Opinion: Opportunity knocks for Nick Clegg and UN Women

In January of this year, I appointed myself a Godmother. Not of a child (I’m already a godmother to one of them, and she’s fabulous, plus I was asked!), but of an organisation – UN Women. As part of the campaign to assist the launch of UN Women, VSO is campaigning for Godmothers (of both sexes), to ensure that UN Women gets the support, financial and moral, it needs for its vital work.

Women have been at the heart of the world’s events over the past few months. Whether it’s campaigning against the driving ban-or-is-it-a-ban in Saudi Arabia, the worldwide Slutwalk phenomenon, women on the front line of the pro-democracy movement in Egypt, or being subject to systematic rape and abuse in Libya and Sri Lanka too, women’s rights and the impact women can have on influencing events is news worldwide.

Now VSO have asked Nick Clegg to sign up as a Godmother for UN Women, to show his continuing commitment to the values he espoused during his speech at the UN in September 2010.

The reasons for the organisation needing high level support are clear. UN Women was established last summer. Led by Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile, its role is to take over all of the strands of the gender equality and the empowerment of women which were previously carried out by four different organisations within the UN.

UN Women has at its core the women, peace and security agenda. Included is ending gender violence; improving economic empowerment, and expanding the presence and participation of women in leadership and in politics. For example including women in post-conflict dialogue. Women at the negotiation table are more likely than the men present to be focussed on issues such as re-building educational establishments, provision of healthcare for the sick and injured, and reconstruction work.

The starting budget is $500 million. This sounds a lot, until you factor in that UN Women is working for the rights of 50% of the world’s population, with less than 1% of the UN annual budget. In fact it equates to roughly $0.15 per woman per year (or $0.075 per head of population). By the way, the World Bank estimates that the cost of securing gender equality in low income countries by 2015 would be $83 billion. So perhaps $500 million isn’t so much after all.

Nick Clegg to the UN General Assembly 22.09.10:

Improving the lives of women and girls: empowering them; educating them; ensuring healthy mothers can raise strong children. There can be no doubt that women and girls hold the key to greater prosperity: for their families; for their communities; and for their nations too.

I agree with Nick!

So far, however, many countries, including the UK, have not confirmed what contribution they will be making. In March of this year only $55 million had been committed to UN Women’s budget. Without funding, the organisation won’t be able to start its work, and the drive to bring about equality and empowerment for half of the world’s population and to the benefit of all of us will be hamstrung from the beginning.

We are clear as Liberal Democrats that equality is at the heart of who we are. We now have the perfect combination – influence in government, the rallying point of a focussed new body with strong leadership doing crucial work – to enable us to put our values into practice.

So, if you are feeling like making a difference today, please join me in being a Godmother, and call on Nick Clegg to do the same.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Candy Piercy 22nd Jun '11 - 6:44pm

    Lets have lots of Godmothers! I think this is a great idea and a real opportunity for Nick.

  • Dinti Batstone 23rd Jun '11 - 2:45pm

    Fantastic that you are highlighting this Jo… !

  • Catherine Hays 27th Jun '11 - 7:58pm

    Jo, you’re great. You remind us of what’s important – now it’s time for our support of UN Women and the advancement of gender equality. I agree, it’s a great opportunity for Nick.

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