UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet Calls for Increased Political and Economic Empowerment for Women

By Victoria Sung and Charlotte Lorick, VGIF UN Representatives

On February 2nd, Executive Director Michelle Bachelet gave a press conference marking the one-year anniversary of UN Women. Referencing the democracy movement in the Arab states and the global economic crisis, Bachelet outlined six priorities for UN Women in the coming year.

“At this moment of historic change, we cannot afford to leave women out. Women’s full and equal participation in the political arena is fundamental to democracy and justice,” Bachelet stated, placing emphasis on the first goal of UN women, the advancement of women’s political participation and leadership. For 2012, UN Women will support movements in 52 countries for gender equality in leadership, including training in legislative techniques to advance women’s presence in politics.

Bachelet also prioritized economic empowerment. In 2011, for example, UN Women improved laws and conditions in various countries by increasing access to markets and providing training. In one case, UN Women worked with a women’s cooperative in Senegal to provide women with fishing licenses for the first time ever. Bachelet plans to continue facilitating economic progress for women like this in the year 2012 and beyond.

Bachelet went on to speak about three more goals: ending violence against women and girls, expanding the role of women in post-conflict talks and recovery, and increasing intergovernmental coordination and accountability across the UN in terms of gender equality. She stressed that sexual violence affects both men and women, remarking, “Violence against women is not just a woman’s issue. It diminishes each of us and has tremendous social and economic costs.” In the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 150 individuals were convicted of rape and other acts of sexual violence. Their recent conviction was a milestone in the fight against gender based violence.

In order to accomplish its goals for global economic and political empowerment for women, UN Women hopes to increase contributions from $235 million in 2011 to $700 million in 2012 through 2013. For, as Bachelet reminds us, “We simply can no longer afford to deny the full potential of one-half of the population.”

The UN General Assembly created UN Women in July 2010 in a historic move towards gender equality within the UN system. UN Women works towards equality as outlined in the UN Charter of Rights, including the empowerment of and the elimination of discrimination against women and girls. UN Women became operational on January 1, 2011. Although it is only a year old, UN Women can celebrate the achievements of the previous year and look forward to a busy 2012.

 

To watch the UN webcast of the press conference, visit: http://bit.ly/zNp7cc

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