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Stars come out for gender equality

Stars come out for gender equality

The women's equality movement just got a little bit funkier with the launch last week of UN Women, the United Nations' most recent organisation, with luminaries from politics, entertainment,…

The women's equality movement just got a little bit funkier with the launch last week of UN Women, the United Nations' most recent organisation, with luminaries from politics, entertainment, business, media, music and film attending the launch.

Formally known as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, UN Women combines four established UN bodies and represents the United Nations' most ambitious effort yet to achieve gender equality.

"With the birth of UN Women, we welcome a powerful new agent for progress on gender equality and women's empowerment," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the opening party in New York on Friday (25 February).

"The challenges are great, but I believe that with the new energy, the new momentum and the new authority that UN Women brings, these challenges will be met. True gender equality should be our shared legacy in the 21st Century."

The Secretary-General appointed former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as the first Executive Director of UN Women.

Bachelet called the launch the first of many important milestones in the global pursuit of gender equality, emphasising that the decision to establish UN Women reflects ongoing frustration with the slow pace of change.

"Think of how much more we can do once women are fully empowered as active agents of change and progress within their societies," she said.

"Historically, we are at a point of great potential and change for women. Now we must seize that opportunity ... My own experience has taught me that there is no limit to what women can do."

UN Women will support individual countries move towards gender equality in economics and politics, and aspires to end violence against women. It will also assist in setting international standards for progress, and lead coordinated UN efforts to make new opportunities for females central to all UN programs for development and peace.

Nicole Kidman, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, described personal experiences of seeing women change the world.

"There are incredible testimonies of resilience, strength and dignity, and ultimately of hope," she said via video link. "This is why I say that the women and girls I have met are my personal heroes. It is my pleasure and pride to be with UN Women; the new, strong voice for women around the world."

Even royalty was on board, with Princess Cristina of Spain, in her capacity as President of the Institute of Health of Barcelona, urging broader understanding of how investment in women is an investment in families, communities and nations.

Citing uneven progress on aspects of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), such as reduced maternal mortality, Princess Christina called on all stakeholders and champions, governments, foundations, the private sector, civil society, academic institutions and individuals, to invest in women's empowerment as an instrumental strategy to achieve the MDGs."

Juju Chang, a news anchor for Good Morning America, serves as emcee of the celebration, while other speakers included UN General Assembly president Joseph Deiss; the president of the UN Women Executive Board and former Foreign Minister of Nigeria, Ambassador Joy Ogwu; Nepalese activist Bandana Rana; and former commander of the all-female Formed Police Unit in Liberia, Rakhi Sahi.

CNN founder and chairman of the UN Foundation Ted Turner urged men and the private sector to get involved in achieving gender equality, while actress Geena Davis highlighted the role of the media in promoting positive images. Colombian singer Shakira also offered a special message emphasising the importance of education.

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