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Andrew Mitchell: UN Women can erase development blind spot on women
Department for International Development
Tuesday 17 May 2011 @ 10:51
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Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell and the head of UN Women Michelle Bachelet held talks in London yesterday on the organisation’s progress since it started work in January.

Andrew Mitchell and Ms Bachelet will discuss the once in a lifetime opportunity held by UN Women to turn around the lives of women across the developing world who continually carry the largest burden of poverty.

Key items up for discussion will be:

  • How UN Women will work within the UN system, the World Bank, and the international community to prioritise girls’ and women’s poverty.  
  • How best to work with international agencies such as the European Commission to improve their results focus to ensure they have a positive impact on girls’ and women’s lives.
  • How they can encourage more organisations to develop innovative projects to transform the lives of girls and women, including tackling violence against them by increasing their access to justice and working with boys and men to change their attitudes. 

Andrew Mitchell said:

"A girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in child birth than to complete primary school.  No fact could more eloquently underline why the UN and the British Government has placed girls and women at the forefront of our development commitment to tackle global poverty.

"UN Women is in a unique position to make life better for women across the developing world by creating partnerships in order to encourage international organisations to change the way they work. Michele Bachelet has the skills and authority to make this happen.  I look forward to a strong focus on results from the outset and the publication of their strategic plan in June."

Michelle Bachelet, the Head of UN Women said:

"Think of how much more we can do once women are fully empowered as active agents of change and progress within their societies.

"Historically, we are at a point of great potential and change for women. Now we must seize that opportunity.

"Gender equality is not only a basic human right, but as business, economic and development experts now agree, empowering women fuels economies and social progress."

Marg Mayne, CEO, of VSO International said:

"The UK should be proud of the role it has played in making UN Women a reality. Through strong political leadership, public campaigns and a commitment to making the lives of millions of women in poor countries better, we now have a once in a generation opportunity to achieve equality for women around the world.

"The need is urgent and real. 70% of the world’s poor are women. Extreme violence, a lack of rights, and limited access to employment and decision-making holds women, their communities and countries back from development.

"I sincerely hope that all leaders around the world take inspiration from Michelle Bachelet as she visits London this week and recognise that investing in improving women's rights through UN Women will benefit men, women and children alike."

Ms Bachelet will also meet with Theresa May, Home Secretary, Alan Duncan, Minister of State for International Development and Lynne Featherstone, the Parliamentary Undersecretary for Equalities and the UK’s international violence against women champion. 

The British Government has conducted its own extensive root and branch reviews of all the aid given to countries and international organisations. The Multilateral Aid Review found that the UN and multilateral organisations must do more to tackle girls’ and women’s poverty.

The Department for International Development announced in December that it would put women at the centre of its work, committing to saving the lives of at least 50,000 women in childbirth and 250,000 newborns. 

In March it announced that we will help 10 million women to access justice through the courts, police and legal assistance in order to have treatment and advice on physical and sexual violence.

UN Women began work on January 1 and brings together four UN organisations that previously worked on gender issues. The UK was at the forefront of the international effort to establish UN Women as a single, powerful agency to tackle gender inequality. There is strong evidence that shows that investing in girls and women makes sound economic sense and is critical to achieving all the Millennium Development Goals.

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