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Global Women’s Issues Subject of Theological Center’s Symposium

Melanne Verveer

Melanne Verveer, United States Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues, says women around the world are still striving for equality while battling against injustices such as violence, rape and slavery.

March 27, 2012 – Women are agents of change around the world, Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues, said during a recent Women’s History Month celebration at the Woodstock Theological Center.

“They stood shoulder to shoulder with the men on Tahrir Square in Cairo, on the streets of Tunisia, in the uprisings in Libya,” said Verveer, who holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Georgetown. “They stood there for dignity, for freedom and for a better life even though the struggle, post revolutions, goes on.”

Verveer opened the symposium, which took place on March 24 and focused on promoting empowerment for the next generation of women across the globe.

Woodstock is an independent, Jesuit-sponsored research institute located at Georgetown.

Freedom Barriers

Verveer outlined the current injustices and exploitative treatment of women, including violence, rape, slavery and sex trafficking.

“All around the world women are striving for equality,” she said. “The shear force of this struggle underscores the inequalities that too many women, in too many places still confront.”

Cathleen Kaveny, a law and theology professor at the University of Notre Dame highlighted the dangerous role that stereotypes and gender constructs play on women’s freedom.

“We have to break stereotypes of what men are and what women are,” she said. “The problem with a stereotype is that it tries to take a three-dimensional person and force [him or her] into a tiny box of other people’s expectations. The problem is it doesn’t respond to the real and living person before you.”

Church’s Role

Kaveny acknowledged that there are “significant public barriers in the Church that do not fit in the broader world.”

She talked to the audience about how the Catholic Church could be a friend and ally in promoting the rights and well being of women.

“Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God," Kaveny said of Catholic teachings. "...each human being is an icon of God…and deserves a formal equality under the law.”

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