UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous conducted a three-day mission in Colombia, where she met with government officials, civil society groups, and partners. The purpose of the mission was to build on momentum and galvanize action for women’s leadership and gender equality across Colombia.
The mission came as a new government took office, led by President Gustavo Petro and Vice-President Francia Márquez, the country’s first Afro-descendant woman Vice President. The new government has committed to prioritize gender equality, and to reach gender parity in cabinet appointments. To date, for the Government’s 18 ministries, nine women have been appointed as minister. In his inauguration speech on 7 August, President Petro re-confirmed gender quality as a high priority of the new government.
The meetings undertaken during the mission underscored Colombia’s progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment, while also highlighting that significant progress need be made to achieve SDG 5 and fully tap women and girls’ potential to drive progress across the SDGs, including with respect to peace and security as the country continues to implement its Peace Agreement.
In a meeting with Vice President Francia Márquez, the latter emphasized to Ms. Bahous the importance of inter-sectional approaches, including specific focus on enhancing support for Colombia’s Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. For her part, Ms. Bahous congratulated the Vice-President for her historic achievement as the country’s first Afro-descendant woman to hold that office, and pledged UN Women’s strong support to the Government’s gender equality agenda.
Discussions with First Lady Verónica Alcocer focused on the importance of tackling gender-based violence. Ms. Bahous confirmed UN Women’s readiness to boost efforts in this regard.
Solutions to address the challenges facing women in rural areas of Colombia were the focus of a meeting with Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cecilia López. A meeting with Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laura Gils, focused on expanding efforts to support progress at the intersection of women’s empowerment and peace.
While in Colombia the Executive Director also met with Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the country, and head of the United Nations Verification Mission, along with representatives of women’s coalitions who play key roles in the implementation of Colombia’s Peace Agreement. In her remarks to the group, Ms. Bahous referred to the Colombia experience as a ‘model for the world’ in terms of the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 and, broadly speaking, the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.
Ms. Bahous met as well with United Nations Resident Coordinator Mireia Villar. The two UN officials agreed that strong coordination across United Nations agencies is the key to ensure effective support not only for the advancement of women and girls, but indeed across the entirety of the development agenda.
UN Women’s key international partners also figured prominently in the agenda. Ms. Bahous joined a meeting held by the Swedish Embassy to Colombia, with partners including the European Union, and Norway. Sweden, the EU and Norway are among UN Women’s top funding and policy partners, globally and in Colombia.
As a means of reviewing the implementation of UN Women’s mandate in the country, Ms. Bahous also visited a “Care Block” in Bogotá. Care Blocks are an innovative initiative led by the Mayor’s Office in Bogota, with support from Sweden and UN Women. At these centers, women are supported to be able to deliver on care needs more efficiently and receive psycho-social support and health and education services. Pioneered in Bogotá, the model is being replicated across the country and in several locations throughout the Latin America and Caribbean region.
Speaking at the conclusion of the mission, Ms. Bahous congratulated Colombia for its progress on women’s empowerment, gender equality, and peace and security. She also confirmed UN Women’s commitment and strong support as the country continues its advancement.
Upon arrival in New York, on Twitter, Ms. Bahous exhorted the international community to continue its support and engagement with Colombia, highlighting that the quest for equality, like the SDGs, are truly global in scope and in implementation. Follow-up actions are being planned to ensure that the outcomes of the mission continue to accelerate progress towards women’s empowerment across Colombia.