UN Women: A step forward for gender equality worldwide
A new UN agency dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women became operational on January 1st, 2011. This is a historical step forward that will consolidate and escalate UN efforts to achieve gender equality and promote women’s rights worldwide, guiding Member States towards an agreement on international standards for gender equality, and helping to ensure those standards are implemented.
Here is a rundown of what you need to know about UN Women…
Why was UN Women created?
The creation of UN Women is the result of a UN General Assembly resolution in July 2010, which recognised that more must be done to enable women to claim equal rights and opportunities across the world.
Gender inequality exists everywhere. Although many countries have made great progress in advancing women’s rights, discrimination and inequality remains deeply entrenched in every society in many different ways- from violence, poverty and sex crimes, to limited participation in politics and corporate leadership roles.
UN Women is the consolidation of four previously distinct parts of the UN that have strived to combat these issues: Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), Office of Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
By combining these groups into a single entity, efforts towards women’s empowerment and gender equality can now be stronger and more focused, bringing together resources and mandates for greater impact. It should also lead to increased funding for and awareness of gender issues, and an elevation of women’s rights as a priority in areas across the board.
What will UN Women do?
The main roles of UN Women are:
- To help inter-governmental groups such as the Commission on the Status of Women, to develop policies, global standards and norms on gender equality,
- To help Member States to implement these standards, providing suitable technical and financial support, and
- To enable Member States to hold the UN system accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.
At a global level, UN Women will be the lead voice advocating women’s empowerment and gender equality. It will foster the sharing of experiences between countries, and build partnerships with civil society to support international goals for women.
It will also work with UN partners at regional and country levels in response to defined needs and priorities, providing operational support to developing countries, as well as advice and assistance as needed to developed countries.
What issues will UN Women focus on?
All areas of human rights and development work have implications on gender issues. UN Women will focus on areas that are most fundamental to women’s empowerment, striving to create change all across the spectrum.
The main priority areas for UN Women include:
- Violence against Women- This one of the most widespread violations of women’s rights and affects women and girls in all countries, of all ages, races, cultures and economic standings. UN Women will advocate strong laws and implementation of services for prevention and protection.
- Peace and Security- Women face specific threats during modern conflicts, most notably rape. Measures need to be taken to prevent these war crimes and support victims, and women should be at the centre of peace talks and post-conflict relief work.
- Leadership and Participation- All across the world, women have limited involvement in political and corporate bodies, and therefore in the decisions that affect them. UN Women will advocate quotas and other measures to allow more opportunities for women’s participation and leadership potential.
- Economic Empowerment- Women account for around 70% of the world’s poor. Women are far behind men in access to land and decent jobs, while research shows that increasing women’s economic opportunities boosts national economies. UN Women will work to lower the barriers that prevent women from seizing such opportunities.
- National Planning and Budgeting- Public planning regularly overlooks women’s specific needs and priorities. UN Women will strive to ensure that gender equality is a stated objective in all plans, and will help advise on and provide appropriate actions for implementation.
How will it be funded?
In the past, efforts to promote gender equality within the UN have been seriously hindered by inadequate funding. In 2008, the combined budget of DAW, INSTRAW, OSAGI, and UNIFEM was just 1% of total UN funds.
While UN Women will still be partially funded by voluntary contributions, the UN budget will invest at least US$500 million (double the 2010 combined budget of the four gender equality groups) as a starting point. However, it has been suggested by some NGOs and aid workers that at least a billion needs to be pledged if any meaningful changes are to be made.
Who will UN Women be run by?
UN Women will be lead by Ms. Michelle Bachelet as the Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General, and headquartered in New York.
To find out more, visit the UN Women website.