The official launch of UN Women – United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, took place on February 24, 2011. Under the motto “We are UN Women” a festive evening unfolded – it was joyful in atmosphere, feminine in colors, and promise-inspiring because of the energy. It was still the first week of the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women so hundreds of women, literally from all corners of the world, filled the General Assembly Hall.
Speakers included UN dignitaries and celebrities known for their activism on behalf of women. In his address Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recalled that this year – 2011 – International Women’s Day is being celebrated for the 100th time. And he explained the reasons behind the creation of UN Women in the following words:
Tonight is a time to celebrate and say thanks, but it is also a time to remember why we worked so hard to create UN Women. We did it for the girl who cannot go to school simply because she is a girl, and the millions of women and girls who need help and protection. We did it for the women who need treatment for HIV, including mothers nursing their babies. We did it for the women who deserve to be sitting as equals in boardrooms and parliaments.
Mrs. Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, is the new Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. She was very clear in stating her conviction:
The decision to establish UN Women reflects global concern with the slow pace of change. It is no longer acceptable to live in a world where young girls are taken out of school and forced into early marriage, where women’s employment opportunities are limited, and where the threat of gender-based violence is a daily reality — at home, in the street, at school and at work.
The neglect of women’s rights means the social and economic potential of half the population is underused.
Mrs. Bachelet outlined five specific areas of focus for UN Women:
1) Expanding women’s voice, leadership and participation;
2) Ending violence against women;
3) Strengthening women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peace processes;
4) Enhancing women’s economic empowerment; and
5) Ensuring gender priorities are reflected in national plans and budgets, including capacity to support CEDAW reporting.
The evening ended with the debut of the song “One Woman” which was dedicated to and composed for UN Women. We all danced in the General Assembly Hall while singing
Though she’s half a world away,
Something in me wants to say
We are One Woman
Though we’re different as can be
We’re connected, she with me –
We are One Woman
Cecile Meijer, rscj