Holy See Urges Rewarding Women's Roles in Homes

Says Education Lies at Heart of Empowerment

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NEW YORK, MARCH 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See is calling for "courageous policies" to reward the work of women within the home.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, made this suggestion today to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.

The issue under discussion was follow-up to the 4th World Conference on Women, and U.N. initiatives on gender equality and the empowerment of women, including financing measures leading to those goals.

"The last decade has seen greater involvement of women in all aspects of decision making, especially in economic development," Archbishop Migliore noted. "Indeed, the empowerment of women requires their participation in the decision-making process to ensure that their specific insights are heard and taken into account, their concerns adequately addressed and that these concerns are reflected in the decisions taken and in the programs adopted."

The prelate particularly focused on the need for equal access to education at all levels, saying this "lies at the heart of the efforts to empower women."

He noted the work of the Church in this regard, explaining that "Catholic institutions of learning continue to have enrollments which are predominantly female and work to empower women within society."

More than teaching

Still, Archbishop Migliore affirmed, the empowerment of women through education "cannot work in isolation."

"Disenfranchisement of women and discriminatory practices must be addressed and eliminated," he said. "Women must be guaranteed equality of opportunity, equal pay for equal work, fairness in career advancement, equal access to health care and legal structures and equality in property and family rights. Programs, many of which are faith-based, providing assistance to needy women, in particular to victims of sexual and physical abuse, must remain a priority.

"Policies and initiatives which foster women's ability to participate fully in the workplace have resulted in an ever increasing presence of women in the formal work sector. However, this reality has created new challenges for women, such as exploitation in sweatshops and trafficking of women and girls for economic and sexual purposes. Thus, the increasing number of women working outside the home challenges governments to enact laws, implement programs and enforce measures to protect women from unscrupulous predators, subhuman working conditions and dehumanizing work."

Unrecognized

The archbishop also gave attention to the contribution of women in households and families, in their role as wives and mothers, something that "often goes unrecognized and unrewarded."

"Women face the challenge of simultaneously raising children and trying to achieve economic security," he acknowledged.

Archbishop Migliore then called for "greater resources" and "more courageous policies" to reward the socio-economic contribution of women within the home.

"Rewarding it in some way particularly helps poor women and those who are less able to enter the labor market," he said. "It would also be a concrete way to enable women to benefit from public expenditure from which oftentimes and in many places they do not get their fair share or are even excluded. Obviously, men must assume their responsibility within the home and family."

"Finally," the archbishop concluded, "governments, civil society and faith-based organizations would do well to work together to find creative ways of promoting full access of women to development programs and financing schemes. Initiatives such as microfinance programs for women demonstrate that human ingenuity has the ability to create new and innovative solutions in this area."