Embrace Equality, Encounter, Renewal: Caritas’ Commitment to Promote Women in the Church and Society 

  • Wednesday, 08:36 Date 15/03/2023
  • This year Caritas Internationalis is present at the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (March 6-17) at the UN headquarters in New York. In celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8), Caritas held a webinar titled ‘Embrace equality, encounter, renewal’ in connection with the 2023 theme ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’.

    This webinar brought together over 100 people from within the Caritas network, the Church and other organisations and communities to reflect on the empowerment of women and the promotion of equality between men and women through: listening and dialogue; access to education and technology; the recognition of women leaders’ knowledge and skills in communities; and the inclusion of women in decision making processes at all levels.

    Over the years, Caritas has built up its knowledge and experience with women leaders around the world through its charitable works since its establishment in 1951. “A cultural paradigm shift and political will are mutually required to concretely address the causes that prevent women from being empowered,” said Moira Monacelli, Director of the Confederation Development Department of the Caritas Internationalis General Secretariat, during the webinar’s opening remarks.

    In 2021, Caritas formed its Women’s Leadership, Equality and Participation Committee to strengthen its ongoing commitment to promoting women’s leadership at the grassroots, national, regional and international levels. This committee comprises representatives from all regions of the Caritas Confederation who are working together to promote the equal participation of women within the Caritas network and with external stakeholders and communities.

    This keynote address at the ‘Embrace equality, encounter, renewal’ webinar, Msgr. Robert Murphy, Head of the Peace and Security Sector at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN, spoke about the strongly-felt presence of women leaders in the ambit of multilateralism: “Women have real lead roles and made very real decisions that affect how the Church interacts with religious communities and with communities around the world. The Holy See is very frequently represented in the multilateral fora by women.”
    According to Andrea Sanchez, theologian and Advisor to the Latin America Women in Church and Society Commission, and Mónica Santamarina de Robles, Treasurer General for the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations (WUCWO), listening and dialogue are key in enabling the equal participation of women in Church structures. Ms. Sanchez said she hopes the upcoming April meeting on ‘women in synodality’ will be an opportunity for women to be heard and “to raise awareness of the human rights of women to live a life free of violence and discrimination”.

    Reflecting on the findings of a WUCWO survey, Ms. Santamarina de Robles said although “a notable majority of women said that they do not feel discriminated against within the Church” many expressed that a culture of “clericalism” prevents greater participation of women in decision-making processes. She said that in terms of access to education, women are still behind men and stated the need for better formation of the laity, particularly women, to allow access to leadership roles in the Church.

    During the webinar, both Radio Nyapui’s Fatima Sesay and Advisor to Caritas Brasileira, Clarissa Paiva, highlighted how technology can benefit migrant women seeking to work and better integrate in new communities. Ms. Sesay said that 60 per cent of those unemployed in Sierra Leone are women, and cited their lack of technical skills as a key cause behind these statistics.

    Radio Nyapui, run by SEND Sierra Leone (a partner of Caritas) was officially launched in March 2022 with the intention of making women’s voices heard, thus strengthening and promoting women’s participation in politics, governance and decision-making in the country. “Technology … empowers the imagination of female leaders who strive to make a difference in their communities,” said Ms. Sesay.

    Ms. Paiva shared her presentation on the MigraSegura Platform, which was developed by Caritas Brasileira in partnership with Caritas Ecuador and Caritas Peru “to cover the information needs of the Venezuelan migrant population that decided to emigrate to Brazil and Ecuador”. Workshops on this digital platform are held in person, so as to create a place of encounter, listening and dialogue among migrant women.

    On the topic of women’s education, Professor Fr. Joseph Turay, Vice Chancellor of Catholic University of Makeni in Sierra Leone, said a number of scholarships and post graduate programmes are being awarded to women, particularly those from rural areas, so as to “empower women in the country”. In addition to efforts to increase the number of female students at Makeni, Fr. Joseph said the university is increasing the pool of female staff on part-time and full-time bases.

    This year, Caritas Internationalis will also publish a booklet titled ‘Equality, encounter, renewal: A Caritas commitment to the promotion of women’s leadership and participation’, based on sacred scripture and the values and principles of Catholic Social Teaching. This booklet gathers more than 30 testimonies of women working at all levels in the Caritas network which share how to put these principles into practice in order to achieve equality between men and women.

    Source: Caritas Internationalis

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