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UN Women hopes to fill void in global attention to women’s rights

LatinaLista — It’s only taken negotiations spanning two different centuries for the United Nations to finally realize that a separate department solely focused on championing the rights and welfare of the world’s women and girls was needed.

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So, this month, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women — otherwise to be known as UN Women — was established. Among the issues UN Women will address are:

  • The elimination of discrimination against women and girls
  • The empowerment of women
  • The achievement of equality between women and men as partners and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action and peace and security.

There is good reason, unfortunately, why UN Women is badly needed in today’s world:

The majority of the world’s poor are women, with certain groups particularly vulnerable to poverty, such as women farmers, women in the informal sector, migrants, women with disabilities and older women.

Women’s unequal access to financial resources has a negative impact on their well-being and that of their families and communities, and on economic growth and development overall.

Many women workers have been hit particularly hard by the recent global economic downturn. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that the crisis will result in 18.7 million more unemployed women, pushing many into informal or unsafe jobs at a faster rate than men.

Women account for nearly two-thirds of the 776 million illiterate adults in the world.

More than 30 million people are living with HIV, and women now account for half of all infections. In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 60 percent of all adults living with HIV are women.

Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.

In 2006, women and girls comprised 79 percent of victims of human trafficking.

No doubt, this department will have its work cut out and will need a strong leader. In fact, whoever is appointed — and they will carry the title “Under-Secretary-General” — will have to deal with both the United Nations and individual “member states.” Not an easy task.

So far, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is considered a frontrunner for the position, though nothing official from her camp or the UN has been released.

At any rate, it’s time UN Women went to work because too many women and girls are suffering needlessly in an era that may be technologically advanced but still remains in the Neanderthal Age when it comes to the rights and concerns of women.

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