Advancement of Women

We welcome opportunities to collaborate and partner with organizations working to foster a public discourse about the advancement of women and the equality of women and men. This is an area of active interest. Below is a brief essay setting out some reflections on the equality of women and men, elements of which draw upon the discussion paper cited below.

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A Bahá'í Perspective

The equality of women and men is one of the central teachings of the Bahá’í Faith, and a principle that continues to have far-reaching implications for Canadian society. While many today would readily agree with this idea, inequality is still embedded within social structures and aspects of our culture. Despite the efforts of feminists and many individuals and groups, there is a clear need to continue to work for the application of this principle in all aspects of social relations, including in the family, the workplace, politics, and the organization of economic life.

The Bahá’í teachings emphasize that the equality of women and men is not just an aspiration for society, but a truth about human beings. The basic reality of a human being is the soul, which has no intrinsic gender. The soul has qualities and potentialities that are common between men and women: the reflection of the Divine that is in each of us. While there are undeniable physical differences between men and women that influence their experience in the world, they share the same spiritual reality. Indeed, people are shaped a range of identities derived from their physical and social conditions. Many of these identities can enrich individual and collective lives when they are understood in relation to the common humanity that binds each of us together.

When viewed in this way, it is possible to see that despite any differences that appear between men and women, they do not justify discrimination or the subordination of one to another. Our shared human purpose is to develop our individual potential and to contribute to the well-being of society in many spheres of life.

Society is composed of people with a magnificent range of identities, who nevertheless must discover ways to overcome self-interested impulses in order to discover cooperative and complementary ways of organizing a common life. There is no simple model to apply to family life, work, and representation in different professions that would accomplish this goal. What need to recognize the differences that exist among people without essentializing them, so that men and women can realize their full potential and contribute to the advancement of society.

The challenge of applying the principle of the equality of women and men also reaches into the structure of our economic life. Economic arrangements have, in many respects, been built on a model of productivity and achievement that rewards competition and the singular pursuit of efficiency. Many are disadvantaged or excluded from fully developing their skills and abilities, and contributing to the prosperity of their communities. Women are often structurally marginalized within this kind of economic logic. There is a need to consider how to reconceptualize the nature and purpose of work, wealth and economic empowerment, and how to make room for economic relationships premised on cooperation and mutuality.