To coincide with start of the fifty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women taking place at the UN Headquarters in New York, a new survey and report, A blueprint for UN Women, commissioned by Oxfam Novib and VSO UK, sets out some views of the role UN Women should play in helping to secure women’s human rights, gender equality and social justice internationally.
VSO Chief Executive Officer Marg Mayne said UN Women offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver real change for women everywhere, and especially the world’s most disadvantaged and impoverished women.
“The UN so far has largely failed women in the developing world. Seventy per cent of people living in poverty are women, 60% of people living with HIV in sub-Sahara Africa are women and girls, and violence against women continues to be at alarming levels. The Blueprint for UN Women clearly lays out a direction for UN Women from the people that know best and are working on the ground to deliver change for women in developing countries.”
Farah Karimi, Executive Director of Oxfam Novib, a member of the Oxfam Confederation, said:
“UN Women is a great opportunity to change the status quo on women’s rights. The message hundreds of activists are telling UN Women is loud and clear: reach out to women and help empower them to change their lives. Without aligning its work with the needs and priorities of women at country level, especially in rural areas, it‘s unlikely the agency will achieve its mission.”
The report sends a clear message that UN Women must hold governments to account for delivering rights and equality for their women, and its five recommendations are:
- VAW must be the main priority for urgent action, directly and as a thematic issue.
- UN Women should focus on rural women and ensure its programmes are tailored to fit specific groups, such as disabled or uneducated women, to maximise impact.
- UN Women should adopt a different approach to working at country level to UN agencies in the past. Its approach should be transformative, leading to actual change.
- It should engage with civil society as genuine partners at country level, calling on the experience of CSOs and opening spaces for them to participate in decision-making at national level.
- UN Women needs to examine its relationships with governments at country level to ensure that governments deliver on their commitments to women’s rights.