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UNIFEM Head Newest Torch Bearer Empowering Women

UNIFEM head newest torch bearer in campaign to empower women

11 June 2008 - The head of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) today became the latest recipient of the MDG3 Champion Torch, committing the agency to "doing something extra" in support of gender equality and women's empowerment.

Launched in Copenhagen on 7 March, the MDG3 Champion Torch campaign symbolizes Denmark's global call to action on gender equality - goal number three in the set of anti-poverty targets that world leaders have pledged to try to achieve by 2015, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

More than 100 MDG3 Torches will travel around the world in the run-up to the high-level meeting on MDGs to be convened at the UN on 25 September. Torch bearers will include representatives of governments, the private sector, civil society, the media, individuals from North and South, and international organisations.

Accepting the Torch, UNIFEM Executive Director Inés Alberdi told a news conference in New York that "achieving gender equality is indeed pivotal to all other Millennium Development Goals."

To receive an MDG3 Champion Torch is to make a specific commitment, she noted. "I pledge to focus on the priorities that Member States have identified as key to their efforts to advance gender equality in their countries."

Specifically, she committed to addressing the feminization of poverty, particularly in Africa. "UNIFEM will build on initiatives that it is currently undertaking and step up its advocacy and support to enhance African women's economic security and rights," she said.

Noting that women's political participation is a key indicator of gender equality, she said UNIFEM will strengthen its work to support women "to act as an effective constituency, to achieve high-level political positions and to make a difference on issues related to gender equality."

Ms. Alberdi, who took up her current post just one week ago, called violence against women "the missing MDG target," and said responses to date have missed two critical ingredients - money and men.

As the manager of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, she pledged that UNIFEM will make every effort to ensure that the Fund - which provides urgently needed resources to local organizations, governments and the UN system - will grow from its resource base of $5 million in grants in 2007 to a $100-million fund by 2015.

UNIFEM will also "vigorously reach out to men as key partners," she added. "Reaching out to men in all walks of life will be central to our efforts as we ensure that we continue to address violence against women as both a cause and a consequence of HIV/AIDS."

Ambassador Carsten Staur of Denmark lauded UNIFEM, calling it "a trusted partner who carries out important work.

"We see a lot of merit in the activities of UNIFEM in combating violence against women, in addressing the feminization of HIV and AIDS... and we also see a lot of effort from UNIFEM in working towards the reduction of poverty on women and to empower women politically, socially and legally. These are all essential points in achieving the MDGS," Mr. Staur said.

At September's MDG meeting, all commitments will be presented to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is to receive the last MDG3 Torch.

ENDS

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