Breakthrough for Women at the UN

Posted on September 18, 2009.

Guest blogger:  Ann Ninan, IPS Gender Editor

Is there room for us as well? M. Sayagues

A breakthrough for us as well? M. Sayagues

The UN has finally decided to stand up for women!  A decision to create a new agency for women was taken by the General Assembly on September14.

Our colleague Thalif Deen, IPS bureau chief in New York, was the first and only journalist to report it for the first several hours.

But this blog is not to crow about our scoop.

I’m quite excited by the prospect of a new women’s agency with money and political power. No longer will the world’s feminists have to lobby from the outside to put their views on the table. They have now won admission to the high table.

Any one of those bright, articulate, activist women can emerge to lead the agency. The reality is likely to be less rosy. But chances are that, because it’s new, it will be less under the thumb of the old boy network.

You think I’m a romantic? What the hell, there is no harm in dreaming, is there?  I like to think that there was no way that the General Assembly could have once again shelved the plan for a new women’s agency.

It’s 14 years since Beijing. All the small and big things that governments were forced to accept around women’s rights (CEDAW, MDG, etc.) made it impossible for any country to block the efforts of myriad initiatives (from small grassroots groups to reforms in government policies even if they started as mere tokenism) and to politicise the cause of gender equality.

I do see great hope in the increasing presence of women in politics - Liberia, Japan, India, wherever you look, even Iran (new ministers) and the Gulf (Saudi Arabia has made a few small concessions to women!).

Of course, there is a backlash too - more violence against women worldwide.

As IPS gender editor,  I am sure we will keep track of the new agency as it will be a key player achieving the MDG3 goal – gender equality.

Well, hope springs eternal!

  • http:// mercedes

    From BARBARA CROSETTE: If it weren’t for you, Thalif, I would not have known that the General Assembly actually acted on the women’s agency yesterday.
    I think it is a shocking disgrace that ‘UN News’ has chosen to overlook or bury the news. When I asked earlier about whether this would even be on the closing agenda, someone in the GA president’s office said it was a very “sensitive” topic to comment on.
    (Crosette is a former UN bureau chief with the New York Times)

  • mercedes

    from SUAD HAMADA:

    I agree that the agency might contribute to brighten the lives of some women, but it wouldn’t change miserable situations of many women out there.
    Even those who are considered as independent and successful are being discriminated to some extend. I think better than an agency, women should change themselves by feeling powerful from within and don’t accept injustice.
    It might take years or decades but finally we can live in a world without the domination of men.

  • Justin-Paul Sammons

    I must admit my first reaction to this news was to breathe a sigh of relief before I could be truly pleased. I remember the IPS reporting a few weeks ago that there were fears that the UN would delay setting up this body because of the financial crisis.

    Many IPS articles point out how the social and economic empowerment of women leads to improved living standards, so surely the new UN body, assuming it is resourced so that it can do its work effectively, can only be a positive development for everyone anywhere!

    It’s been about five months since I first subscribed to the Gender Wire and other IPS newsletters, and it’s been an awakening of sorts. Topics like the appalling citizenship laws in the Middle East which discriminate against women, but also the encouraging stories of people bringing about positive change don’t seem to be discussed anywhere else. The so-called ‘mainstream media’ become less and less interesting with every IPS article I read.

    Keep up the good work!