By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI. Visit rcsocialjusticett.org for our columns, media releases and more.
The world observed International Women’s Day (IWD) last Thursday (March 8). Women play a pivotal role in society. While we commemorate their political, social and economic achievements, let us step up our efforts to empower girls/women and create conditions to enable them to realise their full potential.
The theme for IWD this year was Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives. Let’s maintain our focus on this theme and play our part in transforming women’s lives.
The UN rightly states: “This year, International Women’s Day comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. This has taken the form of global marches and campaigns, including #MeToo and #TimesUp in the United States of America and their counterparts in other countries, on issues ranging from sexual harassment and femicide to equal pay and women’s political representation.”
“…. rural women… make up over a quarter of the world population, and are being left behind in every measure of development”. We are called to “transform the momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban”.
God inscribed on our hearts a moral order; an order that should lead us to acknowledge and respect the transcendent dignity of each person, made in God’s image and likeness.
Sadly, around the world, many women in both rural and urban settings continue to suffer because of a gross violation of this moral order, a violation which leads, for example, to poverty and social exclusion, discrimination in the workplace; domestic violence, including murders; human trafficking and various forms of enslavement; sexual abuse/exploitation; infanticides of girls and selective abortions of female fetuses; lack of access to basic amenities and other human rights, such as education and so on.
As 21-year-old Malala Yousafzai, the activist for female education and the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize said: “I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
The time is now for men and women to take up the challenge of raising our voices; of being advocates for the voiceless, the downtrodden, and those whose human rights continue to be trampled upon daily. Let’s play our part to educate/socialise our boys/men so that they will respect girls/women as equal partners—each with specific God-given gifts.
Our girls and women also need support in developing right relationships. Each man and woman is born with innate dignity; made to complement each other and to use their gifts/skills to build the common good. The wider community also has a responsibility to foster in our youth self-esteem, self-respect, and respect for others.
Let us resolve to make equality, equity, and complementarity among men and women a reality. Change must begin in the home. Parents/guardians, reflect on the kind of values you are instilling in those in your care. Do your own relationships with members of the opposite sex reflect complementarity/respect? Remember, children learn what they live.
We call on our educational institutions to do more to assist parents in socialising boys and girls in a way that will promote among them positive expectations, attitudes and behaviour towards each other. Parishes/youth groups can do more to foster right relationships between men and women.
If we are to change systems, structures, institutions and public policies that are at the root causes of injustice, we must become change agents and be prepared to work alongside rural and urban women as we seek to empower them. We ourselves must be prepared to lift our heads above the parapet to speak out against injustices and lobby Government to enact/implement legislation, policies, procedures and programmes that will promote authentic integral human development.
We need to move beyond ‘make-work’ programmes if we are to promote sustainable development. Members of the business community must also evaluate their treatment of women in T&T.
Pope Francis’ Lenten Message urges us not to allow our love to grow cold: love of God and love of neighbour. Our Church tells us that solidarity means the willingness to see others as another ‘self’ and so to regard injustice committed against another as no less serious than an injustice against one’s self.
As people of the Beatitudes, we are supposed to hunger and thirst for justice. Therefore, we cannot afford to be indifferent to the needs of our sisters. Let us stand in solidarity with our rural and urban sisters locally and globally.