News from UN Women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was South Africa’s first woman deputy leader, has been announced as the new Executive Director of UN Women. She replaces Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile – who is once more running for Presidential office.

A statement from the office of UN Secretary General, Bank Ki-moon said that Mlambo-Ngcuka brings to the position, ‘a wealth of experience in advocating for women’s issues with a combination of strategic leadership, consensus building and hands-on management experience.’

In the 1980s Mlambo-Ngcuka was Young Women’s Co-ordinator for the World Young Women’s Christian Association in Geneva and President of the Natal Organization of Women, an affiliate of the United Democratic Front, a prominent anti-apartheid group.

Mlambo-Ngcuka is keen that education remains a key focus of the development agenda after the 2015 expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The subject has been a priority of the new Executive Director for many years. In 2008 she established the Umlambo Foundation. The organisation supports schools in disadvantaged areas of South Africa and Malawi.

Great progress has been made towards the established MDG of ensuring boys and girls all over the world complete primary school. But, although enrolment reached 90 per cent in 2010, there are still 57 million primary school aged children not in school.

Gender parity is still an issue, although now in a smaller amount of countries. For example, in Pakistan, there are an estimated 82 girls for every 100 boys at primary school.

Mlambo-Ngcuka has said that advocates for the rights of women need to become ‘smarter’, especially when it comes to issues like cybercrime and organised human trafficking.

The new director also told the Guardian that rape as a weapon of war and child marriage are other areas of particular concern.

The Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) has congratulated, Mlambo-Ngcuka on her appointment but expressed concern about a ‘lack of transparency’ in the selection process.

They say that a lack of information about the nominations for the role meant that women’s advocates and civil society did not have enough input into the final appointment.

AWID were one of the organisations which participated in the Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign, launched in 2006. This campaign ramped up the pressure for the creation of UN Women, which was realised in 2010.

Also known as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality, the agency supports Member States in working towards equality for the position of women. Another part of its role is to hold the UN accountable for its commitments on gender equality and monitoring its progress.

Image by World Economic Forum, under a CC License.