Thursday, February 24, 2011

Launch of UN Women: ‘Honouring the Past, Envisioning the Future for Women and Girls’

Today, history was written. Although, because of its name, it seems that the launch of UN Women is only meaningful for half of the population, namely women, we believe it should be celebrated by men as well. It is a signal that men cannot go about the world’s challenges alone, and that men and women, girls and boys should run the hurdles- and enjoy the fruits of their efforts TOGETHER.

We had almost given up already, thinking we would not be able to get access to the United Nations General Assembly Hall to attend the official Launch of UN Women. However, with our persistence, we found ourselves right there amongst all those government and NGO representatives to watch Ban Ki-moon, Princess Cristina of Spain and many other exemplary persons celebrating this big step in reaching gender equality across the world.

UN Women made a strong statement by opening the doors of the GA to civil society. The fact that we, as well as many other NGO representatives, were given access to the event ‘relatively’ easily is a symbolic indication of transparency, ownership and willingness to cooperate with civil society. It shows the recognition that “thanks to civil society, whose relentless effort has led to success, UN Women has been founded” (Ban Ki-moon).

To share the highlights of the great speeches that were given – they truly gave us goosebumps – here are some quotes!

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations and ‘man behind UN Women’:

“Establishing UN Women is possibly the best thing we could do.”

“I dream of a world where women can express themselves, make decisions, be capable leaders and can become a genetic engineer.”

“To invest in women is the right thing to do, it is also a smart thing to do”

Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Derector, UN Women:

“There is no limit to what women can do!”

“I am UN Women, we are UN Women!”

Joy Ogwu, Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, UN Women Executive Board:

“Equal opportunities for women is not a gift, it’s a right we have long since earned.”

Quoting Nyerere (first President of Tanzania): “Is anyone fast on one foot?”

Princess Cristina of Spain:

“Women are key agents of change and empowerment”

“All women deserve dignity, respect and equity.”

Ted Turner, Founder of the UN Foundation (and the CNN):

“Evidence is clear, investing in women is the smartest thing to do for development”

“Public-private partnerships are essential for UN Women to reach its goals: for funds and for ‘minds’.”

Geena Davis, Academy-Award Winner:

“The reality is that gender stereotypes remain deeply entrenched in the media.”

“If they see it, they can be it.” (about the impact of positive role models in the media on boys and girls)

Other people who spoke were Christiane Amanpour, Joseph Deiss and Rakhi Sahi, as well as Shakira and Nicole Kidman through a video message and satellite connection.

The celebration finished with a song, ONE WOMAN, sang by a number of great artists and the United Nations International School Choir. The song was especially composed for this occasion. See the chorus below:

We are One Woman

You cry and I hear you

We are One Woman

You hurt, and I hurt, too

We are One Woman

Your hopes are mine

We shall shine

…ending with a General Assembly full of women, many activists for years –decades?- standing, clapping and deeply smiling with a twinkle of euphoria in their eyes. And even though our critical minds would have loved to see more MEN in this historic event, it is all quite moving to witness… UN Women has the potential to make a difference for so many women and girls, as well as boys and men. We wish Michelle Bachelet and the whole team of UN Women all the best in their efforts to fulfil this potential. We as civil society offer our support, skills and energy to work together to reach greater gender equality in every corner of the world.


Mariam Yaqub said...

wow! It looks like an incredible experience - wish I could have been there. It was wonderful meeting you both and I hope to keep in touch. Enjoy the rest of the CSW and your stay in NY!

Rineke said...

Hi Mariam, thanks so much!! Launch of UN Women was incredible, such an energy in the room. We also very much enjoyed meeting you! Let's stay in touch through blog, mail and FB.

anneke said...

Thank you both for your blog, good to hear that important men and women agree on women empowerment. Nice future-picture ...

Rineke said...

he anneke, it's great and everyone's expectations of this new entity are high. We need to manage those expectations but also try to exploit UN Women's potential as much as possible... it's a great momentum.