Empowerment Of Women Religious

Objectives
  • To bring about a more gender- just church and society
  • Capacity building among women religious, facilitating ongoing reflection and action
  • Create awareness of the Gender Policy of CBCI and Assist in the implementation
  • To focus on the prophetic role of women in the church and society
Areas of focus
  • Women in the Church
Action plan
  • Organise national and regional programmes, seminars, consultations on various issues
  • Create forums of religious women
  • Sustain Religious lawyers forum

Empowerment of women religious was initiated with the generous support of Missio and Misereor. Streevani organizes national and regional level seminars, workshops and consultations. Streevani takes up relevant issues through women religious lawyers forum and other likeminded groups. Streevani networks with organizations such as Indian Christian Women's Movement(ICWM), Conference of Religious in India (CRI), Indian Women Theologians Forum (IWTF), CBCI women's commission and Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace.

Third National Consultation on Gender Relations in the Church and Society :
"Living Nirbhaya: Towards a Violence Free Society"

The third National Consultation on the Theme: "Living Nirbhaya: Towards a Violence Free Society", was organized by Streevani Pune, in collaboration with Satyashodhak, IWTF (Indian Woman Theologians Forum) and Montfort Social Institute from 9 - 11 August at Atmadharshan, Andheri (E), Mumbai. There were 44 participants consisted of Priests, Women and Men Religious and Laity from across the Country. Arch Bishop Dominic Lumen of Imphal, Chair Person of the CBCI office for Women and Bishop Agnello Gracias, Auxiliary Bishop of Mumbai Arch Diocese and Sr. Rita Pinto RSCJ, National President of CRI Sister's Section encouraged the group with their participation.

The Consultation was a follow up of the 1st consultation organized by Streevani in 2010 and the subsequent one jointly organized by Streevani, Montfort Social Institute, Satyashodhak, and IWTF (Indian Women Theologians Forum) 2011. These consultations were prompted by two important contemporary events in the Church: The publication of The Gender Policy of the Catholic Church in India, by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (2010) and the unprecedented crisis in the universal Church triggered by revelations in the public sphere of cases of sex abuse.

In line with the vigorous public discourse and protest following the brutal gang rape of the 23-year-old in Delhi and many such incidents, the consultation focused on change of mindset and asserted that equality between women and men is a human right issue and a theological imperative.

The specific topics that led to our discussions are deliberation are as follows:

  • Opening Liturgy on violence and healing: Shalini Mulackal PVBM
    Sharing experience: Virginia Saldanha
  • Opening messages: Bishop Agnelo Gracias, Auxiliary Bishop of Mumbai Sr. Rita Pinto RSCJ, CRI National President, Sisters Section
  • Situating Theme: Helen Saldhanha
  • Psycho-social aspect of Masculinity: M. T. Joseph SVD
  • Theology of Power: Women's perspective - Kochurani Abraham
  • Masculinity and power in Scripture, Theology and Tradition - Subash Anand
  • Law related to Rape and Domestic Violence under misogynist court rulings - Julie George SSpS
  • Healing from brokenness: M.C. Abraham CSC
  • An analytical study on the Child abuse policy of the Church and the draft Policy on Sexual Abuse - Varghese Theckanath SG
  • Respecting Victims of Gender based violence : the church and Social change - Lisa Cahill (USA)
  • Mutuality and Reciprocity as Fundamental Norms in Sexual Relations - Shaji George Kochuthara CMI
  • Gender Policy as vehicle to bring change - Astrid Lobo Gajiwala
  • Strategies for living Nirbhaya - Jacob Parappally and Noella D'Souza MCJ

All the 44 participants including Arch Bishop Dominc Lumen of Imphal and Bishop Agnello Gracias, Auxiliary Bishop of Mumbai Arch Diocese agreed that the consultation has reignited a sense of commitment in us to the cause of gender justice as a follower of our LORD. The group felt that there is an urgency for consciousness-raising on gender-equality and mutuality in the church. Some of the suggestions came up are:

  • Introducing sex-education/gender education in the educational Institutions and other faith formation programs for children, youth and adults.
  • Gender sensitized priests could use the pulpit to create awareness on issues of gender-violence and sexual violence so that the people can address these issues in their families, work place etc.
  • It is highly recommended that the Gender Policy is brought into the formation program in seminaries and other formation houses as part of the curriculum.
  • It is important that every parish has some mechanism to identify the cases of abuse and deal with the issues. The community centres, family commission, youth commission, women's cell etc. can give a lead on this and these can network with other NGOs or groups that have greater competence on this.
  • Ecumenical and inter-religious groups comprising women and men who want to address gender-violence and create mutuality and partnerships in man-woman relationships can be initiated outside the church circles and these can network with other secular groups committed to the cause of gender-justice.
  • Ensure marriage preparation program with one or two follow-ups after marriage. Expand the issues dealt with to include gender sensitivity, compatibility, mutuality-reciprocity, use of contraceptives, etc.
  • Change of mindset through personal commitment, Dissemination of information, Making use of existing forums like seminaries, Superior's forum, women commission to talk and discuss about the issue wherever possible.

The 2nd National Consultation on "Gender Relations in the Church: A Call to Wholeness and Equal Discipleship"

The 2nd National Consultation on the Theme: "Gender Relations in the Church: A Call to Wholeness and Equal Discipleship," was organized by Streevani, Satyashodhak, IWTF (Indian Women Theologians Forum) and Montfort Social Institute at Anugraha, Mumabi from 13th to 15th August 2011. Forty two persons representing all the various groups within the Indian Catholic Church participated in this consultation. They included a bishop, lay men and women, religious men and women, and diocesan clergy. There were grass root activists, advocates, theologians, psychologists, educators, journalists, and persons in leadership positions in the Church. This consultation was a follow up of the first consultation held in Pune by Streevani on 15th August 2010 on the theme: "Gender Relations in the Church: A Call to Integrity and Justice."

After situating the theme of the consultation by exploring the way patriarchy operates both in the society and in the Church, the group spent a whole day reflecting on the theme, "Sexual Abuse: A Crime and a Sin." There were five input sessions on various aspects of the said theme before the group took up questions to discuss and to come up with recommendations to various bodies in the Church so that timely action can be taken to respond to Sexual Abuse in the Church, both of children and of women. The following day the group reflected on the theme, "Structures in the Church for Partnership." The Group looked at the theological basis of Hierarchical Structures in the Church and its implications for gender relations with the help of an excellent input session. The group also reflected on the often adverse psychological impact of Hierarchical Structures for gender relations in the Church. Moreover, listening to four panelists, a lay woman professional, a married theologian, a religious sister and a religious brother, who spoke on "Negotiating Partnership in the Church," helped the Group to come up with more recommendations that will ensure gender equality and partnership in the Church.

Among the recommendations were the formulation of a code of conduct and redressal mechanism address the problem of pedophilia and sexual harassment in the Church, theological formation for all sections of the community for personal and structural liberation, and steps to demythologize the hierarchy, priesthood and the eucharist, so that their true and liberative meaning for the Christian community is unveiled.

The Consultation concluded that unless these and other steps are followed up urgently, the Indian Church could face the same crisis that has besought the Church in many countries in the West.