The United Nations made history today as UN Women, the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, has officially begun its work. This ambitious new organization consolidates and scales up UN actions to achieve gender equality, offering the promise of accelerated progress in realizing the rights of women worldwide.
Formally known as the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, UN Women emerged from agreement by UN Member States — backed by strong advocacy from the global women’s movement — that more must be done so women can claim equal rights and opportunities.
“UN Women will significantly boost UN efforts to promote gender equality, expand opportunity and tackle discrimination around the globe,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
“This is a time of great promise,” said UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, formerly President of Chile. “We have a historic opportunity to accelerate the achievement of what champions of gender equality have worked towards for years.”
UN Women was created by a UN General Assembly resolution in July 2010, becoming fully operational on 1 January 2011. It merges and builds on four parts of the UN system:
- Division for the Advancement of Women
- International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women
- Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women
- United Nations Development Fund for Women
As a global champion for women, UN Women will work with UN Member States to agree on international standards for gender equality, and help countries implement those standards. It will assist other UN agencies engaged with a broad spectrum of development issues to integrate gender equality priorities in their activities. Carrying out its programmes, UN Women will also work closely with civil society partners.
Gender equality is a basic human right and has enormous socio-economic ramifications. Empowering women fuels thriving economies, for example, spurring productivity and growth.
Many countries have made significant progress in advancing women’s standing, but gender discrimination remains deeply entrenched in every society. Women continue to suffer extreme forms of violence, and are locked out of many economic opportunities. Only low numbers participate in politics.
The United Nations has consistently supported progress in addressing these shortfalls but has faced hindrances including inadequate funding. A minimum of US$500 million has been set as the annual operating budget for UN Women.