We, the Representatives of the Associations of Women from the IMBISA region: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa and Zimbabwe; attending the IMBISA Safeguarding Workshop for Leaders of Women’s Associations at the St. Padre Pio Retreat Centre on the 6-9 June 2022, have taken a critical thinking on the Safeguarding of Minors and the Vulnerable, along the Pastoral Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem of Pope St. John Paul II as a point of reference.

Having reflected on the major points of Pope St. John Paul II’s Pastoral Letter on the Dignity of Women and the topic on Child Safeguarding the vulnerable persons as topical in our world and in the Church today, we realise the urgency of the interconnectedness of everything and the urgently needed action to restore harmony in the lives of human beings and with nature.

We recognise that Mulieris Dignitatem presents the doctrine of creation of the human person in the image and likeness of God. Mulieris Dignitatem also explores the role and value of women in relation to the Church, the family, and society, promoting a vision of complementarity, equality, and communion between men and women.

We recommend that each Episcopal Conference disseminates Pope St. John Paul II’s Pastoral Letter on the Dignity of Women and more documents from the Supreme Pontiffs in order to enhance the awareness and continue to address and reflect on issues of women dignity.

Every human being has value and dignity which we recognise as stemming directly from God’s creation of making Male and female in his own image and likeness. As a result, we believe that all people deserve to be valid, supported and protected from harm.

We have identified that Safeguarding is an incredibly important means of protecting at risk individuals from harm, abuse and neglect. Failing one’s Safeguarding Responsibilities could prolong the suffering that someone is facing. We believe therefore that our focus should be on signs and indicators in abused people, preventing abuse and Spiritual trauma and providing Pastoral care to victims and survivors of abuse.

The Safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is a collective responsibility of all church members. Facilities of worship need to be protective places for children and vulnerable adults where they feel safe, nurtured and seek God in a secure environment.

Commitment statement:
We the women from member countries of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa, hereby commit ourselves to cascading information on Safeguarding minors and vulnerable persons in our various countries. We commit to carrying out awareness campaigns with the support of our bishops through funding and provision of platforms to fulfil our mandate. We commit to pass on information from Apostolic Letters from the Holy Father which are published from time to time and hereby urge our Episcopal Conferences to share this information timeously. It’s saddening that we are responding to Mulieris Dignitatem 34 years down the line, when this should have helped empower women and encourage them to be active participants in the mission of Christ. We undertake to take an active role in the Church’s mission.