Friday, 25 February 2011

Launch of UN WOMEN: taking the first steps…

With all the attention on UN WOMEN these days, an article from the Guardian caught my eye. It is titled “Send a message to UN WOMEN” and invites readers to express their voice by sending a photo illustrating their opinions, hopes and expectations of UNWOMEN to a Flickr group created for the occasion.

On February 24th 2011, UN WOMEN, the new United Nation’s entity solely dedicated to promoting and enhancing gender equality and women’s empowerment was created. Coinciding with the week long 55th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, the launch was celebrated with a big bang by political leaders, women leaders, media personalities and celebrities. These celebrations fit in perfectly with the upcoming next few weeks of attention on gender equality, as the current CSW will continue until March 3rd only to be followed by International Women’s day on March 8th. In preparation for this launch and to comment on the first steps of this new agency, journalists and bloggers have been vocal in expressing their thoughts, expectations and even their doubts on this new UN “superagency”. This is a good thing, as it attracts attention to important issues relating to gender equality. However, what happens when all of this will die off in a few weeks’ time when the party’s over? Hopefully the creation of UN WOMEN will be able to keep the momentum on women’s advancement going, even after this month’s frenzy of activity on the topic.

The Guardian’s initiative is a great and original way to keep people involved and ask them what they think about UN WOMEN. It keeps attention on the issue of women’s empowerment rather than on institutional and bureaucratic questions. Others express concerns on the lag it took the Agency to become operational and also on its financing. But for an organisation that was long awaited by gender practitioners and advocates this seems normal, as any transition phase usually can be bumpy.

A more important concern is that by merging four international agencies and offices and centralising gender issues in one organisation, the risk is to overshadow other organisations that have projects and divisions working on gender. The biggest risk is mostly for NGOs and grassroot organisations – will they still receive adequate support and funding? Or will it all go to UN WOMEN? It is important to have one strong entity focusing on this topic but also to keep the light on other very important projects and initiatives led by more technical and specialised organisations.

Let’s wait and see….

Nejma Bouchama

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