Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See and
Head of the Delegation of the Holy See
to the Sixty-Third Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable
infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls
New York, 15 March 2019
The Holy See is pleased to participate in this Sixty-Third Session of the Commission on the Status of Women as we address the topic of “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.” Indeed, any program aimed at building a more just and sustainable future, not only for women but for all those in our common home, must take into account three dimensions: women’s concrete situations in the family, in society and in the economy; the situations of vulnerability of many women; and the necessity of the promotion of women in all efforts to improve their position.
It is well known that women continue to suffer a variety of situations that require more attention and adequate social protection and access to public services in order to ensure them greater justice and dignified conditions of life. It is particularly striking to note that today women form a large part of the informal economy, which also means that their work and contribution to the wealth of society are most often overlooked by social policies.
Women also perform a great deal of unpaid domestic labor, including the care of children, the sick and the elderly, and contribute to bring an indispensable human element to the social fabric. In many countries, however, they suffer stigmatization, as well as social and economic disadvantages as pregnant and parenting mothers, as widows, and as workers seeking to assume simultaneously the demands of home and workplace. Many women, moreover, bring to society an invaluable dimension and tireless witness to fraternity and disinterested love while they choose to dedicate themselves entirely to occupations directly serving the most fragile of our societies as, for example, those consecrated women working in the area of education and health.
Families, the wider society and the economy all benefit from women’s dedication, hard work and fundamental contribution, but social welfare programs must offer to them the recognition and social protection that they deserve. Without this, many women will continue to suffer discrimination and social injustice. In some countries, their work on behalf of family life is intentionally ignored for purposes of calculating social benefits, their work in human service occupations is often undervalued and underpaid, and their opportunities for leadership in many fields traditionally led by men are hindered.
Women continue to suffer violence and degradation. Although there is now a higher degree of social awareness regarding the problem of violence against women, there remains nevertheless a need for more adequate public programming concerning prevention, justice, and care.
In some contexts, women are also particularly vulnerable and unduly stigmatized when they become mothers. In this regard, it is striking to observe that, while many countries fear that the decline in fertility will lead to economic and cultural tipping points, their public services and protection programs regularly fail to extend to mothers and families the kind of social justice and the economic and employment assistance that would enable them to satisfy their noble desire to enjoy the beauty of motherhood and fulfil their multiple responsibilities, whether at home or while at work.
The Holy See frequently underlines the special gifts and contribution of women within the family and society, especially with regard to integral human development. Their unique presence, as physical and spiritual mothers, in the creation and raising of children, their vision and capacity that include defending, nurturing, and caring for life, from conception until natural death, require them to be given all the means to fully realize their inherent dignity. This entails promoting them and protecting them from every form of violence along their life cycle, ensuring that they are truly respected, integrated and may freely contribute their gifts in all contexts of society, as well as in the informal and formal peace processes.
In speaking and acting in favour of the “promotion of women”, the Holy See unceasingly insists on the absolute necessity to respect the inherent dignity of women, in a manner free from unhelpful ideological and political connotations, so as to ensure them access to a quality education, to give them a voice when they have none, and to help them develop all their abilities to assume responsibilities with a view to humanizing the situations in which they live, so that they may become full actors of our societies and of our world.
Improving the access of women to public services, social protection systems and sustainable infrastructure will improve their situation, as well as the situation of their families and societies. It is a matter of acknowledging what recent Popes have called the “feminine genius”: the profound and unique gifts that only women can offer to the world. Through this gift, which is so much a part of their womanhood, they enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic. The more we promote and improve their situation, the more they and all flourish.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
1. John Paul II, Letter to Women, 29 June 1995.