Tag Archives: UN women

VGIF is happy to announce the re-launch of its VGIF @ the UN blog

We would like to introduce you to our VGIF United Nations interns, Meryl Roux and Taysha Milagros Clark.

Meryl and Taysha were involved with VGIF at CSW 57 and after a summer hiatus have continued to attend meetings at the UN throughout the fall.

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Meryl is a senior at Manhattanville College, double-majoring in Political Science and International Studies. Working with VGIF is her first experience with a grassroots organization and she is very enthusiastic about gaining insights into the community development issues that she believes matter the most.  Meryl looks forward to continuing to learn more about the internal workings of the United Nations and reporting back to you, here on the blog.

Taysha is a sophomore at Barnard College, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Human Rights with a minor in Sociology. She is enthusiastic about VGIF because she is a firm believer that women’s rights are human rights, and vice versa. She is eager to see these issues discussed in different perspectives, and enjoys the work she is doing to help VGIF better the lives of not only women, but entire communities.

Taysha and Meryl will be representing VGIF at the UN through May, including as VGIF delegates at the 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March.  They receive support from the program director at the VGIF office, and in biweekly UN discussion meetings with Michaela Walsh of the UN Committee.

The many human rights issues discussed at the UN include violence against women, poverty, gender equality, literacy, maternal health and child mortality —these are some of issues that VGIF address in its grants program for women and girls in developing countries. As representatives of VGIF, the interns are encouraged to “make their voices heard.”  They are learning to be leaders engaged in improving the lives of women and girls worldwide, so listen for their voices in the coming weeks.

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At CSW56: “Nothing about us, without us.”

By Charlotte Lorick, VGIF UN Representative

It has been an eventful CSW56 Conference thus far, featuring inspirational and oftentimes eye-opening talk on rural women’s rights. Amidst the discussion about gender equality in rural communities, there has been an underlying buzz of concern among attendees. Despite the fact that an estimated 4,000 women from across the world have made it to the conference, some are concerned that many women’s voices are still not being represented. According to Bathabile Dlamini, Minister of Social Development in South Africa, their voices may be the most important of all.

At the Socialist International Women (SIW) Side Event on Thursday, hosted by the Permanent Mission of Italy, Dlamini shared her views on the situation of rural women in South Africa. Much of her discussion focused on the many problems that rural women are facing in her country, including patriarchal cultural practices, little access to leadership positions, and inadequate control over their own resources. The last point she made was most notable of all – she expressed her concern that many of these women are incapable of sharing their personal stories with the world. She feels that the very women that this conference focuses on have little impact on the diplomatic process at the UN and have very little power to change their situation. As she put it, “We all have come here to New York and left most of the rural women at home. We are talking about their futures and well-being and they are not even included in this discussion.” I have heard similar concerns at some of the other meetings, complaints that many women were denied a VISA, or that many simply do not have the funds to make the trip. She then went on to say that the women who do manage to make the trip to New York have faced some challenges. “We are traveling so far and yet many events have no translation and we do not have access to the rooms where decisions are actually being made.”

She appealed to the NGO community, the international community, and the UN member states to rethink the current system. NGO members have not come here just to talk. They have come to New York seeking change, and to improve their lives and the lives of the millions of women they represent. The time has come for action. We all know the problems. We all know the solutions. Now it is a matter of political will and getting the governments to implement the necessary changes. To accomplish this, to encourage government action, and to ensure that the right decisions are made, it is important that politicians hear from the rural women who need their help. Or as Dlamini so rightly concluded, “Nothing about us, without us!” We now must ask ourselves: How can we, as individuals and NGOs, ensure that action is taken and that we carry her message over into CSW 57?

UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet with youth delegates at the Youth Delegates Orientation

Executive Director of UN Women Meets Youth Delegates to the Commission on the Status of WomenAt the Youth Delegate Orientation at the 56th Session of CSW on February 26, 2012. Our interns Sophie, Victoria, and Charlotte are somewhere in this photo! Michelle Bachelet spoke to the girls about being the voice of youth and paving the way forward for the next generation. She believes that this generation of girls will be the ones to push words into actions.

Photo Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown

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

Report of the First Regular Session of the Executive Board, UN Women

Reporting by Julie Tam

Delegation Responses to the Report on Operational Activities

The Under-Secretary-General/Executive Director Michelle Bachelet produced a statement underlining the key issues discussed in the report of the Under-Secretary-General/Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women on operational activities. Following Bachelet’s statement were statements made by delegates of countries of the Executive Board in regards to the report in the following order: Spain, Estonia, Tanzania, Bangladesh, India, Peru, Japan, Argentina, U.S., Russia, China, Korea, Mexico, Finland, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Indonesia, New Zealand, Dominican Republic, Libya, Pakistan, Malaysia, Norway, Nigeria.  After these statements, delegates from these non-members of the Executive Board made contributions to the discussion:  Germany, Greece, Kenya, and Switzerland. Click for a full list of the Executive Board and Bureau.

Broadly speaking, the general issues raised were concerns about UN Women’s funding,[1] fair distribution (with some suggesting emphasis on middle income countries[2] and others emphasizing equitable funding geographically[3]), effectiveness[4], efficiency, capacity[5], and systematic cohesion. The delegate from Kenya specifically requested funding be allocated where it will be the most effective and that UN Women not become just another UN agency — that it distinguish itself by being different. Several delegates made calls for sound financial management, including support for gender responsive national budgeting[6] and cost recovery policy reform[7].

Cohesion: It was suggested UN Women consolidate human resources of the UN in general and make gender mainstreaming a priority within the UN[8].  Delegates from China and Pakistan both suggested better integration of UN Women with governments and other development agents. Brazil’s delegate called for a comprehensive guideline for national policies. Such a guideline would likely be challenged by China’s delegate, based on the country’s vocalized concerns about national sovereignty over policy. China’s delegate also expressed concern over linking aid with development gender indicators. In contrast, Korea’s delegate advocated for the mainstreaming of gender statistics into national statistics to make country monitoring more comparable and conclusive. The delegate for Indonesia called for a comprehensive assessment of national regime efforts in regards to gender inequality. Russia’s delegate made explicit his concern over the legitimacy of UN Women. Russia’s delegate emphasized country ownership of programs and declared authorization for a UN Women presence to be garnered by request from the host nation.  In line with Russia’s delegate’s concerns, Pakistan’s delegate was apprehensive about the use of noncore resources for any program out of sync with national priorities.

Other issues raised by country delegates at the session included concern over monitoring and evaluation plans as well as improved transparency at the country and UN levels of operation[9]. Various delegates called for UN Women to prioritize economic empowerment, poverty elimination, and/or political inequality. Pakistan’s delegate advised the creation of a network of women parliamentarians and Libya’s delegate requested greater support for women’s political empowerment. Germany’s delegate called for UN Women to maintain a network of business women to encourage the exchange of information, practices, and support internationally. Kenya’s delegate called on UN Women to be more than just another UN agency, but something more dynamic.  Along with these initiatives, some delegates requested a greater emphasis on South-South and triangular cooperation plans[10].

Executive Staff Responses to Comments by Board and Delegations

The response to these concerns was extensive and underscored where UN Women may already be addressing the issues mentioned by the country representatives. In regard to the call for greater cooperation with other agencies, delegates were reminded that UN Women is working closely throughout the UN system, specifically with QCPR, DESA, UNDG, FAO, ILO, World Bank and others.  It was also noted that the regional architecture review, a report coming in May, will address the changes needed to improve capacity and help with efforts to restructure UN Women’s strategic plan. The staff agreed that a greater emphasis should be placed on efficiency and results orientation. To achieve this, the staff accepted the requests to strengthen evaluation teams on the ground and set up a community of practitioners to share best practices across regions.

Funding: Core and noncore funding should be matched 50/50.  As noncore funding increases, countries can expand programs in line with national agendas but that as core funding increases, UN Women’s initiative will gain capacity and these funds will be used in line with UN Women’s priorities. In regard to requests for the allocation of resources to middle income countries the staff restated the universal mandate of UN Women but also conceded to the need for further discussion on the allocation of resources since 72% of the world’s poorest people live in middle income countries. The staff agreed that a major issue for UN Women is resource mobilization as there is an overdependence on voluntary government pledges.  A continuous point of effort will be to enhance contributions to reach the target of $400 million for 2012.

The staff emphasized the importance of a positive sum relationship between core and noncore resources and the need for core resources to reach critical mass. It was stated that core resources should not subsidize noncore programs. Additionally, it was said that UN Women will focus on developing and strengthening private sector’s interest in gender issues at all levels to enhance funding, especially on the ground level. Also needed is greater evidence of the value added of UN Women to increase intergovernmental connection with operational activities.

Capacity: The Executive Board staff agreed with the call for better structured and institutional linkages between field and center.  The staff mentioned the role of CSW in bringing operational experience to strengthen field activities.  The focus on increasing core funding to maximize country teams was described as necessary to improve UN Women’s reach and impact on the ground.  Efforts to strategically change national policy and mainstream gender issues within the UN are also critical next steps to improve capacity.

Draft decision, First Regular Session 2012 of the UN-Women Executive Board

1)    Takes note of the “Report of the Under-Secretary-General/Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women on operational activities (UNW/2012/1).

2)    Decides to transmit the report to the Economic and Social Council

Draft Annual Workplan

Annual Session: 29 May – 1 June 2012

Second Regular Session 5 – 7 September 2012


[1] Estonia, Bangladesh, Peru, Argentina, Canada, Indonesia, NorwayDominican Republic, Libya

[2] Peru, Argentina, Mexico

[3] China, Libya, Pakistan

[4] Korea, Argentina, Mexico, Kenya, Switzerland

[5] Canada, Estonia,

[6] Ethiopia, Germany

[7] Canada, Korea, Argentina, Indonesia, Kenya

[8] Canada, Switzerland, Korea

[9] Russia, China, Canada

[10] Mexico, Kenya