Social Protection Systems, Access to Public Services
and Sustainable Infrastructure for Gender Equality
and the Empowerment of Women and Girls
Commission on the Status of Women
On March 15, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN and Head of Delegation to the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, gave an intervention on the theme of the Session, dedicated to “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”
In his statement, Archbishop Auza said that any program to strengthen society and women’s role in it must consider women’s concrete situations in the family, the vulnerable situations many women find themselves in, and the need to continuously promote the full flourishing of women. He mentioned that women’s contribution to the wealth of society are often overlooked by social policy, particularly their contributions to unpaid care work. Many women, he continued, suffer stigmatization and economic disadvantages for being pregnant or parenting mothers and widows. Social welfare programs must give them the recognition and social protection they deserve, he added. He spoke to the violation and degradation many women endure and underlined how women must be protected from violence along every stage of their life cycle. He concluded by saying that through women’s “feminine genius,” they enrich the world’s understanding, promote peace, and make human relations more honest and authentic.
The statement can be found here.
Experts Highlight Social Protection Systems Necessary in the
Fight against Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery at Holy See Event
On March 12, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations held a side event together with the Arise Foundation entitled “Social Protection Systems and Access to Public Services In the Fight Against Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery,” at UN Headquarters in New York during the Commission on the Status of Women.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, said that access to services that reduce vulnerabilities leading people to being exploited by traffickers is a top priority for the Holy See.
“Without access to the basics of development, without basic social protections, the vulnerability of people, especially women and girls, to exploitation and trafficking is much higher,” he said., emphasizing the need to fulfill many targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “Therefore, one of the priorities in the prevention of trafficking and modern slavery is ensuring access and social protection to education, to jobs, to health care, to the justice system, because the lack or inadequacy of each of those is often exploited by traffickers to recruit new victims.”
He also noted that survivors need physical and mental health services, education and training, and access to employment to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society and to provide protection against anyone who could compel them back into slavery.
Luke de Pulford, co-founder and Director of the Arise Foundation, which funds projects of religious sisters who work directly with trafficking victims and survivors, emphasized the need for local communities to receive the types of social services that not only help survivors but also prevent women from being exploited.
He said that providing funding for services is not enough, but must be paired with partnering with local communities to understand their needs and ensure they are key agents in the fight.
“Access is a local issue needing local solutions,” he said. The religious groups on the ground that Arise serves “are better positioned than any one else to do the crucial prevention work because they are trusted in those communities.”
Sister Sherly Joseph, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, is one such local expert in India, and said that 35 percent of women in her country are illiterate. The link she saw between trafficking and a lack of education led her to advocate and provide education to women at-risk for being trafficked.
“If girls drop out of schooling, many then find themselves in child labor, suffering exploitation before they turn 18,” she said. “If we are serious about tackling global crisis of slavery and exploitation, we need to get serious about providing access to education.”
She also called attention to the need of educating cultures so that girls do not need to fight their families or communities for their right to education.
“By raising level of education and access to employment, the most common routes to exploitation will lose its sting,” she said.
Dr. Ludy Green, Lead for the Countertrafficking Agency of USAID, emphasized the importance of access to meaningful work for women to be able to leave their situations of exploitation and abuse.
She shared how her personal journey to assist victims of exploitation flowed from watching her mother remain with an abusive husband. Her mother, who did not achieve high levels of education, encouraged Dr. Green to pursue education and a meaningful career so that she would never have to remain in an abusive relationship with someone she relied on financially.
In her role at USAID, she launched a project that surveyed women who would come for assistance, only to return to their batterers or traffickers, whose experiences echoed those of her own mother.
“They were going back to their abusers because they were financially trapped,” she said. “They did not have the education or skills, like my mother.”
This realization led her to form partnerships with faith based organizations and employers who give preference to women in battered situations. This program has partnerships with more than 200 employers, and has placed more than 3,000 women in meaningful long-term careers that enable them to live free from the financial trapping of their abusers.
Albania is the principal country of origin for trafficking victims in the UK, and Albanian-born Sabjola Bregu works within local communities to assist survivors there. She said that access to adequate health service is key for recovery of survivors because of the numerous physical and mental health consequences of trafficking, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and sexually transmitted diseases.
She said mental health issues are especially prevalent among trafficking survivors since women with mental health issues are often more vulnerable to survivors, and many develop these issues after enduring exploitation.
Many times, the immigration status of women trafficked over national borders keeps them from being able to access public health services, so these women must rely solely on services provided by non-governmental organizations. She emphasized the important role healthcare workers can play in combatting trafficking if they are properly trained to identify trafficking victims.
“Medical service providers need to be trained and supported to understand the needs of survivors and learn words and behaviors that will not re-traumatize survivors,” she said, adding that when properly trained, healthcare workers can often identify a woman who is currently being trafficked and help her escape.
Kevin Hyland, former UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, highlighted the urgency and importance of legal structures to combat trafficking. Punishment would be a major deterrent for traffickers if governments were better at identifying and prosecuting them.
“Low risk, high reward means it becomes a crime of choice,” he said. “Law enforcement and prosecutors need to revisit tactics,” expressing that the current state of affairs is akin to pouring “buckets of water to put out ranging inferno.”
Hyland explained that trafficking is a cross-cutting issue that undermines progress made in many other areas such as gender equality and healthcare. Victims suffer from health issues ranging from HIV infections to the high prevalence of organ trafficking.
“These are women, girls and boys stripped of their human rights,” he said. “They need justice now and not in five year's time.
Valuing Unpaid Work and Caregiving
On March 15, during the Commission on the Status of Women, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN held a side event entitled “Valuing Unpaid Work and Caregiving,” together with the Catholic Women’s Forum. The panel of accomplished scholars, lawyers and non-profit directors — and mothers of 27 children among them — unanimously agreed that often woman's most important work can be accomplished in the unquantifiable contributions made at home with their families.
In his opening remarks, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See Mission to the UN, said that the recent understanding in UN documents referring to unpaid care work as a “burden” for women rather than a valuable good is unhelpful. It implies, he said, that a person’s work outside the home is far more valuable than a person’s work inside the home and that women have no greater gifts in caring for their loved ones than men do, or even than unrelated care-givers. The purpose of this event was to examine these presumptions.
“The whole question is complex and many considerations come into play, not least among them the values and relationships that different cultures attached to caregiving and unpaid work,” he said. “But no matter how complex the issue might be, an honest examination should begin by acknowledging the objective value of caregiving, whether done by women or men.”
“No women who desires to give of her time in this way should be stigmatized by society or penalized in comparison to other women or to men,” Archbishop Auza said, noting that policies surrounding work-life balance and maternity and paternity leave are crucial for mothers, fathers and their children.
“Humanity owes its very survival to the gift of caregiving, most notably in motherhood, and this indispensable contribution should be esteemed as such, by both women and by men.”
Mary Rice Hasson, Director of the Catholic Women’s Forum and mother of seven children, said that while some economists encourage more involvement of women to work outside the home, women’s choices regarding their work-life balance should remain in their own hands, even if it means less time in the labor market and more time with their children.
Women want to be able to contribute, she said, but there is a bias that says that a woman’s full potential is not realized if she is not receiving money for that work. What her research shows is that many women value their familial relations above being paid for outside work.
“If we view caregiving as a burden, then the obvious response is to reduce that burden. This is an erroneous framing,” Hasson said. “[Woman] don’t want to be replaced and they don’t want to be displaced. The only place we are irreplaceable is in our relationships.”
She implied that women ought to be freed from outside pressure to outsource caring for their own children.
“I think we can all agree that we desire women’s equality and women’s flourishing, but if we are really going to respect women we need to let women define those terms for themselves,” she said. “We don’t want to impose a one-size-fits-all solution. I think the best way is to do what works best in your home and your culture and in your relationships.”
Dr. Patience Fielding, Senior Technical Advisor in Education for the Salvation Army World Service Office, said her work across many cultures is rooted in this woman-led approach.
She assists women in various countries and cultures throughout the world to strengthen the impact of their work, both in inside and outside the home, through an approach tailored to the needs of their community. The Salvation Army’s approach begins by first understanding the cultural norms inside the communities they are serving.
“I make sure I speak last because I don’t want to influence their course. I want to listen first. I may have a Ph.D. but I tell them I am here to learn from you,” she said, explaining that the organization makes the most impact when they are following the lead of the indigenous communities they serve who have the most knowledge of their needs and desires. Many programs the Salvation Army implements have a dual nature of setting women up for financial success while also affording time and energy to perform the care work they highly value.
“Using the principle of subsidiarity gives them practical support to help women care for those they love,” she said.
Dr. Catherine Pakaluk, Assistant Profesor of Social Research and Economic Thought at the Busch Business School at the Catholic University of America, said that as a demographer, she follows the same principle of subsidiarity by conducting interviews with women to collect quantitative data regarding their views on childcare and professional work. Pew Data shows that mothers more than fathers expect disruptions in their career, but that most women who reduce time from work say they do not regret this choice.
She also noted research from Danish demographer Hans Peter, which reveals that caring for children brings joy and other subjective measures of happiness for women. She also noted that data show that many women are not achieving their desired family size.
Many countries have low birth rates of 1.5 children, she said, but most women in these countries desire two to three children. Countries also desire larger family size to offset the economic and social consequences of their shrinking populations, but so far, the policies intended to increase fertility rates are unsuccessful.
The mother of eight children became well-known for a viral Twitter post of her large family to challenge insensitive remarks French President Emmanuel Macron implying that mothers with multiple children are not educated. Dr. Pakaluk’s tweet with her children attending her Doctoral graduation launched a Twitter campaign in which many other successful and highly educated women joined to share their own family photos with the hashtag #PostcardsforMacron.
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association, criticized the view of some that women engaging in unpaid childcare is a “problem.”
The mother of ten said that care work is not quantifiable and cannot be counted or measured, but is transformative for both the woman and child.
Picciotti-Bayer said that recent interviews she conducted with children who grew up in the foster care system said that being loved by their foster moms transformed their lives from crisis to stability. They said that it was not the room and board they most valued, but the unpaid aspects that transformed their lives.
She shared her own experience as a lawyer balancing a job with children, and eventually decided to put her career on hold to be a full time stay at home mom.
“I struggled knowing that I was not keeping up with my profession, but the benefit to me and my family far outweighed any identifiable sacrifices to my career,” she said. Many of the skills she gained as a mother have only helped her professionally when she decided to re-enter the workforce.
“Even when mom works outside the home full-time her thoughts and concerns fixed on the good of her family and those she loves,” she said. “The woman’s work outside the home and within are not two separate lives but one single life.”
Director of Vatican Museums Represents
Holy See at High Level UN Meeting
Above, Director of Vatican Museums Barbara Jatta represents Holy See at the UN High Level event entitled "Women in Power" on March 12, accompanied by Holy See Negotiator Maddalena Giungi and Intern Giulia Iop. Below, Dr. Jatta addresses Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer on the Holy See to the UN and Donna D'Urso, President of the New York Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museums at a luncheon hosted by the Holy See Mission.
During the time of the Commission on the Status of Women, Director of the Vatican Museums Barbara Jatta participated in a March 12 event highlighting women in high ranking leadership roles entitled "Women in Power." In December 2016, Dr. Jatta was appointed director of the Vatican Museums, making her the first woman to head the Vatican Museums.
"Being invited to participate in the Commission on the Status of Women on behalf of the Holy See was unexpected, much like my appointment!" Dr. Jatta remarked.