Gender, Religion, and COVID-19

March 30, 2021

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March 2021—the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic sending the United States into lockdown—is Women’s History Month, which celebrates the vital roles and contributions of women to history and contemporary society. As the ongoing pandemic exacerbates underlying challenges for women—such as domestic violence, unpaid care work, and access to education for girls—young women of faith have made positive contributions to COVID-19 response efforts around the world. While many faith communities worldwide are responding to gender and ethical issues related to COVID-19 in positive ways, the pandemic still represents a major challenge for creating more inclusive societies. For instance, the pandemic has exacerbated both anti-Black racism and racially motivated violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Women play important leadership roles in responding to racism, and the March 2021 shootings in Atlanta also highlight how racist violence can be intertwined with theology and gender. Further thought and action are needed as communities around the world work to “build back better” from the pandemic.

The Berkley Center recently convened an online panel discussion to explore these and other issues in the COVID-19 pandemic at the nexus of faith, ethics, and gender. The March 2021 event brought together practitioners and faith leaders for critical discussion on the challenges facing women and girls during the pandemic. The panel built on earlier Berkley Center work, including a meeting on “Young Women of Faith and Transformative Leadership in COVID-19 Response,” co-sponsored by UN Women in June 2020. To continue the conversation, the Berkley Forum invites scholars, activists, and practitioners to reflect on the relationship between religion, ethics, and gender during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This week the Berkley Forum asks: What has been learned about the intersection of religion, ethics, and gender during the COVID-19 pandemic? How have religious institutions and beliefs shaped—positively and less so—the lived experiences of women and girls worldwide? How are women affected by and responding to inequalities related to the pandemic, such as racism and racially motivated violence? In what ways does the history of religion, ethics, and gender find resonance today during the COVID-19 pandemic? In what ways has female faith leadership contributed to efforts to respond to the pandemic? What are the priorities to “build back better” through the lens of faith, ethics, and gender? What ethical or religious resources might help to promote gender equity in the post-pandemic world?

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