Gender Equality in God’s Plan

Responding to: Women, Development, and Catholic Social Thought

By: Emmanuel Foro

March 9, 2015

In development plans having qualified personnel is of primary importance. For reasons linked to cultural schemes, women in most African countries have been available in smaller numbers in smaller numbers, with lower education, for high profile jobs. One could also notice that women have had little presence in the scientific areas of general education and even less in technology fields in higher learning. How could we promote sustainable development without the full participation of this section of humanity? 

All the principles of Catholic social thought (CST) include women, but the key principles in my view are: the common good, dignity, participation, and subsidiarity. It may suffice here to refer to John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem of August 15, 1988 stating among several helpful affirmations that: "The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at his moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling." In this apostolic letter the Pope deplores human diminishment if women are perceived as men’s possession or anything less than equal to men—indeed, as some religious interpretations have twisted and erroneously interpreted the human community. By indicating the true meaning of service as kingship, the dignity of work is brought forth as the engine of development—a task that concerns both men and women.

When we build on the principle of human dignity according to CST there is no point at which man and woman stand on different levels. CST draws on the traditional or catechetical view that “the woman, ‘flesh of his flesh,’ his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a ‘helpmate’ [who] represents God from whom comes our help.” Cultures may thus religiously interpret gender difference by emphasizing expressions such as “given to man” to mean real possession—while remaining oblivious to other expressions such as the affirmation that woman “represents God” to man. How is an ambassador or representative to be treated? Today, on the African continent most countries (and I know better about Burkina Faso) have undertaken programs to increase the enrollment and completion rates of girls in primary and secondary schools. Statistics point to success rates of about 60 percent. No need to stress again the Rwandan achievement on women’s representation in Parliament and the social benefits thereof. Mental change and practical training in gender equality based on the human dignity principle must be maintained without threat to quality and excellence.

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Gender Equality in God’s Plan