CBCI OFFICE FOR WOMEN
(CATHOLIC BISHOP’S CONFERENCE OF INDIA)
CBCI Centre, 1, Ashok Place, Near Goledakkhana, New Delhi-110001, India
Tel: 011-29961058(O), 09868618613(M); Email: email@example.com
Chairman: Most Rev. Dominic Lumon, Archbishop of Imphal, Members: Most Rev. Mathew Anikuzhikattil, Bishop of Idukki
Secretary: Sr. Helen Saldanha, SSpS Most Rev. Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom, Bishop of Pathamthitta
Date: 7th August 2012
Subject: Prayer and Reflection for the commemoration of Girl Child Day -8th September 2012
Your Eminence, Your Grace, Your Excellency, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters
Greetings from CBCI Office for Women!
On the 8th September, as we commemorate the birthday of Mother Mary the Church invites us to celebrate the Girl Child Day. I am happy to forward a ‘Prayer and Reflection’ to you, prepared by CBCI Office For Women, with the hope that it will help us in our celebration of the event.
Every child is a precious gift. In celebrating the Girl Child Day the Church is calling us once again to commit ourselves to the dignity of the Girl children. Though there are differences from place to place and culture to culture we all know that girl children are less welcome in Indian society. It is a challenge for all of us as we face the death-promoting forces in our society that wish to eliminate human lives specially that of girl children.
On this Girl Child Day, let us pray and make plans to change this situation and promote the acceptance of girl children as a gift of God to the family and humanity.
In Christ Jesus,
+Archbishop Dominic Lumon
Archbishop of Imphal
Chairman CBCI office for Women
GIRL CHILD DAY – 8th SEPTMEBER 2012
Prayer and Reflection
Today, the birthday of our Beloved Mother Mary! The Church in India dedicates this day to the Girl Child. Where would we be without Mother Mary! Where would we be if our mother was not allowed to be born? Every girl is a precious gift. She is born in the image and likeness of God, equal in dignity as much as a boy. However we live in a culture where sons are preferred over daughters. The elimination, discrimination and atrocities meted out to girl children must be condemned as such crimes disfigure the image and likeness of God in human persons. Empowering girls recognizing their potentials bring changes in the world. During this prayer, we remember all those millions of missing girls who were murdered before and after their birth. We thank God for every girl child in our family, neighbourhood, parishes, institutions and society.
Prayer for forgiveness:
Jesus, forgive us for our indifference in the face of imbalanced sex ratio caused by brutal murders of girl children
Response: LORD, heal us of our indifference and challenge us to be your messengers of justice
Jesus, forgive us for our insensitivity towards the increasing crimes against children and women that we witness daily.
Response: LORD, heal us of our insensitivity and challenge us to be your messengers of hope.
Jesus, forgive us for our lack of courage to stand for the dignity and rights of children.
Response: LORD, heal us of our fears and challenge us to be your messengers of life.
Readings for reflection:
Prayers of the Faithful:
Leader: Brothers and Sisters we are called to fill our world with God’s love and justice. Let us pray for our Church and society through the powerful intercession of Mary our Mother.
Our response will be: God of Life, hear our prayer
. 1. For our Church and its leaders, that they may achieve the desired results envisaged in the Gender Policy of the Catholic Church in India through every parish cells. Let us pray.
2. For the young girls that they may recognize their innate power to empower themselves and others. Let us pray.
3. For all the faithful that we help create a country where both girls and boys can live and grow with equal opportunities through education and empowerment. Let us pray.
4. For the governments that it may take strong steps to put an end to the growing violence and atrocities against the girl child through proper enactments and implementation of laws. Let us pray.
5. For all the families in this parish that they may be homes of love, sharing, mutual respect and equality. Let us pray.
6. For the children of our world, the sick, disabled or ostracized due to sickness like HIV/AIDS that they may feel your healing touch in the environment they live in. Let us pray.
7. For the children on the street and those, forced into child labour in houses, institutions and factories that their rights and wellbeing be protected through proper implementation of laws. Let us pray.
8. For children who are victims of abuse or human trafficking, that they may be helped to rebuild their lives again. Let us pray.
9. For our parish community that we may have the courage to address the issue of missing girls in various forums and work towards the change of mindset. Let us pray.
(Pause for personal intentions)
Leader: God of Life and Compassion, hear our prayers and strengthen us your people to celebrate the gift of every child. Help us to bring a healing touch to children who are afraid and take a step forward towards protecting them. We make this prayer through Mary, and her son Jesus, who showed us just how precious a girl child can be, Amen.
Thoughts for shared reflection:
The Olympics is the most watched multi sporting event in the world. What is noteworthy is the rise of Indian women in the field of sports, in particular the rise of Saina Nehwal, a Haryanvi girl, where the sex ratio is the lowest; and Mary Kom from Manipur, one of the 7 States of the Northeast India, that is deprived of the nation’s attention it deserves. Both these women have made India proud winning Bronze medals in Olympics 2012.
Behind the stories of both these women, lies a story of grit, determination and discipline that very few in the country can boast of. It also reflects the struggles they would have encountered fighting despite the system and society at large. This is what Saina has to say: “I was really surprised when I was told that my grandmother did not come to see me till a month after my birth. I was born seven years after my only sister and my birth was a big disappointment for her. In it there is a message that I understand very well now about the discrimination against the girl child. My uncles and other relatives are against encouraging girls in every aspect and that includes sports. I hardly interact with them. My parents are more open. They back me all the way.” (Saina Nehwal in her interview to The Times of India in 2010)
Yes, it is the family support they received that made their success possible. Behind Saina were her parents who supported her to pursue her goal. And in the case of Mary Kom, a mother of two young children, it was her husband who has been the pillar of strength in helping her pursue her dreams. He takes care of the children, the house and is also a supporting partner for the 5-time world champion.
Connecting Girls and Empowering Futures was the theme of International Women’s Day 2012. To bring out the best in girls one needs to go beyond the cultural bias that is deeply rooted in our society. Discrimination against girls begins in the womb itself and is motivated by socially accepted devaluation of females. The problem of a declining sex ratio is located at the complex interface of the status of women in Indian society, patriarchal social mores and prejudice, spread and misuse of medical technology, the changing aspirations of urban and rural society, the unprecedented rise of a consumer culture, changes in family structure and reproductive decision-making, as well as other factors, and requires a complex but coherent and holistic national response at multiple levels by multiple stakeholders. India’s current responses, consisting in the main of implementation of the Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (prohibition of sex selection) Act, 1994, a range of ad-hoc media messages on the girl child, and conditional cash transfer schemes, fall short of such a holistic vision for action.
A recent study by UN says, ‘India is the worst place for women among G20 countries’. The abnormal sex ratio is alarming and it has led to imbalance in the society. Studies show that women and girls from the northeast are trafficked to northern India as sex slaves. The sex ratio is 940 women for 1000 men according to 2011census of India. Still worse is the falling sex ratio among 0-6 years which dropped from 927 in 2001 to 914 girls for 1000 boys in 2011. United Nations Children’s Fund estimated that up to 50 million girls are missing from India’s population because of sex selection abortions. Female feticide, killing of the female infants for want of a son, dowry related harassments and murders, rape, sexual abuse, witch-hunting, increasing domestic violence, desertion, honour killings, and other forms of violence against women show that India has a sound patriarchal society, strengthened by the pillars of caste and class. India ranks 129 out of 146 countries on Gender Inequality Index. Afghanistan is the only country that is ranked below India in South Asia (UN Report on Gender Inequality Index 2011).
What can we do?
We can take pride that the Catholic community has a favourable sex ratio. The educational status among females is also better. The Catholic Church in India has contributed towards the humanization of the society through its educational, health-care outreach and socio-economic interventions.
As followers of Christ and as citizens of our country, we must spread the message of equality between girls and boys concretely by sensitization and awareness programmes. India’s young population be specifically targeted through tools of mass media, event based advocacy, and reaching out to them through schools, colleges, and similar networks. Holding of competitions and participation in campaigns for promoting the rights and dignity of the girl children, analyzing with the young the personal experiences, events and occurrences reported in the media, and enhancing their ability to stand for their rights with self confidence are some of the ways by which we can make a difference. In the context of great social change taking place in India, Advocacy strategy would need to identify fault lines where devaluation of women and conformity to traditional roles.
The Gender Policy of the Catholic Church of India 2010 prioritizes the dignity and survival of the girl child as one of the special areas of concern. It clearly shows us the way to address this problem:
The Church’s love for children stems from Christ’s teachings and example. Children hold the hope for the future and must be nurtured. They form one of the largest vulnerable groups in society and hence the Constitution of India has laid special emphasis on their well being and protection.
Among children, the girl child is particularly vulnerable. In recognition of this, international and national communities have special provisions for the development of the girl child and adolescent girls, particularly with regard to their survival, health, nutrition, education, protection and participation in family and society. The Church supports and commits herself to these ideals.
- All forms of discrimination and violation of the rights of the girl child needs to be eliminated, within and outside the family.
- Strictly enforce laws against prenatal sex selection, female foeticide, female infanticide, child marriage, child abuse, child prostitution, child trafficking and child labour.
- Promote girl child’s right to life, education, nutrition, health and development.
- Protect the girl child from discriminatory neglect and all forms of abuse including sexual abuse.
- Project a positive image of the girl child among girls themselves, boys, parents, teachers and society at large
- Church institution should avoid gender stereotyping in extra-curricular activities, and provide training in skills, use of playgrounds, choice of optional subjects, handling of sexual harassment/abuse issues, gender profile of decision-making bodies including parent-teacher associations.
- Promote awareness about the government schemes for the girl child through homilies, dispensaries, hospitals, health centers, grass-root social and educational institutions and catechism classes.
Let us be the instruments of change to give each girl the dignity she deserves specially the Right to Live.
Every Child is Precious!