.- The Vatican spoke out yesterday to the U.N. during an international address on the status of women. Professor Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, spoke to the Economic and Social Council Commission on the Status of Women in the follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women.
The previous conference was held in Beijing in September 1995 and Professor Glendon was the head of the Holy See’s delegation there.
"In 2005," she noted, "the United Nations will mark the anniversaries of five historic moments when the family of nations gave encouragement and impetus to women on their quest for recognition of their equal rights and dignity.”
“The first and most consequential of these moments”, she said, “was in the spring of 1945 when the founders of the U.N. astonished many by proclaiming their 'faith...in the dignity and worth of the human person' and 'in the equal rights of men and women'."
This was followed, she added, by four U.N. conferences on women including those in Mexico City, Copenhagen, Nairobi and Beijing.
Noting the many gains for women, Glendon pointed out that many are suffering "new forms of poverty" and "new threats to human life and dignity."
The Beijing Platform, Prof. Glendon noted, "proclaimed that 'the key to moving women and their families out of poverty is education'. ... The Holy See, with its longstanding dedication to educating women and girls, notes with concern, therefore, that improvements on this front have been slow."
Professor Glendon noted that another problem is "the changing age structure of the world's populations. The combination of greater longevity, falling birth-rates, rising costs of health care, and shortage of care-takers is already giving rise to tensions between younger and older generations."
"In its Final Statement at the Beijing Conference," she said, "the Holy See expressed the fear that the sections of the Beijing documents dealing with women in poverty would remain empty promises unless backed up by well-thought-out programs and financial commitments.”
Today, with growing disparities of wealth and opportunity, we are obliged to raise that concern again."
While noting that humanity has the means to defeat hunger and poverty, she pointed out that Pope John Paul has said, "what is needed is a vast moral mobilization of public opinion, especially in those countries enjoying a sufficient or even prosperous standard of living."
In her closing statements, Glendon noted that "harmonizing women's aspirations for fuller participation in social and economic life with their roles in family life", can be solved by women themselves, but not "without certain major ... changes in society. .... Policy makers must attend more closely to women's own accounts of what is important to them, rather than to special interest groups."