Holy See Says Women Are Key for Development

Speaks at UNESCO Conference in Defense of Equality

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PARIS, APRIL 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See told UNESCO that it is convinced that one of today's priorities is the authentic promotion of the dignity of the woman.

Monsignor Franco Follo, the Holy See's permanent observer at UNESCO, the United Nations organization for education and culture, said this on Friday when offering his intervention to the executive council meeting. The committee was considering strategies for 2008-2013.

The Vatican official presented "the real promotion of the dignity of the woman and her responsible participation in social life at all levels" as a priority for the institution.

He recalled Benedict XVI's message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, in which the Pope spoke of the way that inequality between men and women influences the social conflicts in today's world.

The Holy Father's message said: "At the origin of many tensions that threaten peace are surely the many unjust inequalities still tragically present in our world. Particularly insidious among these are, on the one hand, inequality in access to essential goods like food, water, shelter, health; on the other hand, there are persistent inequalities between men and women in the exercise of basic human rights.

"A fundamental element of building peace is the recognition of the essential equality of human persons springing from their common transcendental dignity. Equality on this level is a good belonging to all, inscribed in that natural 'grammar' which is deducible from the divine plan of creation; it is a good that cannot be ignored or scorned without causing serious repercussions which put peace at risk.

"Similarly, inadequate consideration for the condition of women helps to create instability in the fabric of society. I think of the exploitation of women who are treated as objects, and of the many ways that a lack of respect is shown for their dignity; I also think -- in a different context -- of the mindset persisting in some cultures, where women are still firmly subordinated to the arbitrary decisions of men, with grave consequences for their personal dignity and for the exercise of their fundamental freedoms."

Instability factors

Monsignor Follo added: "The insufficient consideration of the feminine condition also provokes factors of instability in the social order. A fundamental element of building peace is the recognition of the essential equality of human persons springing from their common transcendental dignity."

"There can be no illusion of a secure peace until these forms of discrimination are also overcome, since they injure the personal dignity impressed by the Creator upon every human being," the Vatican official added, again quoting the papal message.

Monsignor Follo insisted on "the active role of the woman in social development."

The Holy See, he said, "recognizes her incomparable role in the human formation of youth and in the macroeconomic system, her adherence to human and moral values that she transmits to the new generations, the protection of life, her attention to peace and fraternal solidarity, the care for the elderly and infirm, the care of her family and children, her sense of interiority."

"Thanks to women, whose frequently humble and hidden activity should be supported," he continued, "the family could be better promoted as a fundamental cell of society, youth could learn to integrate themselves better within the social framework, peace could be sought more intensely, dialogue and human relations could be converted into factors of fraternity and solidarity."

"All of society," Monsignor Follo concluded," would benefit from her particular vocation, from her action and her feminine genius."