Pontifical academy president addresses UN on status of women

 Professor Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, spoke yesterday at the United Nations to the Economic and Social Council Commission on the Status of Women in the follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women which was held in Beijing in September 1995. Prof Glendon lead the Holy See delegation to that UN conference. She said: "In 2005, the United Nations will mark the anniversaries of five historic moments when the family of nations gave encouragement and impetus to women on their quest for recognition of their equal rights and dignity. The first and most consequential of these moments ... was in the spring of 1945 when the founders of the UN astonished many by proclaiming their 'faith...in the dignity and worth of the human person' and 'in the equal rights of men and women'." This was followed, she added, by four UN conferences on women: Mexico City, Copenhagen, Nairobi and Beijing. Notwithstanding gains for women, many are suffering "new forms of poverty" and "new threats to human life and dignity." The Beijing Platform, Prof Glendon noted, "proclaimed that 'the key to moving women and their families out of poverty is education'. ... The Holy See, with its longstanding dedication to educating women and girls, notes with concern, therefore, that improvements on this front have been slow." Another problem, said Prof Glendon, is "the changing age structure of the world's populations. The combination of greater longevity, falling birth-rates, rising costs of health care, and shortage of care-takers is already giving rise to tensions between younger and older generations." "In its Final Statement at the Beijing Conference," she stated, "the Holy See expressed the fear that the sections of the Beijing documents dealing with women in poverty would remain empty promises unless backed up by well-thought-out programs and financial commitments. Today, with growing disparities of wealth and opportunity, we are obliged to raise that concern again." Humanity has the means to defeat hunger and poverty, she affirmed. However, as Pope John Paul has said, "what is needed is a vast moral mobilization of public opinion, especially in those countries enjoying a sufficient or even prosperous standard of living." In closing, Prof. Glendon noted that "harmonizing women's aspirations for fuller participation in social and economic life with their roles in family life" can be solved by women themselves, but not "without certain major ... changes in society. ... Policy makers must attend more closely to women's own accounts of what is important to them, rather than to special interest groups." Source: VIS

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