Becoming a Godmother for the first time…

Jema Davis is a returned volunteer from VSO and is studying part time for a Masters in peace studies

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Worldwide more than 60 million girls have been forced into early marriage. Of the 780 million people who can’t read, 510 million are female. Women work two thirds of the world’s working hours but earn just 10% of the income.

So says the charity VSO in the introduction to their new Godmothers campaign. No matter how familiar you are with statistics like these, they are still shocking. Perhaps most shocking of all, Womankind Worldwide (which is also supporting the Godmothers campaign) estimates that one in three women in the world will be victims of some form of violence.

The new UN women’s agency – headed by ex-Chilean president Michelle Bachelet – aims to help put a stop to this state of affairs, describing itself as “the UN organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women”. Its goal is to ensure that all the different agencies of the UN are meeting their commitments on gender, as well as working with individual states to support them to take concrete steps to improve the lives of their female citizens.

However, UN Women is still in its very early stages and some are already concerned that it will never be given the resources it needs to be able to achieve anything like its full potential. As Madeleine Bunting points out in The Guardian, global leaders might like to talk the talk of gender equality, but most don’t seem half so keen to actually walk the walk and take concrete action – particularly if that means spending money.

This is where the Godmothers initiative comes in. From their website:

The Godmothers is a group of men and women who think women everywhere deserve a chance. Together we’ll watch over UN Women, help keep it on track and protect it from people who’d like to see it fail – everything a good godmother would do. By making sure UN Women gets the powers and funding it needs, we can make life better for millions of women worldwide.

Whilst the name might suggest otherwise, there is little commitment – and certainly no religious commitment – involved in becoming a Godmother. Godmothers (of any gender) will simply be provided with updates on the progress of UN Women and opportunities to take action to ensure it gets what it needs. The website has loads more information, including personal stories from women around the world who hope to benefit from the work of UN Women.

And so – for the first time – I’ve accepted the request to become a Godmother. I’m certainly not expecting miracles: UN Women is not going to singlehandedly put a stop to the violence, discrimination and poverty so many women have to contend with around the world. But it might make a start – if it gets the resources. And the only way that seems likely to happen is if enough of us show those in power that we care what happens to UN Women – and what better way to show you care than by becoming a Godmother?