The UN and gender equity


The UN and UN agencies have played and play an important role in promoting gender equity as a norm and in creating awareness about best practices. UN databases are often the best statistical resources on gender-related issues.

Natalie Samarasinghe, “UN plays a vital role in gender equality, but so do we all,”, June 9, 2010.

“There has never been a woman at the helm of the UN. Female representation in senior professional positions falls short of the 30% target the UN recommends to states for their national parliaments. And a number of high-profile sexual harassment complaints have blighted its record, not least because its response has been slow and often defensive. But although the article’s intention is honourable and the subject worthy of discussion, the impression it conveys is false.”

…”Since Ban Ki-moon became secretary general in 2007, there has been a 40% increase in women appointed to senior positions. His senior management group includes 14 women, which is 38% of the total and equals the percentage of women across all UN professional grades. This is better than the UK cabinet (17%) and many private sector firms – a quarter of FTSE 100 companies – have no women on their boards. (Incidentally, at 22%, female representation in the British parliament falls short of the UN’s recommended target.)”

…”The result is a fragmented approach to gender issues, with responsibility spread across four UN bodies (Unifem, Daw, Instraw and Osagi) with little co-ordination, clout and cash. Together they command just $221m annually, a fraction of Unicef’s $3bn budget. UN member states are currently hammering out the details of a new agency for women intended to remedy this situation. It remains to be seen whether they allow it to be as strong and as well funded as it needs to be.”

As a way of dealing with some of these challenges, the UN is seeking to increase the number of women in its peacekeeping forces.

As role of police grows in peace missions, UN wants more female officers in ranks,” UN News Centre, June 10, 2010.

“The United Nations is stepping up its efforts to boost the number of female police officers serving in its peacekeeping missions around the world, highlighting that women can play a unique role in certain areas, including responding to sexual- and gender-based violence.

“The number of female blue helmets is climbing, and the world body is aiming to more than double the proportion of women comprising UN Police (UNPOL) to 20 per cent by 2014.”

…”The presence of female police officers in Liberia has helped to increase the reporting of cases of sexual and gender-based violence, according to Doreen Malombo, the police gender adviser for the UN peacekeeping mission in the West African nation, known as UNMIL.

““It is not very easy for a woman to [discuss] sexual violence issues with a male officer,” she told the UN News Centre, but they “feel free to bring out their cases” with female police officers.

“When Liberian women see female UN police officers carrying out tasks, such as guarding government sites, “which they feel are supposed to be performed by males, it has given a change of an image for the organization,” Ms. Malombo said.

““They now know that policing is not for males alone, but for everybody,” encouraging more women to join the ranks of the Liberian National Police (LNP), she said.”

Womanpower in the Bhutan transition to democracy


Bhutan goes to the polls for the first time today, and reports state that more women than men registered to vote. Check these out:

Arijit Sen, Bhutan polls: Women voters outnumber men, IBNLive, March 24, 2008.

PTI, A woman wants to make it in Bhutan election, The Hindu, March 10, 2008.

Tshering Palden, Women outnumber men, Kuensel, March 8, 2008.
Voting is one thing, and by that measure, electoral democracy in Bhutan is setting off on one right foot, but what about the other indices of democracy, inclusion, agency and equity? Will Gross National Happiness in democratic Bhutan also mean gender equity and the happiness of women?