Women: playing our part to transform society
by Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ (rcsocialjusticett.org) & Director, CREDI
From May 22-24, I attended an International Conference in Rome entitled: “Women and the post-2015 development agenda: the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
Over 100 women participated in the three-day event which was organised by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in collaboration with the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations, and the World Women’s Alliance for Life and Family.
Although progress has been made in certain areas, the world will not successfully attain the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by September 2015. Currently, the UN is elaborating a new post-2015 development agenda and is consulting on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), 169 targets and more than 400 indicators. The new SDG framework for development and global governance is projected until 2030. It is important to note that the MDGs and SDGs are, as Villa Kulild says, “totally different animals.”
The women who gathered in Rome shared our views on the SDGs and targets and at the end of some very fruitful discussions, we produced a document containing our comments and suggestions that might be useful to the Holy See “for its activity in the international fora.”
In his message to us, Pope Francis said: “I encourage you, who are engaged in defending the dignity of women and promoting their rights, to allow yourselves to be constantly guided by the spirit of humanity and compassion in the service of your neighbour. May your work be marked first and foremost by professional competence, without self-interest or superficial activism, but with generous dedication. In this way you will manifest the countless God-given gifts which women have to offer, encouraging others to promote sensitivity, understanding and dialogue in settling conflicts big and small, in healing wounds, in nurturing all life at every level of society, and in embodying the mercy and tenderness which bring reconciliation and unity to our world. All this is part of that ‘feminine genius’ of which our society stands in such great need.”
One of the highlights of my trip to Rome was to participate in the Eucharistic celebration on Pentecost Sunday. It was truly a wonderful sight to behold as Pope Francis and the cardinals drew near us in their red chasubles.
We were allocated seats immediately next to the Papal Altar in St Peter’s Basilica – Bernini’s masterpiece, a majestic bronze “baldacchino” (98 ft. canopy). St Peter’s tomb lies directly below the altar.
I looked up inside the ‘ciborium’ and saw the dove – the symbol of the Holy Spirit. As my eyes moved further up to Michelangelo’s 452 ft. dome (cupola), I recalled my youth when my friends and I walked to the top to take in the amazing views.
Back in TT, on May 30 I joined Frs Arnold Francis and Harold Imamshah to participate in the closing ceremony for the women who were graduating from the eight week ‘Women of Grace Foundation Study Series: Full of Grace, Women and the Abundant Life.’
President of Women of Grace, Johnette Benkovic of St Petersburg, USA, shared some words of encouragement with the graduands via telephone. She is the author of the study guide and the accompanying book used on the programme.
I commend Bernadette Patrick, Caribbean regional coordinator, for embracing this initiative and for her plans to share the programme with other women.
In my presentation, I focused on the theme: Women as agents of change. I reminded them that “being agents of change is not an easy task. You will face many challenges… The Eucharist, our scriptures, the social doctrine of our Church and prayer will nourish you on your journey.”
“Being agents of change means being prepared to work to develop a culture of volunteerism – we need mentors, role models, advocates – we must speak out for the voiceless and, where necessary, empower others so that they can realise their potential. Our country and our world need healing. We must strive to change systems, structures, institutions and public policies that are at the root causes of injustice.”
“We have a responsibility as Catholics to strive to transform our communities and our world to reflect Gospel values…Vatican II stressed the need for the Catholic Church to stand in solidarity with the whole human family.”
“On the last day we will be asked: ‘How well did you love?’ Love of God and neighbour requires us to see through the lens of Christ. Are we feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and afflicted, and comforting/standing up for the victims of injustice? (Matthew 25:31-46).”
Go forth, Women of Grace, to build God’s Kingdom!