In commemoration of Mother’s Day and the International Day of Families, IOF has provided the following statement, which is co-signed by organizations around the world, to United Nations ambassadors and their missions.
More for Motherhood: A Call for Reflection and Recommitment
“The great contribution of women to the welfare of the family and to the development of society,” declared the United Nations in the preamble to its 1981 treaty on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, is “so far not fully recognized.” Will it ever be?
“While history books sing the victories of valiant emperors and warriors,” observed Archbishop Bernardito Auza, former Permanent Representative of the Holy See, “all of civilization… owes an unpayable debt of gratitude to the less chronicled or even unknown contributions of women that have shaped civilizations, like the silent but constant flow of deep waters that shape rivers.” Indeed, “humanity owes its survival to the choice women make not just to welcome children, but raise them to be virtuous and authentically human.”
Unfortunately, noted the Archbishop, “we’re living in a time when the unique value and dignity of motherhood in some societies is insufficiently defended, appreciated and advanced, leaving women culturally and legally in a position to choose between their intellectual and professional development and their personal growth as wives and mothers. Women’s essential contributions to the development of society through their dedication to their family and to raising the next generation is inadequately acknowledged. Sometimes their invisible and often heroic service is even disparaged as an antiquated and unwholesome model of feminine life.”
That this remarkable development is happening even in the United Nations is a betrayal of the principles it proclaimed shortly after its founding—whose 75th anniversary we observe this year—in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The only time the Declaration designates a class of rights as “special” is when it speaks of motherhood: “Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.” And the only time the Declaration acknowledges a group unit as having rights is when it speaks of family: “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”
This core connection between motherhood and family was emphasized by then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon: “Mothers play a critical role in the family, which is a powerful force for social cohesion and integration. The mother-child relationship is vital for the healthy development of children…. We face multiple challenges in our changing world, but one factor remains constant: the timeless importance of mothers and their invaluable contribution to raising the next generation.”
But it is a reality that has too often been ignored in the work of the Commission on the Status of Women, whose declaration adopted at this year’s annual meeting—reduced by the COVID-19 crisis from the usual ten-day gathering to a one-day procedural event—fails even to mention “mother” or “motherhood.” The potential repercussions of such continued failure are ominous, according to Archbishop Auza: “Our future is already mirrored in how we, as individuals and as a society, support mothers to raise strong and healthy families.”
As so many across the world celebrate Mother’s Day in 2020, we urge that this unique convergence with UN75 and COVID-19 be a time of reflection and recommitment: reflection on the yet-to-be-fully-appreciated role of mothers; and recommitment to provide that “special care and assistance” to which they are entitled as they fulfill their world-changing role. “Families are truly the foundation of society,” said President Ronald Reagan, “and mothers the vital foundation of the life of the family. Their influence on the training and education of our youth is so deep and pervasive that it is impossible to measure.”