FoRB Women’s Alliance is an international community of religious freedom and human rights advocates aligned through a common vision to advance freedom of religion or belief for women. The Alliance aggregates sector knowledge and serves as an incubator for learning and innovation. We mobilize stakeholders across countries, regions and sectors to facilitate and support pragmatic solutions for advancing freedom of religion or belief for women (FoRB). 


Women are impacted differently than men by the denial of FoRB – in their roles as mothers, workers, organizational leaders, civic leaders and advocates as they serve and cultivate healthy communities.

Efforts to address international religious freedom too often inadequately focus on women, and often exclude them – their treatment, voice and agency – from decision making and adherence to cultural norms that silence them and make it difficult for them to receive adequate information. Women have been on the periphery of the debate on international religious freedom, despite often facing complex kinds of persecution because of their religion and gender.

There are numerous non-governmental organizations, think tanks and humanitarian groups focused on defending and advancing FoRB. However, many NGOs and leaders of the FoRB movement fail to comprehensively integrate women at every level. This failure happens in some cases because of a lack of awareness, research and collaboration. In other cases, sporadic efforts have not coalesced into a broader, sustained, and integrated movement for advancing a both/and approach to FoRB and women.

FoRB Women’s Alliance strives to increase the impact of stakeholders working on these issues and encourage a focus on the intersection of FoRB (both the vulnerabilities and opportunities) and women’s rights.


We are a community of individuals, NGOs and faith groups working to change the narrative around women and Freedom of Religion or Belief. We strive to better understand current and emerging issues; highlight trends; tell compelling stories; and advance solutions.

As an accelerator, we strive to increase the impact of existing initiatives that focus on the intersection of women and FoRB (both the vulnerabilities and opportunities).


We seek to help religious freedom and human rights advocates move the needle on these sustainable development areas identified by the United Nations:

PHOTO: Reuters/Zohra Ben Semra


Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is a universal and fundamental right that incorporates the peaceful embodiment of religious/spiritual beliefs, practices, actions and advocacy, both in private and in the public square. FoRB applies to individuals and communities.

Women, especially members of minority religious and spiritual communities, are often the most adversely impacted by violations of FoRB.

FoRB and women’s rights are mutually reinforcing and lead to shared flourishing in a world where neither can be taken for granted, and one cannot be used to extinguish the other.


Your communities’ influence will be rooted in a spirit of reciprocity. This reciprocity is modeled through connecting with others, mutual accountability to our vision, and shared ownership. Participants have knowledge, values and goals aligned with the mission and vision of the Alliance and they include these sectors:

PHOTO: Reuters/Bernadett Szabo


Lou Ann Sabatier

Judith Golub

Farahnaz Ispahani


Zainab Al-Suwaij is a Co-Founder of the American Islamic Congress (AIC) and has been its Executive Director since its inception in 2001. Zainab is an outspoken advocate for women’s equality, civil rights, and interfaith understanding.

Kit Bigelow formerly was the Director of External Affairs for the Baha’i National Center for 25+ years. She currently serves on IGE’s Center for Women, Faith & Leadership Advisory Council and on the Advisory Board of the Religious Freedom Institute.

Chelsea Langston Bombino is a Program Officer at the Fetzer Institute, a fellow at the Center for Public Justice and an adjunct professor at St. Mary’s University. Previously she directed Sacred Sector initiatives for the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance.

Dr. Aykan Erdemir is the Director of Global Research and Diplomatic Affairs at Anti-Defamation League. He is a former member of the Turkish Parliament and a founding member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB).

Mariam Ibraheem is a Sudanese Christian who was imprisoned for her faith and later sentenced to death. She now advocates for other victims of religious persecution.

Pari Ibrahim is the Founder and Executive Director of the Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF). She created FYF to provide support for Yezidi survivors in the aftermath of the Yezidi Genocide perpetrated by ISIS.

J. Merritt Johnston is the Executive Director of Baptist World Alliance Women and the Director of Communications and Media for the Baptist World Alliance, a network of 51 million Baptists in 128 countries and territories. She is an experienced strategist and communicator drawing from decades of service in the non-profit sector – including higher education, healthcare and the local church.

Naomi Kikoler is the director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She oversees the Center’s research, outreach and policy engagement. She previously led, as Deputy Director, the Center’s policy work with the United States government and work on Bearing Witness countries, including undertaking the documentation of the commission of genocide by ISIS. She is a leading expert on genocide and conflict prevention and her work is published widely. She is a graduate of McGill University’s Faculty of Law, Oxford University, and the University of Toronto.

Dr. Ewelina U. Ochab is an experienced human rights advocate and legal researcher. She is a Co-Founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response, a programme lawyer at the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and a member of the panel of experts for the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance.

Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou is Senior Scholar in the International Studies Program at Boston College, where she joins the teaching faculty in Fall 2023. She is also non-resident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. She served on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) from 2004-2012, and is a Co-President of Religions for Peace.

Marcela Szymanski is a Brussels based public affairs consultant and former EU+NATO news correspondent (CNN en Español). Her academic research is in the fields of democratization and Human Rights, specially the right the Freedom of Religion. She is the Editor in Chief of the report “Religious Freedom in the World” for the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, a member of the Council of Experts of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA) and a member of the Center for Shared Civilizational Values, a new G20 engagement group on Religion. She holds a BA in Communications, MA in Economics and PhD (abd) in International Politics from Georgia State University.

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett serves as President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. She is the former Chair and Vice-Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and teaches Human Rights and American Foreign Policy at Tufts University.

Frank Wolf served 17 terms representing Virginia in the House of Representatives and he is the author of the International Religious Freedom Act. Wolf founded and served as Co-Chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. He currently serves as a Commissioner on the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom.