Archbishop: Empowering Women Means Honoring Motherhood

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

During an address to the United Nations regarding international goals for securing gender equality and the empowerment of women, the Vatican’s representative, Archbishop Celestino Migliore said honoring women’s unique service to others in the heart of the home is essential to the true empowerment of women.

Cardinal Migliore made his comments to the Economic and Social Council Substantive Session for 2010 which was discussing the implementation of internationally agreed upon millennium development goals (MDGs) in regard to gender equality and empowerment of women

“All women and girls who are affected by the MDGs look forward towards an increased recognition of their value and equality as well as their dignified role in development. Any deliberation on the matter will be incomplete without ensuring the advancement of women, who are dynamic agents of development in the family, society and the world,” he said.

After recognizing the remarkable progress being made in mainstreaming women’s perspectives in society, he went on to say that the empowerment of women presupposes universal human dignity and, thus, the dignity of each and every individual.

“The notion denotes complementarity between man and woman, which means equality in diversity: where equality and diversity are based on biological data, expressed traditionally by male and female sexuality, and on the primacy of the person,” he said. “It concerns also roles to be held and functions to be performed in society.  In that regard, equality is not sameness, and difference is not inequality.”

Empowerment of women also means recognition of the gifts and talents of every woman, he said, and is affirmed through the provision of better health care, education and equal opportunities.

“Empowering women and respecting their dignity mean also honoring their capacity to serve and devote themselves to society and to the family through motherhood which entails a self-giving love and care-giving. Altruism, dedication and service to others are healthy and contribute to personal dignity. If domesticity can be considered a particular gift of mothers in cultivating a genuine intrapersonal relationship in the family and society, then family-friendly working arrangements, shared family-care leave and redistribution of the burden of unpaid work will be given the attention they rightly deserve.”

He then commented upon the discrimination, exploitation and oppression of women and girls that still exist around the world and called for “the provision of adequate social protection measures for them.”

He also addressed the problem of women not receiving all of the health care they need, a problem that is exacerbated by abortion providers who devote most of their resources to providing birth control and abortions while giving too little assistance in other health areas.

“Scientific studies have shown remarkable improvement in the reduction of maternal and infant mortality, revealing the importance of complementary investing in other areas relevant to women and girls including nutrition, general health and education,” the Archbishop said. “The real advancement of women is not achieved by concentrating on a particular health issue to the neglect of others but by promoting their overall health which necessarily includes giving more attention to addressing women-specific diseases.”

He also called for women’s economic empowerment, saying this is essential for the economic development of the family and of society.

“Access to land and property, credit facilities and equal opportunities for financial services for women will help ensure their economic stability. In this process, the whole household and community must support their entrepreneurship.”

The Archbishop decried the violence often perpetrated against women in the home, in their places of employment and the public square. “Through adequate legal frame-works and national policies, perpetrators of violence must be brought to justice and women must be afforded rehabilitation,” he said.

“Women and girls must be guaranteed their full enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights including equal access to education and health.”

He concluded by saying that “the more the dignity of women is protected and promoted, the more the family, the community and society will truly be fostered.”

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