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The time is now to empower women

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Today the world will observe International Women’s Day (IWD). 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 is “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.

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.

Pope Francis’ Lenten Message urges us not to allow our love to grow cold; love of God and love of neighbour.

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.


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