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Global issue 20

Global Insight Women goals with regard to women’s rights and gender inequalities. “Underlying structures continue to cause gender inequalities to recur, notwithstanding how much work we do. We have not dedicated energy and policies to patriarchy, for example. It is not easy because it is about winning hearts and minds; it is about a value system. But we need to talk about these things and be much more intentional in challenging them, so that we do not have this recurrence. We also need to address the implementation of the legislation that affects the access to opportunities that qualitatively change the lives of women,” she says. So what is UN Women doing to drive change and address the current obstacles to gender equality? “Some are being addressed through our normative work,” she says. “Gender-responsive budgeting is something that we actively support governments to do. We send experts to work in the relevant ministries in order to assist. We’re also a part of advocacy. In different countries where there is, for instance, high violence against women, we campaign in different ways that are consistent with what is possible to do in those countries.” In a speech on 25 November 2014, a day marked as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Mlambo- Ngcuka called for citizens the world over to work together to end female violence: “When globally one in three women experience physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, you can be sure that you know someone who is affected,” she said. The 16 days that follow have been marked as the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence by the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign. Citizens were encouraged to turn their neighbourhoods orange – the colour designated by the UNiTE campaign to symbolise a brighter future without violence – by campaigning and raising awareness of gender violence. During this time Mlambo-Ngcuka flew to Mexico, on her first visit as the head of UN Women, to meet with government officials, female indigenous leaders, feminist organisations and Mexican businesswomen. “I am looking forward to making Mexico City Orange!” she tweeted excitedly before the trip. While in Mexico, the executive director took the time to promote UN Women’s HeforShe campaign, which aims to involve men and boys as key agents for promoting gender equality. Ending gender violence and striving for the empowerment of women should not be considered a task for just women. “The change that is required is not just the responsibility of women alone,” she says. “We need to mobilise and to involve men. In the same way that you say women are more than half of the world population, men are the other half. We cannot leave that other half out. “It is not about men joining women’s organisations suddenly, it is about men leading men’s organisations and making sure that they engage each other on their own attitudes. It is also about making sure that the men who believe in the equality of men and women are heard, that their voices are much louder than those who do not believe. We believe that the majority of men would prefer a better world, but some do not appreciate that progress for women is progress for all. So it is also about changing the narrative so that we constantly demonstrate that this is a struggle where everybody wins.” To round off, Mlambo-Ngcuka offers a small piece of advice for all those women who are just reaching adulthood: “It is important that women grab the opportunities that are there,” she says. “They must be assertive and not be afraid to talk and to engage, because this world belongs to them just as much as it belongs to men.” 16 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global © UN / Marco Grob


Global issue 20
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