Speakers at a roundtable discussion on Tuesday emphasised the importance of a continued dialogue among religions at all levels to promote greater tolerance, respect and mutual understanding in society.Held at a private hotel, the event: ‘Role of Women in Freedom of Religion or Belief’, had been arranged by the FACES Pakistan in collaboration with the Netherlands Embassy, the Interfaith Advisory Commission of Pakistan and the Human Friends Organisation. During the roundtable, the speakers shared their valuable insight while pointing out challenges and constraints hindering equal rights of women in freedom of religion. Besides Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Ejaz Alam Augustine, Netherlands Ambassador Ardi Stoios-Braken, First Secretary for Political Affairs Arjen Nauta, MPAs Hina Butt, Shazia Abid, Sadia Sohail and Sumera Ahmed and former lawmakers Samia Raheel and Asia Nasir, FACES Pakistan President Javaid William, Secretary General Elaine Alam, Hafiz Abdul Wahab Ropprri, Dr Majeed Abel, Amarnath Randhawa, Asim Makhdoom, Mufti Ashiq Hussain, Shakeelur Rehman Nasir, and others shared their views with the audience.During the discussion, the speakers highlighted the efforts towards gender mainstreaming were affected by rigid context and misconceptions regarding women’s role in the freedom of religion. They also discussed role of main stakeholders who can play a vital role in fostering women’s role and participation in the freedom of religions. In addition, they discussed the role of the civil society, academicians and religious leaders in improving and streamlining women’s participation and the gender mainstreaming in the religious freedom. They also emphasised the key role of the government and its institutions in terms of improving women’s participation in the freedom of faith.Minister Ejaz Alam Augustine said that Pakistan’s future was in safe hands and they believed in social harmony and equal citizenship. He said that the government wanted to hear from the women about ways the state could support them and whether there were the policies or legislation that were hindering co-responsibility when it came to the rights of women. As the chief guest, Ambassador Ardi Stoios-Braken supported real and lasting equality between citizens without any gender discrimination in all areas of their lives. “We must remember that we need to dismantle foundations of gender inequality and discrimination from our societies,” she said.Sharing his thoughts, Javaid William suggested transformation of discriminatory attitudes, beliefs and social norms, and promotion of human rights of all, with respect for diversity, gender equality and nonviolence. “We need strategies to address multiple risk factors so interventions or synchronised strategies are more likely to reduce violence against women,” he said.Elaine Alam said that the religious freedom empowered women to make their own decisions. She said that the rights of women, who were most vulnerable to discrimination, should also be a strongly articulated goal of religious freedom advocates who believed that all people, especially vulnerable populations, should have the right of religious freedom. She said that the minority women were facing severe disenfranchisement in the name of religion in the form of forced conversion, child marriages and discrimination.The speakers said that religious freedom in its true meaning empowered women to decide for themselves what they would believe and empowered them to challenge the teachings or perception if they did not like the way it treated women. They agreed that any restrictions on the women’s right to challenge beliefs and practices were violations of their freedom.