In one of the speeches, at the United Nations Women's Conference last week, a
woman from Qatar talked about the "modern family." It was a
"Modern family represents a threat to the patriarchal society in view
of the changes it introduces to the social relevance and status of
women," said Dr. Juhaina Al Easa, vice president of the Supreme Council
for Family Affairs in Qatar. She pointed out that the woman is the
first beneficiary in the "shift from the extended family and tribe to
the modern family, for at least she would be under the authority of her
husband only, after she had been under that of all the men of her
family/clan or tribe."
This comment opens a window into the lives of many women in third-world countries, whose lives are governed by "dependence and
subordination" to their husbands or other male relatives, as described
by Dr. Easa.
I will always remember another comment from a women in 1977, after a
rather contentious Washington State Women's Conference. Abortion, gay
rights and "equal rights" were promoted by radical feminists, but
pro-family women prevailed, and the final platform was pro-life and
family-friendly. Later, as we sat on the lawn, she shared her concerns —
through her tears.
"I lived in Utah a few years ago," she said. "And, if I had had a
husband like most of the Mormon men I knew, I wouldn't be working so
hard for women's rights." She was the mother of five children, and her
husband had abandoned her.
A family proclamation, issued by the LDS Church in 1995, states that
"fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another, as equal
partners." Many women in third-world countries would consider that
condition a great step forward — toward a modern family.
Education is usually at the center of any discussion toward women's
empowerment. But, does a higher education help a woman become a better
The World Bank thinks so. Its Web site claims that educating a
girl (woman) contributes to "reduction of child and maternal mortality,
improvement of child nutrition and health, lower fertility rates,
enhancement of women's domestic role and their political participation,
improvement of the economic productivity and growth,"
The second step, toward the sustainability of the family, according
to Easa, is to ensure a woman's "active participation in the labor
market." However, as women become more active in the labor market, more
children are raised in day-care facilities. There is good research, on
both sides of this issue, as to whether this is in the best interest of
children — and thus society.
So, is there an ideal family? Is one type of family more beneficial
to society than another?
For me — a family is a family is a family! All families have value
to society as the place where children are brought into the world,
taught, loved, and prepared for their future.