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March/April 2011
Vol. 36, No. 2

UN: Women's organization launched

A March 6 Washington Post article reported that when the U.S. Agency for International Development sought bids for a $140 million land reform program in Afghanistan last year, it had specific goals to promote women's rights, including land ownership, media coverage and educational material. However, before the contract was awarded, USAID overhauled the initiative and eliminated those targets. This shift is considered more realistic and more likely to help build reconciliation with the Taliban. Advocates for Afghan women, however, are disheartened by this step backwards from women's rights. In light of this development in one of the world's most complicated and brutal conflicts, the UN's latest organization can be seen as a necessary counterbalance.

February 24 was the start date for UN Women, formally known as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women; it combines four previous UN bodies and represents the United Nations' most ambitious effort ever to accelerate actions to achieve gender equality.

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, the first executive director of UN Women, called the launch the first of many important milestones in the global pursuit of gender equality. She emphasized that the decision to establish UN Women reflects ongoing frustration with the slow pace of change.

UN Women will support individual countries in moving towards gender equality in economics and politics, and ending the worldwide phenomenon of violence against women. It will assist in setting international standards for progress, and lead coordinated UN efforts to make new opportunities for women and girls central to all UN programs for development and peace.

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