Suggestions and Proposals for International Women's Year
The International Community, bearing in mind the purpose for which International Women's Year has been dedicated (General Assembly resolution 3010 (XXVII)), and the report of the Secretary-General on International Women's Year (E/CN.6/576), would like to offer several observations and proposals which we feel may be a contribution to the draft programme of action for that Year to be presented to the Commission on the Status of Women at its twenty-fifth session in 1974. These suggestions are made in view of the particular interest of the International Community in the principle of the equality of men and women, as well as the role of women in relationship to development and the advancement of peace in the world, which the teachings emphasize, and which communities around the world are already aware of and committed to.
In a statement concerning the advancement of women, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme said that "the key to development in the coming decade is the universal acceptance of the need to progress."1 In making proposals for International Women's Year we feel that certain points might be considered which would help to define "progress" -- to give a clearer sense of direction, as well as to determine the most effective and constructive form of action. Progress is often considered only in terms of man's physical well-being, his material needs, development being directed to the accomplishment of a higher standard of living. While the International Community feels that such development is essential to the well-being and happiness of human beings, we would suggest that there are other dimensions of progress which must be included if human beings are to attain full realization of their potentialities. A deeper understanding of the value of human life and of its quality, resting on a spiritual foundation which will lead ultimately to the attainment of co-operation between nations for the advancement of all mankind; the loving assistance which human beings, men and women, must give to each other; the qualities of trustworthiness, honesty and justice which must be developed if humanity is to advance -- are all important aspects of education which must be included. Most people would agree that education is the key to the motivation and the change in attitudes necessary if the generality of women are to make a meaningful contribution to society; but it should be an education that goes beyond the training of human beings intellectually or the acquisition of skills. A sense of worth, assurance and courage are dependent upon the realization of moral and spiritual character -- a fact that is becoming increasingly apparent in both the rich and the poor countries of the world.
The International Community would like to offer the following suggestions which the Branch for the Promotion of the Equality of Men and Women may wish to consider incorporating in some manner in the programmes for International Women's Year.
- To encourage the independent search for truth, free of influence of family, community or nation. This is not to say that women are to be taught a truth, but rather that the spirit of free, impartial and independent investigation should lead in a constructive way to the breaking of inhibiting and outmoded traditional patterns and lead ultimately to unity of understanding and of action. The spirit of independent thought must be fostered if women are to gain knowledge, conviction and courage to take initiative in abandoning traditional ways which impede not only their own advancement but the advancement of men as well.
- To place emphasis on the responsibility of women to acquire education, to become proficient in the arts and sciences, proving by their accomplishments that their abilities and powers have merely been latent. The devotion of women to the industrial and agricultural sciences, for example, in a spirit of service to the greatest needs of mankind at the present time, will demonstrate their capability and ensure the recognition of equality in the social and economic areas of life. The promotion of the rights of women by means of demonstration or by pressure groups may result in divisiveness; while constructive contributions will be recognized and appreciated. It is mentioned in the writings that "when the actions of women show their power there will be no need to proclaim it by words," and that when men recognize the equality of women "there will be no need for them to struggle for their rights."
- To stress that the principle of equality in rights does not necessarily imply that men and women should, or must, exercise the same functions. There are differences between men and women in qualities and powers: mental alertness, intuition and the spiritual qualities of love and service are qualities in which women are strong. There is need for greater emphasis on these qualities and a better balance between spiritual and material powers if humanity is to progress. However, "the fact that there is not equality in functions between the sexes should not infer that either sex is inherently superior or inferior to the other, or that they are unequal in their rights." (From the writings.)
- To place greater emphasis on the importance of the contribution of women as mothers and as educators of children. The teachings point out that "the education of women is more necessary and important than that of man, for the woman is the trainer of the child from infancy. If she be defective and imperfect herself, the child will necessarily be deficient; therefore imperfection of women implies a condition of imperfection in all mankind, for it is the mother who rears, nurtures and guides the growth of the child." It is for this reason that parents are urged to give preference to the education of girls if both boys and girls in the family cannot be given equal opportunity for education.
- It is not the view, however, that women are to be considered important only in relationship to the rearing of children and attending to the duties of the household. The importance placed on the education of women in the faith is intended to bring about the equality of men and women.
- To place emphasis on the assistance which women can give to humanity as peace-makers. Because women by nature are more inclined to peace, and find it more difficult than men to sanction war, as they participate in human affairs, gaining the right to vote and exercise this right, their voice will naturally influence humanity towards peace. The writings make clear that "when all mankind shall receive the same opportunity of education and the equality of men and women be realized, the foundations of war will be utterly destroyed. Equality between men and women is conducive to the abolition of warfare for the reason that women will never be willing to sanction it."
- To educate every person towards the realization of the organic oneness of mankind. Since it is a conviction that the good of any part is dependent upon the good of the whole, as long as women are held in an inferior position and do not attain equality with men, men too will be unable to "achieve the greatness which might be theirs." This principle operates in all areas, whether in relationship to race, class or national differences in the world. As is true of the family -- in which all the rights and prerogatives of each and every member must be preserved, while at "the same time sustaining the unity of the family -- the well-being of humanity is dependent on an equitable and just relationship between nations and the orientation of national Governments towards the whole of mankind."
The Secretary-General has received the following statement which is circulated in accordance with paragraphs 29 and 30 of Economic and Social Council resolution 1296 (XLIV).
1. Paul Hoffman, "The new pioneers of progress," New World Outlook (April 1971).
UN Document #E/CN.6/NGO/251