Despite some positive advancement in the condition of women, they remain vulnerable to poverty and violence, and much still needs to be done to reverse the feminization of poverty around the world, Archbishop Celestino Migliore told a United Nations committee Oct. 13.

The UN committee was meeting about the implementation of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace in the 21st century.”

The archbishop cited recent statistics compiled by the International Labor Organization, which indicate that women represent 60 per cent of the world’s 550 million working poor, in many cases, earning less than one dollar a day. 

“Poverty prevents women from attaining their basic needs such as nutrition, sanitation, basic health care and education, and it continues to deprive societies of the enriching and irreplaceable contribution that can be furnished only by women,” said the Vatican’s permanent observer to the UN.

The archbishop insisted that women must be given access to basic, comprehensive health care and education.

“Illiteracy is another obstacle to development and to the attainment of women’s basic rights,” he said. “Investment in the education of girls is the fundamental key to the advancement of women.”

In order to reverse the feminization of poverty, the archbishop recommended that women be given more access to and control over productive resources and capital. “Several Catholic organizations are engaged in micro-credit programs for women around the world,” he noted. 

He condemned all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, harmful traditional practices, female feticide and infanticide. Such violence, he said, “is a grave violation of the dignity of women and their human rights.” 

“Often, violence against women results from the consideration of a woman, not as a human person with rights on an equal basis with others, but as an object to be exploited,” he said.  In this context, the “scourges” of prostitution and trafficking of women and girls increase, he said.

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The Vatican, he said, seeks to collaborate with those who will create social policies aimed at eliminating these causes of violence against women.