UN Women Executive Director outlines her vision at Global Civil Society Advisory Group meeting
Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
The second meeting of the UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group was held in New York on 12 February, 2014, highlighting the close working relationship between UN Women and civil society around the world.
This year, the group welcomed two new members, Ms. Winnie Byanyima (Uganda), Executive Director of Oxfam International, and Ms. Musimbi Kanyoro (Kenya), President of the Global Fund for Women.
UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka hosted the meeting, her first since assuming her position in August 2013. In her opening remarks, she outlined her vision for the advancement of a shared agenda by UN Women and civil society, emphasizing that the coming year presented an historic opportunity to achieve change:
“Together, the Beijing+20 review process, the 58th Commission on the Status of Women, and the shaping of the Post-2015 development framework represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to decisively move the world agenda for every woman and girl.”
“By strengthening current partnerships and building new ones, including with the private sector, young women, and men and boys,” she said, “we can do more.”
The Executive Director drew a powerful parallel with her own experience in the campaign to end apartheid in South Africa. She said that as the struggle neared its end, a “line was crossed”, whereby “no self-respecting politician, business leader, sportsperson or newspaper editor could afford to legitimize the apartheid regime.”
The same effort was required, she said, for the world to “cross the line” to end silence in the face of discrimination, inequality and violence against women.
In later discussions, Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka urged a change in the gender equality narrative to reflect the views of economists and others that women are “the solution, to end poverty and achieve sustainable human development.”
“UN Women needs to be at the centre of the discussion on poverty,” said Rawwaida Baksh (Trinidad and Tobago), a member of the group.
Group member Todd Minerson (Canada), Executive Director of the White Ribbon Campaign, stressed the importance of involving men in the change of narrative. “Why are men so afraid of equality? Why is it a zero-sum game?”
The civil society leaders emphasized the need for UN Women to have a bold vision in order to maximize resources and support the efforts of civil society.
“UN Women has the opportunity to do things in a fundamentally different way,” said Kumi Naidoo (South Africa), Global CSAG member and Executive Director of Greenpeace International. He urged UN Women to be the “shield for the women’s movement – the protector, enabler, facilitator.”
Discussions touched on the need to work more effectively with the media to dispel the persistent depiction of women as vulnerable or as victims. UN Women’s grant-making mechanisms were also highlighted as an essential means to engage grass-roots organizations.
The discussions strongly reaffirmed UN Women's commitment to civil society, with the Executive Director pledging even closer strategic collaboration over the coming year.
The members of the Global Civil Society Advisory Group will later issue a Call to Action. It will exhort all citizens, including civil society, young women and men, girls, boys, community leaders, policymakers, and the media, to come together in concerted action to achieve gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment.