Reverence for, and protection of, motherhood have often been used as justification for keeping women socially and economically disadvantaged. It is this discriminatory and injurious result that must change. Great honour and nobility are rightly conferred on the station of motherhood and the importance of training children. Addressing the high station of motherhood, the Bahá’í Writings state, “O ye loving mothers, know ye that in God’s sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind. . . .”1 One great challenge facing society is to make social and economic provisions for the full and equal participation of women in all aspects of life while simultaneously reinforcing the critical functions of motherhood.
When we consider previous articles (that have been posted in this series) that discuss the variety of abuses still being perpetrated towards women – either of a social, emotional, physical or superstitious nature – it needs to be seen in the context of the woman as the first educator of the child. If a woman is treated as a possession – there only to serve her husband – or is physically or emotionally abused, or is treated as less important than her male counterpart, how well equipped will she be to raise the next generation of children?
According to the Bahá’í Faith, the role of the woman as the first educator of children is so important that the future of a balanced, harmonious and peaceful society depends on it. Stating that the acquisition of knowledge serves as “a ladder for [his] ascent,”2 the Bahá’í Faith prescribes identical education for women and men but stipulates that, when resources are limited, first priority should be given to the education of women and girls. This is departure from the prevailing opinion of educating boys rather than girls if a choice needs to be made. The education of girls is particularly important because, although both parents have responsibilities for the rearing of children, it is through educated mothers that the benefits of knowledge can be most effectively diffused throughout society.
From an employer’s perspective, it is often heard that it is a problem to engage women and to invest time and money into their training as so often these women leave the workplace for some time to raise their children. While this is not true of most women, who take only a brief leave period for maternity purposes, would it not be a far more positive approach to regard any development of women as helping the next generation to prosper from her knowledge? For companies who spend a great deal of money on social improvement and responsibility, the time invested in their female staff is never wasted when those staff leave their employment to raise a family – rather, that valuable input will help to create an ever advancing and capable society. A noble goal for companies to aspire to indeed!
- Abdu’l Bahá – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l Bahá
- Báhá’u’lláh – Epistle to the Son of the Wolf