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UN launches new agency to empower women

Updated: 2011-02-25 11:46


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UNITED NATIONS - In a packed General Assembly hall, the public repeatedly chanted "Women's rights are human rights" to officially launch UN Women, the newest UN organ fabricated to advocate gender equality and the empowerment of women.

"UN women will offer new dynamic to the global dialogue on gender equality," the head of UN Women and former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, said during the official opening ceremony held here on Thursday evening.

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"There's no limit to what women can do," Bachelet, who was greeted with loud cheers, noted.

UN Women - formally known as the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women - was established in July 2010 by the UN General Assembly, merging four previous UN bodies dealing with women's issues.

Taking place only few days before the 100th anniversary of the International Women's Day - marked on March 8 every year, setting up UN women is "the best thing we could do to revitalize the General Assembly," Joseph Deiss, who is the president of the General Assembly, said.

"It is an example of UN reform for greater efficiency that could be followed in many other areas," Deiss said.

The launch of the women empowerment agency is taking place during the 55th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women.

"Supporting rights for women is not only morally right, it also creates economic, political and social opportunities," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during the ceremony.

Among the priorities Bachelet laid out for the agency is ending violence against women, ensuring their full participation in conflict resolution and enhancing their economic empowerment.

UN Women will be working with an annual budget of at least $500 million - double the combined resources of the four agencies it comprises, namely the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).

"Empowering women and girls is one of the smartest things we can do," American media mogul and founder of the UN Foundation Ted Turner said.

Other speakers at the ceremony included Her Royal Highness Princess Cristina of Spain, who is currently the president of the Institute for Global Health of Barcelona, Academy-Award winning actress and founder of the Institute on Gender in the Media Geena Davis, Colombian superstar Shakira and Academy-Award winning actress Nicole Kidman.

ABC news anchor Juju Chang replaced her ABC colleague Christiane Amanpour as the emcee of the ceremony because Amanpour got called in for a last minute assignment overseas.

"We are UN women, together we can make this happen," Ban concluded his speech.

With a gently swinging crowd on the sounds of "One Women," a song composed for UN Women, performed by the Graham Lyle, Beth Blatt, Clay and others accompanied by the UN International School Choir, the lights of the august room slowly went back on and concluded the ceremony.


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