.- The particular “feminine genius” of women must be recognized and appreciated, Archbishop Celestino Migliore told a United Nations General Assembly March 8. The archbishop said that true equality between men and women can only occur if the differences between men and women are accepted and understood in their proper context, appreciating the tremendous dignity of both men and women.
The Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN presented his message on International Women’s Day during an informal debate on the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women.
The archbishop warned against the “antagonistic approach” that has oftentimes dominated the quest for equality rights between men and women, creating opposition between the two. “This approach,” he said, “juxtaposes woman against man and vice-versa, while the identity and role of one is emphasized with the aim of merely diminishing that of the other.”
“Success in the quest for equality and the empowerment of women can best be achieved when such antagonism gives way to mutual respect and recognition of the identity and the role of one towards the other,” he said.
The archbishop also warned against the tendency is to blur, or sometimes even deny, the differences between men and women “as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning.”
This blurring impacts the stability of society and of families and the quality of relations between men and women, he noted.
“Equality between women and men and the empowerment of women will be attained when the differences of the sexes are recognized and highlighted as complementary and the cultural element of gender is understood in its proper context,” he stated.
The archbishop also insisted that women must be involved in decision-making. “This ‘feminine genius’ will prove most valuable, as women increasingly play major roles in the solution of the serious challenges the world is facing,” he stated.
“Empowerment of women also means equal pay for equal work, fairness in career advancement, and equality of spouses in family rights. Likewise, it means that women who choose to be wives and mothers are protected and not penalized,” he continued.
The obstacles that penalize women and prevent them from being fully integrated into the various sectors of society must be removed, he argued.
Migliore also noted the need to empower women through the use of microfinancing.
“Studies have shown how microfinance has led to a wide-ranging improvement of the status of women,” he said. He pointed out that some Catholic institutions and agencies have been active in microfinancing for decades. He cited the example of Catholic Relief Services, which began such programs in 1988.
Now, CRS has microfinancing programs in 30 countries, with more than 850,000 clients, of whom about 75 percent are mostly poor, rural women.
“Education for women in particular remains the most vital tool in the promotion of equality between men and women and in the empowerment of women to contribute fully to society,” he underlined.
Hand in hand with education and microfinance is awareness-raising, especially at the level of the local community, he added.