Spring 2011 Newsletter– At the launch of UN Women on February 24, 2011, a phrase resounded throughout the night: women’s rights are human rights. UN Women, a new high-level United Nations entity tasked to tie global gender equality and women’s empowerment policies to national actions and to reinforce gender equality commitments throughout the UN system, now has the ability – with both the mandate of the UN General Assembly and the support from the global women’s movement – to implement actions that will truly epitomize the meaning of the coined phrase of the 1990s.

The launch was held during the 55th session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), the largest annual gathering of the global women’s movement. Women’s rights activists attending the launch were given front row seats with the understanding that their advocacy and mobilization of governments and of their networks were the drivers of the establishment of UN Women. Members of the Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign —a network of over 400 organizations, which WEDO co-founded— were particularly celebratory as their mission of nearly 5 years had finally materialized in the form of UN Women.

But, like many others, the GEAR network knows that the work has only just begun. As UN Women decides on its strategic plan for the next few years, civil society organizations are urging their governments to ensure that UN Women is responsive to the needs of their constituencies. Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon reflected in his speech during the launch, “The challenges are great, but I believe that with the new energy, the new momentum and the new authority that UN Women brings, these challenges will be met. True gender equality should be our shared legacy in the 21st Century.”

Particularly, the GEAR network recognizes that to sustain the ‘new energy’ and the ‘new momentum’ of UN Women and to ensure women’s human rights, the new entity must work in meaningful partnership with civil society organizations, especially women’s civil society organizations.

UN Women’s Under-Secretary-General, Michelle Bachelet, declared that she is “determined that UN Women will offer a new dynamic to the global dialogue on gender equality, and bring new energy, drawing on multiple talents, and bringing together men and women from different countries and communities in a shared endeavour.” With Michele Bachelet’s leadership, the support of governments and the partnership of civil society we can be steadfast in bringing this ‘new dynamic’ to gender equality and women’s empowerment and ensuring that women’s rights are human rights by translating political commitments into tangible actions.

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Women and girls around the world are demanding and creating systemic change and a sustainable future for all. We need collective power to attain a just future – we need you.