News Room Advocacy UN Agency for Women Frequently Asked Questions: UN Women’s Agency
Frequently Asked Questions: UN Women’s Agency

Frequently Asked Questions: UN Women’s Agency

Why do women require a special UN Agency?

Poverty, inequitable relationships between men and women, poor access to health care, inadequate education, violence and a variety of social, economic, political and cultural factors adversely affect the health and well-being of millions of women and girls worldwide. It is well-documented that these issues have not been addressed and gender equity within the UN has not been achieved. This is simply not acceptable. Women’s marginal, lower status and unrealized potential punishes half the world’s population, but weakens us all.

Would a women’s agency effectively create two UN’s – one for men and one for women?

No, a women’s agency would finally create, for the first time, one UN that benefits men and women equally. It would turn words into actions, promoting women’s equal access to education and training, health care, sexual and reproductive health services, economic opportunities, structures and resources, power and decision-making, communications, science and technology, land and inheritance, and management of natural resources, to spell out just a partial list. It would apply dedicated expertise, programme planning and resources to intractable problems that hold women hostage and keep societies from developing fully: the feminization of poverty, gender-based violence, oppressive and unremunerated work burdens and the disproportionate effects of HIV/AIDS and of armed conflict. At present, these issues consume the lives and destroy the potential of vast numbers of the world’s women, but they command little attention from those who hold the power to bring about change. A dedicated women’s agency would act on the universal recognition that, at all levels, the mechanisms that should be in place to promote the advancement of women and prevent discrimination are inadequate, and in many cases they are missing altogether.

Rather than segregating women’s issues, shouldn’t gender mainstreaming be strengthened in every facet of the UN’s work?

Gender mainstreaming was never expected to achieve the goals of equality on its own. The transformation to a world of equal rights and opportunities for all was to be achieved with a two-pronged approach: gender was to be integrated into every mainstream policy, plan and programme, while targeted interventions were to reverse gender-based discrimination as old as recorded history. Targeted interventions are easily identified and measured – they range from laws prohibiting violence against women and programmes addressing maternal mortality to quotas guaranteeing women’s participation in politics and decision-making – and there are costs attached. But gender mainstreaming proved less easy to define, and therefore more elusive. Evidence now demonstrates that the concept of gender mainstreaming isn’t well understood, that it exists more often on paper than in practice, that it is rarely assigned budget or staff, that when everyone is responsible for gender mainstreaming, no one feels accountable – and that adopting a gender mainstreaming approach instead of, rather than in tandem with targeted interventions, is an excuse for inaction. On its own, gender mainstreaming has proven dangerously inadequate to fulfilling women’s human rights – often fatally so.

Those calling for UN reform want a more efficient and effective world body, not a bigger one, and may object to adding yet another structure to the bureaucracy. Is it sensible to advocate for expanding rather than reducing the size of the UN?

Member States that continue to allocate resources toward every reform except an up-to-date, effective gender architecture will eventually realize the folly of striving for any advancements while half the human population is held back. A review that compares global gender goals with the international structures in place to fulfil them would reveal to Member States that none of their commitments can be met – and therefore, all of their efficiency measures as well as future resources will be wasted – unless the UN is reformed in a way that can help make development, humanitarian assistance, peace and security work for both halves of the human population.

When is the General Assembly debate on the women’s agency scheduled for?

The exact date of the General Assembly discussions is not certain but is expected in the March-April time frame. However, we do know that a general debate on the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women is scheduled for 6 March and may be the opening of discussions. This is why we write to you now and urge you to act quickly.

Why do women require a special UN Agency?

Poverty, inequitable relationships between men and women, poor access to health care, inadequate education, violence and a variety of social, economic, political and cultural factors adversely affect the health and well-being of millions of women and girls worldwide. It is well-documented that these issues have not been addressed and gender equity within the UN has not been achieved. 1 This is simply not acceptable. Women’s marginal, lower status and unrealized potential punishes half the world’s population, but weakens us all.

Would a women’s agency effectively create two UN’s – one for men and one for women?

No, a women’s agency would finally create, for the first time, one UN that benefits men and women equally. It would turn words into actions, promoting women’s equal access to education and training, health care, sexual and reproductive health services, economic opportunities, structures and resources, power and decision-making, communications, science and technology, land and inheritance, and management of natural resources, to spell out just a partial list. It would apply dedicated expertise, programme planning and resources to intractable problems that hold women hostage and keep societies from developing fully: the feminization of poverty, gender-based violence, oppressive and unremunerated work burdens and the disproportionate effects of HIV/AIDS and of armed conflict. At present, these issues consume the lives and destroy the potential of vast numbers of the world’s women, but they command little attention from those who hold the power to bring about change. A dedicated women’s agency would act on the universal recognition that, at all levels, the mechanisms that should be in place to promote the advancement of women and prevent discrimination are inadequate, and in many cases they are missing altogether.

Rather than segregating women’s issues, shouldn’t gender mainstreaming be strengthened in every facet of the UN’s work?

Gender mainstreaming was never expected to achieve the goals of equality on its own. The transformation to a world of equal rights and opportunities for all was to be achieved with a two-pronged approach: gender was to be integrated into every mainstream policy, plan and programme, while targeted interventions were to reverse gender-based discrimination as old as recorded history. Targeted interventions are easily identified and measured – they range from laws prohibiting violence against women and programmes addressing maternal mortality to quotas guaranteeing women’s participation in politics and decision-making – and there are costs attached. But gender mainstreaming proved less easy to define, and therefore more elusive. Evidence now demonstrates that the concept of gender mainstreaming isn’t well understood, that it exists more often on paper than in practice, that it is rarely assigned budget or staff, that when everyone is responsible for gender mainstreaming, no one feels accountable – and that adopting a gender mainstreaming approach instead of, rather than in tandem with targeted interventions, is an excuse for inaction. On its own, gender mainstreaming has proven dangerously inadequate to fulfilling women’s human rights – often fatally so.

Those calling for UN reform want a more efficient and effective world body, not a bigger one, and may object to adding yet another structure to the bureaucracy. Is it sensible to advocate for expanding rather than reducing the size of the UN?

Member States that continue to allocate resources toward every reform except an up-to-date, effective gender architecture will eventually realize the folly of striving for any advancements while half the human population is held back. A review that compares global gender goals with the international structures in place to fulfil them would reveal to Member States that none of their commitments can be met – and therefore, all of their efficiency measures as well as future resources will be wasted – unless the UN is reformed in a way that can help make development, humanitarian assistance, peace and security work for both halves of the human population.

When is the General Assembly debate on the women’s agency scheduled for?

The exact date of the General Assembly discussions is not certain but is expected in the March-April time frame. However, we do know that a general debate on the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women is scheduled for 6 March and may be the opening of discussions. This is why we write to you now and urge you to act quickly.

1 UNIFEM Assessment: A/60/62 – E2005/10; UNDP Evaluation of Gender mainstreaming, available at http://www.undp.org/eo/documents/EO_GenderMainstreaming.pdf.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 May 2013 15:36