25th General Chapter symbol

International Solidarity Reflection

Empowerment of Women and Girls

March 2024

pdf (37 KB)

Introduction

This month, we are called to stand in solidarity with all women and girls worldwide, who represent 49.75% of the world’s population, and reflect on the meaning of their empowerment. It is important to note that the term “empowerment of women” was coined at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995. It refers to women having full access to society and being equal partners with men in all aspects of life.

Call to Prayer

“Just as Mary, the woman, played a decisive role in the fullness of time”,[1] we also are called to play a decisive role in the education and empowerment of girls, boys, women, and men to live their lives to the fullest in a society shaped by peace, justice, faith, hope, and love. We ask Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother to accompany and pray with and for us. Amen.

Experience

For me, women’s empowerment means recognizing that they are free to make choices about their lives, that they have the right and responsibility to education, access to healthcare, housing, and fairly paid employment, and to participate in political, cultural, scientific, and economic life wherever they are. Empowering women and girls also involves transforming structures and/or institutions that discriminate against women simply because they are women.

Over 30 years ago, I had the opportunity to do mission work in rural areas in Mexico. During this time, I had the privilege of preparing Viviana, a 9-year-old girl, for her First Communion. Viviana’s mother had taught her that life means suffering, and her words still resonate with me today. Unfortunately, I do not know what has become of her. It is unclear whether she had the freedom to choose her path in life or what options were available to her.

Lamentably, Viviana’s experience is not a thing of the past, as it continues to occur worldwide.

Reflection

Why is it important and necessary today to reflect on the empowerment of women and girls?

Because we are called to continue learning and deepening our understanding of the beauty and richness that empowered women and girls bring to the world and the consequences of not recognizing and claiming our power as human beings, especially as women and girls.

In addition, in his Encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis clearly states that “the organization of societies worldwide is still far from reflecting that women possess the same dignity and identical rights as men. We say one thing with words, but our decisions and reality tell another story. Indeed, ‘doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment, and violence since they are frequently less able to defend their rights.’” (23) We are called to rethink our lifestyles, our relationships, the organization of our societies and, above all, the meaning of our existence. (FT 33) Hope is capable of looking beyond convenience and opening us up to grand ideals. (FT 55)

  • Returning to Viviana’s life experience, what impact would the belief that life is meant to be suffered have on her life?
  • Have you known girls or women who have grown up believing that life is meant to be painful? If so, what would you say to them?
  • How do we accompany women and girls who believe life is synonymous with suffering or another belief preventing them from flourishing in society?
  • What would you say about Pope Francis’ statement: “…[women] are frequently less able to defend their rights”?

Action

  • Take an online, free course in Gender, available in English, French, and Spanish. If you are interested, please visit the website https://portal.trainingcentre.unwomen.org
  • Participate in the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which will be broadcast at Home | UN Web TV from March 11 to 22. This year, women and youth, along with Member States, academia, and civil society organizations, will reflect on how to accelerate the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.[2] You may select the presentations that interest you.
  • Form a small discussion group, which may include women, girls, boys, and men, and learn together about the Empowerment of Women and Girls. You may start by learning about the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality. Click on the following link, United Nations: Gender equality and women’s empowerment, or write the title on the computer’s browser.

Closing Prayer

Pope Francis, in the Holy Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, said, “Every society needs to accept the gift that is woman, every woman: to respect, defend and esteem women, in the knowledge that whosoever harms a single woman profanes God, who was ‘born of a woman’.”   Let’s pray:  Hail Mary…

Prepared by Beatriz Martinez-Garcia, SSND, Central Pacific Province, for the Shalom International Network
Graphic taken from 25th General Chapter design by Joyelle Proot, SSND CP

[1] Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis, St Peter’s Basilica, Monday, 1st January 2024, The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, 57th World Day Of Peace.

[2] https://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw68-2024