Over the last few years Oxfam has been following closely the reform of the UN’s gender equality architecture and most recently, the establishment of UN Women. The foundation of UN Women is a once-in a lifetime opportunity to turn the tide on women’s rights and gender equality everywhere, and especially in the poorest countries. Without unleashing the potential of women and ensuring their equal rights are met, poverty will prevail and sustainable development cannot take place. Progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment must be accelerated and UN Women has an important as well as a big job ahead. To deliver results, UN Women must base its work on the needs and priorities at country level – this is where gender equality needs to happen. As UN Women becomes operational, it is important to garner the views and vision of women’s rights and gender equality archivists at country and grassroots level about what they expect from UN Women and lessons learnt from the past. Based on a survey of 100 women’s rights activists from 75 countries, “A Blueprint for UN Women” outlines key priorities of the new agency and makes proposals on how UN Women should proceed to build up its operations and have impact at country-level. Key recommendations Our survey marks the first time that civil society, including women’s rights and grassroots organizations at country level have been surveyed on how UN Women should proceed to make most impact at country level. In order to be effective at country level, UN Women should build its work around these priorities:
- The top priority that UN Women must address is all forms of violence against women. 98% of survey respondents said urgent action is needed on this issue and 72% selected it as the number 1 issue for UN Women to tackle
- UN Women should focus on the empowerment of rural women as they are less aware of their rights and have fewest resources and access to services
- UN Women should adopt a different approach to working at country level to that of UN agencies in the past. Its approach should be transformative, leading to actual change
- A central element of UN Women’s strategy should be the collaboration and inclusion of civil society organizations (CSOs) as genuine partners at country level. Civil society wants UN Women to support their efforts to empower women, strengthen their rights and ensure they play a role in the development of their countries
- UN Women needs to examine its relationship with governments at country level and use its access to government to open up spaces for CSOs to participate in the political processes of their countries.