Empower women and you empower the world, Vatican tells UN

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If diplomacy and policy-making are to be successful, all women – including those who are often left out of the conversation – must have a voice in the process, a Holy See representative told the United Nations.

"Empowering women means creating the conditions necessary for them to flourish, in full acceptance of and in accordance with their natural genius as women, and in harmonious complementarity with the gifts of men," Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said March 18.

"Empowering women and girls will greatly help the world community not to leave anyone behind, and their empowerment will empower us all," he said.

He gave his remarks during the deliberations of the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women of the United Nations. This session's focus was "Women's Empowerment and the Link to Sustainable Development."

Archbishop Auza focused on the idea that "no one will be left behind" as found in the commitment of the Member States in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Women, he said, must be recognized for their "vital role ... in preventive diplomacy, mediation, peacekeeping and peace-building processes, as well as their growing presence in policy-making bodies and advocacy groups."

However, elderly women, mothers, and pre-born girls, the archbishop said, are especially vulnerable to sex-based discrimination.

Instead of being seen as critical policy priorities, elderly women's needs are frequently overlooked leading these women to feel "unwanted and, in some cases, leaving them vulnerable to the pressures of assisted suicide."

"An exaggerated focus on economic productivity and the decline of family values are leaving elderly women even farther behind," he said.

Elderly women should be made to "feel welcome and productive in their own way" by making their wisdom available for the whole of society, Archbishop Auza said.

In a similar way, he said, mothers face discrimination when their "essential contribution to the development of society through motherhood is not adequately acknowledged, appreciated, advanced and defended." This prejudice, oftentimes by way of cultural and legal pressures, forces women to choose between a career and motherhood.

On behalf of his delegation, Archbishop Auza said he wanted to thank "all women who have raised generations of responsible daughters and sons."

Girls in the womb also face discrimination, even before they have the chance to be born.

Abortion and in-vitro fertilization have been used to "selectively eliminate girls, leading to unnatural sex-ratio-at-birth disparities" causing a deficit of more than 160 million girls compared to boys, he said.

After addressing the concerns of these groups of women, Archbishop Auza emphasized the importance of ensuring access to education and healthcare for women and girls, which he called indispensable.

He pointed out that the Catholic Church, "through its vast network of 250,000 schools, 23,500 clinics and hospitals, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs," the majority of which are located in developing nations and areas of conflict, is the "largest education and health provider in the world."

Women's healthcare must be provided "in accord with their feminine humanity and dignity," he said, adding that it "would be contradictory to seek to empower women while suppressing their natural potentialities."

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Women in need should not only be the beneficiaries of aid, but they should "above all ... be empowered to become dignified agents of their own development and important drivers of sustainable development."

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