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Michelle Bachelet: There is no limit to what women can do

Photo of GAPS members with Michelle Bachelet in May 2011

Womankind and other members of Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS) network meet Michelle Bachelet

This week, Michelle Bachelet – former president of Chile and now the leader of the new UN agency for women UN Women - visited London.

Womankind was invited to a number of meetings with Madame Bachelet and had the privilege of talking to the inspirational head of UN Women about her hopes for the future. We were particularly pleased that she talked about so many of the things we brought up in our recommendations paper on UN Women.

What does UN Women want to achieve?

After extensive consultation with people around the world, including women’s movements, UN Women has agreed on five strategic priorities – many of which chime with Womankind’s strategic aims.

  1. Increasing women’s leadership and political participation
  2. Ending violence against women
  3. Advancing the women, peace and security agenda
  4. Women’s economic empowerment
  5. Building capacities (of national governments and also within the UN system) in terms of things like making sure they have gender budgeting and systems that can gender disaggregate statistics and data.

Women – not just passive victims

In all of her discussions Madame Bachelet is very clear that whilst women are often victims of the most awful human rights violations – they are also inspirational advocates for change. As Womankind know all too well from our work around the world, women are not just victims – they are organising and pushing hard for all sorts of positive changes; women’s inclusion in politics, inclusive peace processes, laws and services that address the needs of women and many many other things.

“Women’s rights and gender equality are not just the right things to do but they are the smart things to do”

Madame Bachelet is a strong women’s rights advocate and talks passionately about empowerment. However, she also recognises that not everyone understands or speaks the language of ‘empowerment’ or ‘rights’. She is very practical about this and recognises that there is a strong social and economic case for supporting women as well as a moral case. She reeled off countless examples of how tackling violence against women can support national security and increase economic productivity of a country.

What next?

UN Women is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a massive difference to women and girls around the world. With Madame Bachelet at the helm of UN Women we know that this fledgling agency is in excellent hands. The question is – will donors cough up enough money to make sure that UN Women’s resources match Madame Bachelet’s ambition?

A history of women’s rights

With UN Women getting off the ground, Womankind has been remembering the long fight for women’s rights….

Find out more

Post by Sarah Jackson

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