Tribute to Margaret C. (Peg) Snyder by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women

Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Yesterday the world lost a founding figure and a pathfinder in the work for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Referred to as the ‘UN’s First Feminist’, she had a distinguished career at the United Nations, as well as being an author, international expert on girls and women in the economic development of Africa, and academic, with positions including at Syracuse University and Princeton University, and as a Fulbright scholar in Uganda.

Having been appointed the first director of the Voluntary Fund for the UN Decade for Women, she subsequently became the founding director in 1978 of UNIFEM, or the UN Development Fund for Women, which she led for over a decade. In this transformative role, she reoriented UN thinking to recognize the importance of bringing resources directly to women and women’s organizations. She oversaw and led pioneering achievements like revolving microcredit for women and supporting village savings and loans, bringing attention and finance to the activities of rural and poor urban women across the world that changed their status and brought new opportunities.

She was a relentless advocate, travelling into her late 80s, with undiminished passion to bring change. Colleagues remember her wit, her humour and her absolute drive to see women’s political participation and economic empowerment. She has been a continuing inspiration to many young feminists and feminist allies who came into the UN to work on gender equality, and engaged with many of them until recently.

Her passing comes at a point where the importance of bringing women’s voices and skills to the forefront has never been more important for the world’s ability to move ahead resiliently and creatively.

We thank her, honour her countless contributions to women across the world, and take forward her legacy.