Asia is the birthplace and confluence of the world’s major religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.
Throughout history, religious leaders have deep-seated and trusted relationships with their followers and communities. They are in a unique position to address inequity related to societal factors – such as social norms, behaviors and practices - that impact the lives and wellbeing of women and children and to speak out on behalf of the most disadvantaged, marginalized and vulnerable.
Religious leaders shape social values and promote responsible behaviors that respect the dignity and value of all life. Because of their expansive networks of religious communities and access to families and communities, religious leaders are an important conduit of communication for social change and transformation. In conflict, the moral influence and trust of religious leaders allow them to play significant roles in mediation and reconciliation, as well as to advocate for the special protection of children and other particularly vulnerable members of their communities. Religious leaders provide spiritual support and stability, which can help meet people’s psychosocial needs in the face of adversity. Religious leaders organize and facilitate religious events and festivals with their followers and community members that can be used for promoting key lifesaving behaviors for the wellbeing of children and women.
UNICEF and its partners share many of the values of religious leaders and their communities. The Convention on the Rights of the Child reflects deeply-held values embedded within religious traditions that uphold the dignity of every child and the centrality of the family in building strong communities. By partnering with religious leaders in South Asia, the care and protection of children and the safeguarding of their rights can be amplified from the smallest village to the largest city, from districts and provinces to national and international levels.