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 in 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 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.
Our shared human purpose is to develop our individual potentialities and to contribute to the well-being of society, and to do this in many spheres of life.
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 potentialities and to contribute to the well-being of society, and to do this 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. This is not necessarily a task that lies with those who have been marginalized, but a responsibility that presses most urgently upon those who occupy the most privileged positions in society. There is no simple model to apply to family life, work, and representation in different professions that would adequately accomplish this goal. What is needed are many efforts to recognize the many differences that exist among people without essentializing them, and providing space for a great many social arrangements within which men and women can realize their full potential and contribute to the advancement of society.
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.
The challenge of applying the principle of the equality of women and men to Canada’s social and economic life goes far deeper than employment policies and work-life balance, as important as these might be. It reaches into the very structure of an economy that in many respects has been built on a model of productivity and achievement that rewards ruthless competition and the unrestricted pursuit of efficiency. Those who are unable or unwilling to this competitive logic are easily 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.
Other areas of focus
The Bahá’í community’s efforts to contribute to social progress include participation in the discourses of society in a range of spaces and venues. Whether as individuals, or in official capacities, Bahá’ís work with others to transform society and further the cause of unity, promote human welfare, and promote greater solidarity. Below are found short perspectives and other resources that reflect the contributions of the Bahá’í community to issues of enduring importance to Canadian society.