Trócaire CEO: 'We must commit to dismantle barriers to women in leadership'
By Deborah Castellano Lubov and Francesca Merlo
"Change can happen," says Trócaire CEO, Caoimhe de Barra, to advance qualified women in leadership, but it is necessary to realize that the challenges women face are great, and that long-standing societal concepts must be broken down.
This was the observation which the Irish NGO's female Chief Executive Officer told Vatican News' Francesca Merlo in an interview on the sidelines of the conference taking place in Paris entitled "The Full Face of Humanity: Women in leadership for a just society," on 27-28 October.
The two-day event was organized by Caritas Internationalis, in partnership with the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to UNESCO.
Trócaire: the Irish member of Caritas Internationalis
Trócaire is the Church in Ireland's overseas development agency, operating in up to 20 of the world's most fragile countries..
The Irish member of the Caritas Internationalis federation, Trócaire, last year alone, brought support and relief to 1.8 million people living in poverty, conflict and injustice.
Discrimination, even where greatest equality
Asked about her view of the current realities facing the equality of women in the workplace in particular, and in leadership, the CEO responded candidly.
Exacerbated in low-income countries
She noted that this phenomenon is exacerbated depending on where one looks.
Society rooted in mistaken concepts
Asked why, she said: "It is essentially because our societies are rooted in a concept of what it means to be male and what it means to be female and what men can do and should do and women can and should do."
"These social norms," he said, "effectively determine the space that women have to safely decide to step out and to challenge what society expects of them."
"Very often when women do step out of their prescribed roles, they face discrimination, they may face violence, they face barriers, such as the fact that there is nobody else to do the child care," said Ms. de Barra. "If a woman wants to go out to work or even to put herself forward for a politically representative role. So it is because that we in society tolerate these norms, that change is not happening now."
Change can happen
She responded to some ways to break down these barriers.
Since various "faith leaders are influential people to whom others look for direction," she suggested that this ongoing conversation they, as a faith-based organization, maintain among them "can be a useful instrument in advancing change, and adjusting mentalities."
Evidenced-based strategies can achieve awareness
"Ordinary community members asking each other to think about what it means to hold views that men and women are different and should behave in different ways and how things could be done differently and done better."
"Ultimately, by using evidence based strategies that are locally and contextually appropriate," she explained, "we can achieve huge change both in areas like reduction of gender-based violence, but also in other realms like enabling women to play bigger roles in the societies that they live in, roles as decision makers, as policymakers."
Need to critically analyse
"In all parts of our societies," Ms. de Barra said, "we need to have more women in leadership roles and we need to critically analyze what are the barriers that stop women participating at senior levels, whether it's in a corporate function or whether it's in a faith-based organisation or any institution."
By properly examining the barriers, she said, they can often be dismantled.
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