The 55th Annual Commission on the Status of Women kicked off with its Consultation Day in the Salvation Army in New York City yesterday, February 21, 2011. The busy day began with the keynote address by Chile’s former president, Michelle Bachelet, now Executive Director and Under Secretary-General for UN Women. Ms. Bachelet took on the highest leadership position in UN Women during its inception, only a few months after the end of her presidency in Chile. UN Women was created in July of 2010, and is an umbrella organization which combines and overlooks many UN organizations, most notably UNIFEM.
Ms. Bachelet was incredibly passionate about the rights of women, and constantly emphasized the need for gender equality, as well as for all UN organizations to work together to cover more ground and accomplish tasks on a deeper level. She stated that “to be a catalyst of change [we must] depend on support and partnership,” both with UN organizations such as UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDPI, and the countless NGOs attending the conference.
Ms. Bachelet listed clear cut priorities for UN Women to achieve, which included the following:
1. Empowerment to create gender equality and opportunity
-allow for women’s voice to be heard and create political and social participation and leadership skills
2. Enhance Women’s economic empowerment
-ensure better education of a much higher caliber
3. Ending Violence Against women
-work with UNICEF to cover more ground and support idea of “safe cities” where women are free from violence
4. Strengthening implementation of pertinent women’s security issues such as UN Resolution 1325 which calls for women’s participation in peace treaties and resolutions
-3 year program to support women who mediate peace
5. Support international partners to make gender equality more important to budgeting
-Instate national action plans -Find better statistics to support data about gender differences and segregation
Ms. Bachelet was very warmly received, exiting the stage with a standing ovation, and leaving an inspired audience that was optimistic about the following two weeks of the conference.