At The Legacy Globe we advocate for Gender Equality and UN Women is the
only global organisation working to make gender equality a reality in every way. Please tell us more about the work that you do?
UN Women works to enable every woman
and girl in the world to have equal access to safety, choice, and a voice. We do this through delivering grassroots programmes, with the world’s most vulnerable - from education on climate-smart agriculture, to psychological support for women who have survived violence in conflict, to training women in refugee camps in business skills and giving them access to markets. We also do this through work with governments and the private sector, providing them with technical support and expertise to create change in policy and practice. The third part to our mandate is normative change - we support the global gender equality movement to achieve change, and we inspire activism and attitudinal change, whether it’s working with advertisers to eliminate harmful stereotypes through our Unstereotype Alliance, or
working with boys and men through our
HeForShe campaign. For me, this is what makes UN Women special. To achieve gender equality, we don’t only need to treat the symptoms of violence and marginalisation - we need to change attitudes and prevent abuse. We are the only organisation that does that, so we’re pulling all levers at the same time to achieve equality. And I believe with no shadow of a doubt that we will get there.
What is your role at UN Women UK and what does it mean to you personally?
I lead our office and brilliant team here in the UK. My days are very varied - recently I’ve been working to support our programmes on the ground in Ukraine, rallying organisations from the women’s sector to advocate alongside MPs for online safety regulations that better protect women and at-risk groups, and working with our team to develop safe spaces training for a series of music festivals and other partners.
It’s hard work, but I challenge you to find a more exciting and impactful organisation to be part of. Our global UN Women family is a tight-knit group who support each other through the toughest times, as we did during the pandemic when rates of violence against women rose rapidly and we had to step up our service provisions, or as we have continued to do so during the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan - our largest office globally doing brilliant work for the past 10 years securing women’s safety, education, justice and participation in society. On a personal level, I got involved with UN Women because I wanted to create change on a greater scale than I had previously done in my equality work, and I’ve stayed involved because I see the world changing for the better when it comes to equal rights. I know we will get there, and I’m inspired every day by our community of supporters, who are so engaged in creating a better future for the next generation, and for the amazing women enrolled in the programmes we run. In short, it’s about investing in a better tomorrow, and the impact we have been able to create for relatively small levels of funding is absolutely incredible - it gets me up every morning excited to go to work.
Tell us about The International Women's Day theme this year;
"Gender Equality Today For A Sustainable Tomorrow."
Women and girls are already disproportionately affected by climate change. In 80% of households with water shortages, they are responsible for fetching it for the family, travelling further as shortages rise during drought and disaster, and are often responsible for providing food and fuel for the family - yet they receive poorer nutritional quality food, and when food is scarce, women and girls are less likely to eat. Women and children are 14 times more likely to die in natural disasters and make up the majority of climate refugees. Yet women are still very under-represented on national climate delegations, have less access to resources and land, and therefore cannot have their voices heard and needs represented when climate decisions are made.
I see gender equality as a solution to climate change - not a challenge to be dealt with in isolation. As climate jobs diversify, we will have a lack of talent to fill these roles. Having more women and girls trained with the right skills - such as UN Women does through our programmes helping women learn to build solar lamps, farm with sustainable seeds, and conserve protective barriers for island nations - can fill those gaps. Women have been shown to reinvest up to 90% of their income in their families and communities, so putting these tools for change in their hands is hugely effective for disaster mitigation and community adaptation. We’ve even seen side effects such as more children being able to study after dark and receiving a better quality of nutritional food after we’ve trained women to provide sustainable lighting and energy for their communities.
So this International Women’s Day, as we do every year, we are asking for not only celebration, but change. Change in many areas - from our projects pressing for safe public spaces, to supporting women in climate resilience. The key message here is that gender equality is a tool that can unlock change in so many areas.
UN Women's HeForShe campaign launched in 2013 and has led to global change, from creating gender balance on boards, to outlawing child marriage in Malawi. What is the HeForShe 2.0 campaign and how can our readers be a part of the movement?
HeForShe has been such a powerful campaign because we have had over 2 million men and boys sign our pledge to be active gender equality allies - and as you say some of these have included business and politics’s most influential global leaders, who we’ve supported to create change. This new phase of HeForShe is about not only working with men in leadership roles, but supporting all men and boys to help make gender equality a reality, for the good of all genders. There are also many benefits to men of more equal societies, including access to parental leave, mental health support and more inclusive environments.
We’re starting by asking the 49,000 men who signed our HeForShe pledge to take action for safer public spaces, as part of our Safe Spaces now project. We are providing conversation guides, packs for parents, ideas for ways to create change in the workplace, as well as tailored anti-sexual harassment training created with 5,000 members of the public alongside global experts and clinicians. We’ve created really engaging tools from videogames to a virtual reality experience to make these conversations engaging and meaningful, as well as create proven behavioural change - and we’d love more men to get involved with this. The gender equality movement is absolutely open to people of all genders, and we welcome their involvement in helping to create change. The Legacy Globe community can join us, access tools, and support the programme by wearing their own HeForShe pin, by visiting unwomenuk.org/heforshe.
How can our community support UN Women UK?
Becoming a monthly donor is a hugely impactful way to support us, because it means we have the ability to move quickly to support women in crisis. We’ve done this over the past week during the crisis in Ukraine, where our team on the ground is working tirelessly to support women and girls. Women are classed as an ‘at-risk’ group in conflict, as rates of sexual violence rise and particularly older, disabled, and marginalised women are more likely to be targeted. UN Women is a young entity compared to our sister agencies - born out of the growing realisation that dedicated and sustained work for equality and women’s empowerment is needed - so we’re much smaller than some of our peer agencies, and every penny helps support a brighter future for the next generation. You can become a monthly donor to our work at unwomenuk.org/campaigns/support-us
People who share our belief in a gender-equal world can also get involved by campaigning for change as part of our community. We’ll be hosting a group of delegates from this community at the upcoming virtual Commission on the Status of Women, a meeting of UN Member States and thousands of civil society leaders from around the world for two weeks of meetings and events. If readers would like to apply to join us, please visit unwomenuk.org/csw
If readers would like to explore our work further, they are invited to reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.