Championing Women and Girls Empowering women and girls around the world is widely recognized as one of the most important and effective means of advancing global health, promoting economic development, protecting the environment, and safeguarding universal human rights. Throughout its history, the United Nations has worked to ensure that all the world’s women and girls have the opportunity to live in dignity, free from want and fear.
UN Priorities for Improving the Lives of Women and Girls Here is how the UN is working for the equality and empowerment of women and girls around the world: •
Promoting economic development: The UN is at the forefront of integrating the needs of women into the global economic development agenda. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) underscore that gender equality is necessary to reduce world poverty. The key MDGs related to women and girls include: Goal 2 (“Achieve universal primary education” for girls and boys), Goal 3 (“Promote gender equality and empower women”), Goal 5 (“Improve maternal health and Achieve universal access to reproductive health”), and Goal 6 (“Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases”);
• Reducing gender-based violence: Gender-based violence—which encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls, and several harmful traditional practices such as child marriage—destroys the health, dignity, security, and autonomy of women and girls. According to World Bank data, women aged 15 to 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war, or malaria. In 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched his multi-year UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls. The UNiTE campaign galvanizes world public opinion, ensures action by policymakers at the highest levels, engages male leaders, and mobilizes men and boys for the cause. In 2010, the UN Security Council met with over 90 world leaders on the 10th anniversary of landmark Security Council Resolution 1325 to review its implementation; the resolution recognizes the need for greater involvement by women in peace and security and seeks to end sexual violence against women and girls in armed conflict. These leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, noted the progress made over the last ten years but also acknowledged continued abuse of women, such as last summer’s mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
• Improving women’s health: UN agencies are involved in a wide variety of efforts to help improve the health of women and girls. UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, the World Bank, and UNAIDS are working together to save the lives of women and newborns with a 5-year strategy aimed at strengthening health systems in countries with the highest maternal mortality rates. In September 2010, Secretary-General Ban launched a Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health that lays out an approach for global, multisector collaboration for the finance and policy changes needed to improve health and 14