Remarks by Executive Director Michelle Bachelet on First Anniversary of UN Women


[Check against delivery.]

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to meet you.

This is my first press conference this year and this is the first anniversary of UN Women.

As the Executive Director, I want report on our first year of operations, what we achieved, some of the challenges, and our priorities for 2012.

One year ago, UN Women was just a baby. Today, we are up and running.

We've come a long way in a short period of time and I am proud of what we have accomplished until now.

Two major developments dominated the global debate in 2011: the democracy movement in the Arab States and the continued financial and economic crisis. Women have been involved in and affected by both and UN Women rendered important support.

During our first year of operations, I focused on building a strong organization with clear goals and strategies. The 41 countries of our Executive Board approved our strategic plan with six priorities.

UN Women is present in 75 countries. Now I'd like to provide you with highlights from our first year and our plans for 2012 for our six priorities.

First, advancing women's political participation and leadership.

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, which people are demanding.

When the protests erupted in Tunisia and Tahrir Square, UN Women responded immediately—by providing support for women's participation in constitutional reform, elections and political transition. I travelled four times to the region to meet with women and young people.

UN Women supported the establishment of the Egyptian Women's Union, an association of 500 groups, and facilitated the formulation of their demands in the Egyptian Women's Charter.

In October, UN Women called out for concrete proposals from governments and civil society in Arab States to support women's political participation and empowerment.

In response, we are providing $4.8 million dollars through the Gender Equality Fund to advance women's empowerment in the Arab world.

In September, we brought women leaders together at the UN General Assembly to call for more women leaders in politics worldwide. In December, Member States adopted a new resolution that calls on countries to take concrete steps to increase women's political participation and leadership, and report back to the UN Secretary-General in 2013.

In 2011, UN Women provided support to more than 25 countries, to candidates, political parties, voters, electoral commissions and legislative efforts to ensure that more women vote and get elected.

In 2012, UN Women will support women's movements in 52 countries for women's leadership. We will work with parliaments in 20 countries to amend laws to include gender equality. We will organize training sessions in 38 countries along with meetings for parliamentary and legislative techniques to advance women's political participation.

We will support training for women candidates in 27 countries. And we will support reforms of electoral laws in 39 countries to facilitate the inclusion of women in elections as voters and candidates.

Second, improving women's economic empowerment.

Without women, we cannot have a healthy economy. Yet today more than 800 million women lack the education, training, and opportunities to participate fully in economic life. Unleashing women's economic potential will make economic growth and recovery faster and more equitable. Economic empowerment makes other rights possible for women.

In 2011, UN Women supported countries in providing training and skills, increasing access to markets, and making policies, laws and conditions fair for women. For example,

  • We supported the International Convention on Domestic Workers, which was adopted.
  • We supported women's cooperatives in countries. In Senegal, women now have fishing licenses for the first time, and I understand they are catching more fish than men.
  • In El Salvador, women are now protected by a new law on gender equality to advance equal opportunity in education and employment and improve women's rights.
  • In Morocco, ethnic women now have the right to inherit common lands and have received land and compensation.

I bring you these examples because in each, new ground was broken. A new path was opened for girls and women for years to come!

We have also reached out the private sector. So far 257 CEOs have committed to the Women's Empowerment Principles to advance decent working conditions and equal opportunities for women.

We are also working to empower rural women and have initiated a partnership with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Food Programme.

In 2012, UN Women will make a major global push with partners worldwide for women's economic empowerment. To put women on equal footing with men, we will advance training, equitable laws, social protection, and equal access to opportunities and assets such as land and credit.

Third, ending violence against women and girls.

Violence against women is not just a woman's issue. It diminishes each of us and has tremendous social and economic costs. It is not inevitable and can be prevented.

In 2011, UN Women issued our first flagship report on progress for the world's women, In Pursuit of Justice. The report found that in many countries, the rule of law still rules women out. It is also found that legal reform, policy change, increasing the number of women police and judges, and supporting women's legal groups can make justice work for women.

In 2011, UN Women launched a global policy agenda to end violence against women, and initiative to provide essential services to survivors. We supported governments, women's groups and others in adopting laws and policies, raising awareness and delivering services.

  • Now for the first time women in Cambodia have legal protection from acid attacks. The sale of acid is regulated and attackers face more severe sentences for these crimes.
  • In Zambia ‘safe spaces' for girls in five schools are being expanded to reach more schools and girls supported by the Ministry of Education.
  • In Liberia, women set up justice brigades and now the level of violence is lower and more perpetrators have been brought to justice.
  • Along the border of Brazil and Paraguay, indigenous women leaders are working to stop the trafficking of women and girls and have educated more than 4,000 indigenous women.

Innovative programmes have emerged from the UN Trust Fund to end violence against women.

By the end of 2011, the UN Trust Fund had a portfolio of 96 active grants, covering 86 countries, with a total value of over US$61 million.

The impact of the 2011 grants is expected to reach over 6 million people.

Yet more funding is needed. In every region, women are calling for intensified action and resources to end these human rights violations.

In 2012, UN Women will focus on making justice work for women, ending impunity, furthering prevention by engaging broad sectors of society, and ensuring services for survivors.

Fourth, expanding the role of women in peace talks, peace-building, and recovery.

Women are more than victims of conflict, they are leaders of peace and democracy. This message was delivered when the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three women.

In 2011, UN Women took steps to make sure that women play a central role in peace talks and peacebuilding and women affected by conflict can find justice.

National action plans were finalized in Georgia, Serbia and the United States to advance Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

We supported women's participation in international engagement conferences in Afghanistan and the newest Member State, South Sudan.

More than 250 women in Africa and Asia were trained to be mediators in conflict prevention, and peacekeepers were trained pre-deployment to prevent and respond to sexual violence.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 150 military and police were sentenced for rape and other acts of sexual violence.

A UN system-wide framework was put in place to increase coordination and accountability across the UN system for women's participation in resolving conflict, building peace and ending sexual violence.

And there is agreement across the UN system to allocate at least 15 percent of budgets for post-conflict recovery to ensure women's participation, and at least 40 percent of temporary jobs in post-conflict recovery to women.

In 2012, UN Women we will focus on increasing women's participation in peace processes and political transitions, and expanding women's access to employment, justice and security in post-conflict situations.

Fifth, making budgets and plans benefit women and men equally.

A budget shows top political priorities. A budget seen through a gender lens reveals how public allocations can benefit women.

In 2011, UN Women worked in more than 50 countries to build capacity in gender analysis and budgeting, using sex disaggregated data for more equitable public policies and budgets.

  • In Ecuador, Ministries now use gender responsive budgeting, and resources allocated for gender equality have tripled from the previous year.
  • In Montevideo, Uruguay, the Mayor is advised by a council of women on the city's budgets and plans, and safety and services have improved.
  • In Rwanda, gender budgeting is used, more money is devoted to women's health and maternal mortality has declined.

In 2012, UN Women will continue to work with UN Country teams to expand gender responsive budgeting with the participation of women to achieve lasting institutional change.

Sixth, increasing coordination and accountability across the UN system for gender equality.

UN Women has been called by governments to lead, coordinate and enhance the accountability of the UN system in its work on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

A system-wide action plan is now prepared that will provide us with a stronger foundation than ever before for promoting gender mainstreaming and accountability within the UN system.

Priorities for 2012

My top priority for 2012 will be to make a renewed push for women's economic empowerment and political participation. This is in response to women's demands and also to recent events, to the transformations taking place in the political, social and economic spheres.

And let me say this. Obviously, this is not something that UN Women can do alone. Equality depends on global mobilization, the support of decision-makers, the voice of the media, and a concerted effort by the entire UN system and other development partners.

In 2011, contributions to UN Women totaled $235 million, representing a 33 percent increase from 2010 and our donor base has widened. However, we need more. Meeting the target of $700 million for 2012 through 2013 will require intensified fundraising efforts.

Today I call for stronger commitment for women's empowerment and gender equality. During this time of austerity and uncertainty, we cannot let budget cuts and political change cut progress for girls and women. Our challenge is not only to protect hard won gains, but to advance the rights of women.

With rising demands for justice, upcoming elections in many countries and political transition, we have an opportunity to open doors wider for women.

And there is also a practical imperative, a matter of necessity. We simply can no longer afford to deny the full potential of one-half of the population. The world needs to tap into the talent and wisdom of women. Whether the issue is food security, economic recovery, health, or peace and security, the participation of women is needed now more than ever.

I thank you and look forward to your questions.