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Event Marks Ceremonial Launch Of U.N. Women

“After years of planning, fundraising and consultations, U.N. Women was officially launched Thursday,” Inter Press Service reports, describing the expectations for the agency voiced by leaders gathered at the event (D’Almeida, 2/24). The ceremonial launch took place during a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, U.N. News Centre writes.

“With the birth of U.N. Women, we welcome a powerful new agent for progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said ahead of Thursday’s launch. “The challenges are great, but I believe that with the new energy, the new momentum and the new authority that U.N. Women brings, these challenges will be met,” Ban added (2/24).

U.N. Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet “call[ed] the launch the first of many important milestones in the global pursuit of gender equality,” according to a U.N. Women press release. “Think of how much more we can do once women are fully empowered as active agents of change and progress within their societies,” Bachelet said, adding, “Historically, we are at a point of great potential and change for women.”

According to the press release, U.N. Women “will support individual countries in moving towards gender equality in economics and politics, and ending the worldwide phenomenon of violence against women. It will assist in setting international standards for progress, and lead coordinated U.N. efforts to make new opportunities for women and girls central to all U.N. programmes for development and peace” (2/24).

During the launch, Ban “pointed to the $40 billion … pledged in 2010 for the Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health as an example of increasing investments in women,” Xinhua/People’s Daily Online reports. “This year, U.N. Women will help turn this Global Strategy into a worldwide reality,” Ban said (2/25). “The birth of U.N. Women could not be better timed,” Ban said, noting that this year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day,” according to a transcript of his remarks (2/24).

U.N. Women hopes to have $500 million in pledges by the end of 2011 for its annual budget, which would double “the combined budgets of the four previous groups: the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the U.N. International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW),” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (2/25).

IPS reports that “funding remains dismally low – the pledges for 2011 total a mere 55 million dollars … NGOs that have supported and guided the formation of U.N. Women for years are anxious that the massive shortfall in funding will hinder U.N. Women’s trajectory even before it has a chance to soar, and have been pushing the governments in their respective countries to hugely step up their funding efforts.” The article includes quotes by Kathy Peach, head of external affairs of VSO UK, and Farah Karimi, executive director of Oxfam Netherlands (2/24).

BERNAMA describes several guests who attended and spoke at the launch of U.N. Women, including U.N. Foundation Founder Ted Turner and Her Royal Highness Princess Cristina of Spain, who is president of the Institute for Global Health of Barcelona (2/25).

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