in Scandinavia toward seeing strengthened freedom of religion or belief globally.

This is how we work with freedom of religion or belief

Conventions & declarations compendium - The compendium provides an overview of important international and regional agreements and documents on freedom of religion and belief
In dialogue with critics: The need for religious literacy and a FoRB culture for all (2019) - Our own chapter in the anthology For Better or Worse on the importance of integrating religious literacy and a culture of freedom of religion and belief into all professional development cooperation.
Quick Guide Religious Freedom, SMC (2010) - The Quick Guide is also available in French, Russian and Arabic

This is how others work with freedom of religion or belief

Stefanus FoRB Booklet (2012) - A useful and attractive booklet introducing freedom of religion or belief as a human right. Available in several languages.
Promoting freedom of religion or belief and gender equality in the context of the sustainable development goals - The report provides a basic introduction to the relationship between FoRB and gender equality in relation to the SDG objectives. The report is written in the light of a broad expert consultation organized by among others The UN's special adviser on freedom of religion or belief and the Norwegian NORFORB member Stefanus Alliance.
Thematic Focal Point: