Holy See: Protect Dignity and Promote Integral Development of Women and Girls

Highlights from Archbishop Bernardito Auza’s statement:

Poverty and location, as the Secretary-General’s report notes, remain the greatest threats to the inclusion of girls in education, thus impeding their full participation in the social and economic life of the community.  In his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, Pope Francis draws attention to “the abandonment and neglect […] experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services and where some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or even the hope of a more dignified life.”[1] Women and girls often bear the heaviest burden from these deprivations.

In the area of education, significant progress has been made toward parity between boys and girls from families of relative wealth or decent economic standing. However, as the Secretary-General notes, rural women and girls living in poverty are at “the greatest disadvantage in terms of schooling, literacy, and adult education.”[2] My Delegation would like to draw particular attention to the situation of adolescent girls, who are at the greatest risk of exclusion from education due to social and economic hardships. Whenever young women and girls do not have access to education, they are hindered from becoming dignified agents of their own development.

In seeking to “eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor,”[3] the basic material needs of every school-age girl living in rural areas must be addressed. In this regard, initiatives, such as providing school meals to reduce girls’ absenteeism, have proven efficient and should encourage to spread similar efforts to guarantee access to education to each and every girl. The highlighted partnership between the World Food Programme and local farmers, including women, to provide “home-grown school meals” in 37 countries is also a hopeful example of integral development: it attends to the needs of girls and boys, fosters education and increases market access for women, all at the same time.[4]…

Through poverty and exclusion, adolescent girls, especially those in rural areas, also experience heightened vulnerability to sexual exploitation, child marriage, and other unacceptable forms of violence. The horrifying prevalence of violence against women, thus, remains a salient and sad example of the deep connection between economic exclusion and violence….

The global migration crisis and the particular vulnerability of migrant women and girls are major concerns….

My Delegation commends all endeavors aimed at truly protecting women’s dignity, while promoting their integral development and advancement within the family and society, and remains strongly committed to this noble cause.