UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka laughs with a group of young girls during a visit to one of UN Women’s Cairo Safe City programme sites on 3 February 2015. (Photo: UN Women Egypt/Mohamed Ezz Aldin.)

Photo: UN Women Egypt/Mohamed Ezz Aldin

Foreword by the Executive Director

Leveraging strategic partnerships for transformative action in gender equality

In 2015 we look to a new sustainable development agenda for ‘people, planet and prosperity’, with gender equality and women’s empowerment at its heart. UN Women is rising to that challenge and building upon a history of achievement, including major results for women and girls in 2014.

In everything we do, we recognize that success is founded on partnership. We have taken every opportunity to encourage the world to live up to the commitments made 20 years ago in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. In 2014, in a review of unprecedented scale, 167 countries undertook national stock-taking of their implementation of those gender equality promises. The process, and the results, have supported an intense programme of mobilizing re-commitment to stepped-up, transformative action before 2020, culminating in a “Planet 50:50 by 2030”.

A growing share of our strategic partnerships are now starting to take root in the corporate sector as we work together on fostering women’s economic empowerment and calling on men to take responsibility and be accountable for change.

In September 2014 we launched the HeForShe campaign and generated millions of conversations both through social media and in person, as those who signed up also spread the word. The initiative “IMPACT 10x10x10”, launched in January 2015 at the World Economic Forum, engaged champions within governments, corporations and universities as leaders of immediate change in each sector, using technology creatively to targeting influential issues like financial inclusion, quotas for political representation, wage parity and elimination of gender-based violence.

In our flagship report Progress of the World’s Women, 2015-2016: Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights released in April 2015, we exposed the stark gender imbalances in the global economy, with new data, and recommended solutions for governments to implement. Work across the United Nations system with partners such as ITU and ILO is helping us to entrench domestic and international development policies that support women’s access to decent work and equal pay and alleviate the crippling burden of unpaid care carried by women the world over.

Civil society, including trade unions and workers’ movements, remains a bedrock partner for all our endeavours, both as the everyday voice of conscience and the invaluable “feet on the ground” in times of humanitarian crisis, such as during the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, Tropical Cyclone Pam, and the growing number of complex, interconnected threats to international peace and security, in particular the emergence of a rising wave of violent extremist groups who are directly and explicitly targeting women’s rights.

Ultimately, all our work is directed towards changing lives, and helping women and girls achieve their full potential. We are driving for better educational opportunities for girls and women, including through the increased use of technology, as well as measures to continue to increase and consolidate women’s political leadership and ensure they are included in peacebuilding and recovery efforts during times of crisis. All of this requires increased and renewed investments, a strong commitment to improve data collection and analysis, accountability frameworks for leaders, and established responsibilities for all stakeholders, including the private sector.

This year’s report provides examples that demonstrate UN Women’s impact from the global to the individual level. We are proud to have been part of the increase from less than 30 per cent to more than 50 per cent of women elected to the House of Representatives in Bolivia; the improved economic rights of 21,350 women home-based workers in Pakistan through increased access to registration services, food security and income-generating opportunities; the increase in Rwanda of capably-staffed one-stop crisis centres from 2 to 11 for women who have experienced violence; and the deployment of 23 experts in investigation and documentation of gender-based crimes to support international investigations or prosecutions in 12 different countries, leading directly to building cases against perpetrators of atrocities against women and girls. Across the world, UN Women is present, working with its partners, in its role as catalyst, supporter and leader for a gender-equal world.

The aspirations and actions set in motion this year will influence generations to come. We know this well and strive to achieve the maximum impact with the resources entrusted to us. We invest in evaluating our work so that we can continue to learn from what we do and to improve further. Independent evaluations by a number of key partners in 2014 confirmed our relevance and efficacy.

Gender equality remains underfunded on so many levels; yet a raised level of financing is essential to complete the ambitious agenda.

In this year’s review process of the Financing for Development agenda UN Women is calling for transformative financing for gender equality. This requires unprecedented levels of funding—in scale, scope and quality. Prioritized, dedicated resource allocation and investment for gender equality are urgent imperatives. We will continue to work on aligning all sources of development funding and the institutions that manage them, whether public or private, domestic or international, with gender equality goals and we will promote multi-stakeholder partnerships as key to ensuring adequate and robust financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

As this report underscores, UN Women strongly commits to disrupting the status quo and collaboratively setting of new norms, delivering well-targeted programmes, and enlisting game-changing partners both within and outside the UN system to accelerate the pace of change.

Together we can usher in a new era that is more just, resilient, and inclusive of all.

Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director