The Fetzer Institute is sponsoring our pilot project to research existing institutional measures to advance religious freedom and women’s roles in these measures. FoRB Women’s Alliance, and our research partner, Gender and Religious Freedom (GRF), is conducting a global landscape analysis of women and FoRB to explore pressing questions and especially highlight areas in which women are marginalized and excluded.

Would you like to learn more about this study and/or participate in future research we are planning? Click here, complete the brief form and check the “Fetzer Research” box.

PHOTO: Religion News Service


Project activities will explore how FoRB, as a manifestation of the concepts of freedom of Spirit and Love, is a necessary precondition for women to realize their own human potential to embody their sacred callings individually and collectively, in private and in the public square, and that the denial of FoRB limits women’s full human capacity in major aspects of their lives personally and in their multifaceted roles. 

This project, as other Alliance activities, is based on the following foundational values:

  • 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. 


We are fielding a global survey on the state of women, civil society women-led groups, and FoRB. This research will define gaps and problems, identify inequalities in resourcing, gather evidence and cascade results back through networks that would benefit from this information.

Following the survey, we will convene the FoRB Women Advisory Group, individually and as a group, to discuss the progress of the study and its findings. The Advisory Group is composed of women and men with diverse institutional, professional, religious, and geographic backgrounds who represent a range of secular and faith-based views. Through candid discussions that reflect the ideas, energy, and spirit of all participants, this group will highlight and hone innovative and actionable proposals to improve FoRB for women worldwide.

The Fetzer research report will be released publicly in spring 2023.


PHOTO: Religion News Service


FoRB Women’s Alliance mobilizes stakeholders across countries, regions and sectors to facilitate and support pragmatic solutions for advancing freedom of religion or belief for women (FORB). We are a community of existing initiatives working to change the narrative around the right to FoRB and universal human rights focusing on women; better understand current and emerging issues; highlight trends; tell compelling stories; and advance solutions. We strive to increase the impact of these initiatives and encourage Alliance participants by focusing on the intersection of FoRB (both the vulnerabilities and opportunities) and women’s rights.

Gender and Religious Freedom (GRF) is a global network that soon will be registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organization in the UK. Its goal is to be a Community of Practice drawing people from around the globe to use a gender-specific lens to build the resilience of Christians living with government restrictions or social hostilities and to broadly apply lessons learned. GRF facilitates research, training, and advocacy across all faith-based, civil and secular organizations through a collaborative, evidence-based and multidisciplinary approach.


Marwa Al Sakhleh, Research Assistant, is an MA Student in Development Studies at IDS / Sussex University. She has a Master in Fiscal and Economic Policy and a BA in Economics, both from Damascus University. Previous work and volunteer experience includes Mentoring Programs Manager and Project Manager for the International Association for Education Development, intern at ESCWA UN-Technology Centre, and Internal Auditor Officer at Arab Bank.

Emma Dipper, Lead Researcher, is convenor of the Gender and FoRB working group for the UK FoRB Forum. She is Founding Director of Gender and Religious Freedom which is a network facilitating research, training and advocacy for Christians living with government restrictions or social hostilities with a gender-specific focus. She continues to work at the grassroots level with local partners developing projects to address gender-based violence in complex contexts.

Helene Fisher, Lead Researcher, has worked for Open Doors since 2007 and currently acts as the Global Bender Persecution Specialist. In her current role, she serves as facilitator, strategist, speaker and writer for Open Doors International, highlighting the specific effects of persecution on people in a ministry network which covers over 60 countries. Helene has tracked trends related to women and religious persecution over the past decade. Fisher instigated and co-authored the Gender-specific Religious Persecution Analysis reports for World Watch Research, starting in 2018.

Judith Golub, Facilitator and Editor, is a skilled executive-level leader and activist with a keen grasp of coalition building and congressional, grassroots and media advocacy. Judith has over 40 years of experience as an advocate, planner, researcher and project manager. She is the Director of Strategy and Planning at Religion News Service. Before that Judy directed Congressional Affairs & Policy and Planning at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. 

Farahnaz Ispahani, Speaker and Editor, is a Senior Fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute, a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Co-Chair of the ADL Task Force on Middle East Minorities, and a member of the Steering Committee of the International Panel of Parliamentarians. She works on human rights and FoRB. Ispahani has served as a Member of Parliament and Media Advisor to the President of Pakistan 2008-2012. She spent the formative years of her career as a print and television journalist.

Elizabeth Lane Miller, Lead Researcher, is the Women’s Persecution Specialist for Open Doors, International. Since 2016, she has been tracking trends and raising awareness related to hidden dynamics of persecution experienced by Christian women, as well as developing Bible-based curriculums for both free and persecuted Christian women. In 2018, she began consulting for Open Doors’ World Watch Research, specifically focusing on the writing of analytical reports on gender-specific religious persecution. Miller is a co-founder of the Gender and Religious Freedom platform within the Religious Liberty Partnership.

Lou Ann Sabatier, Project Manager, is Principal of Sabatier Consulting. With over 40 years of senior management experience and consulting, she has delivered a wide range of services including strategic planning, development, research, change management and marketing. Sabatier Consulting recently completed a research study commissioned by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom on content moderation, religious freedom and social media. Sabatier also serves as the Director of Communications for 21Wilberforce. She is the founder and publisher of the International Religious Freedom Congressional Scorecard and co-author of “A Retrospective 20th Anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act.”


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