The birth of the long-awaited ‘UN Women’

September 22, 2010

Posted by The KC team

The Alliance hosts a citizen journalism programme called Key Correspondents (KCs).

Writes Key Correspondent, Suksma Ratri.

Women are celebrating the creation of new UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, to be known as UN Women, after four years of intense advocacy.

The Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign responded positively to the adoption of UN Women on July 2nd, 2010, by the United Nations General Assembly. This move had been sought by women’s organizations and other civil society organizations around the world since the UN established a System-Wide Coherence Panel for UN Reform in 2006.

The founding members of GEAR have high expectations for the new agency to be a solid foundation for advancing women’s rights as central to global policy efforts to reduce poverty and move toward greater realization of peace and democracy in the world. The coalition of women’s groups and other social justice, human rights and development organizations that played an important role in this effort will now turn its efforts toward ensuring the new body has the human and financial resources needed to succeed.

The GEAR Campaign’s global, regional, and national networks will be contacting UN representatives at all levels to work with the transition process and the new Under Secretary-General, once appointed, to ensure they are connected with organizations on the ground ready to provide their expertise and support.

As the new entity is developed, GEAR supporters will continue to advocate for four major elements critical to its implementation:

• Meaningful, systematic and diverse civil society participation at all levels

• Strong, country-level operational capacity and universal coverage

• Ambitious funding with stable and predictable resources aimed at reaching $1 billion within a few years

• Strong leadership at the top with an Under Secretary-General who combines a global vision with gender equality expertise on the ground

The GEAR Campaign itself is a network of more than 300 women’s, human rights and social justice groups around the world that have been working for four years to gain UN Member State and UN Secretariat approval for creation of a larger more coherent coordinated UN agency that can advance further the UN’s mandate of working for gender equality as a crucial component of development, human rights, humanitarian concerns, peace and security.

The new Gender Equality Entity is to be headed by an Under-Secretary General and will consolidate the four existing UN bodies on women: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and the Office of the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI).

It aims to increase operational capacity at the country level and gain increased funding for work on women’s empowerment and advancement. .Bringing these four bodies together and coordinating their work with gender mainstreaming throughout the UN system should allow the UN and its member governments to deliver more effectively on their obligations and commitments to advance gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.

UNIFEM Indonesia launched a UN Women reception on August 18, 2010, attended by numerous women’s organizations, networks and representatives of EU countries in Indonesia. The launch took place in Jakarta and included a speech by Moni Pizani, the Regional Program Director of UNIFEM East and Southeast Asia Regional Office; Mustafa Benlamih, the UN Resident Coordinator; and Sjamsiah Achmad, a former member of CEDAW Committee and Gender Equality Advocate. Unfortunately Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar, the Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Children’s Protection, could not attend the reception.

And because it was a reception, there was no space for questions or discussions. Therefore it was impossible to question the role of UN Women at the country level, especially in relation to the UNAIDS Operational Plan for Women and Girls.

High expectations have been placed on the establishment of UN Women by a lot of organizations and networks around the world. Let’s hope that UN Women can satisfy those expectations by successfully carrying out its mandate in supporting women’s programs, empowerment and rights.

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