I was at the VSO event in Westminster last night, where Michelle Bachelet talked about the priorities for UN Women, the new UN organisation that brings together initiatives around gender equality and the empowerment of women. Michelle was the first woman President of Chile from 2006 to 2010, and her cabinet was the first in the world that had equal numbers of men and women. She said that the fact that the UN have created UN women shows that gender equality and the empowerment of women is as important as other global imperatives such as climate change, and that investing in women is not only the right thing to do, it's alos the smart thing to do because of the benefits that it brings. She said that gender equality needs to be the priority of the whole cabinet, and not just of one minister who is usually the weakest.
The priorities for UN women will be the economic and political empowerment of women, but they'll also be addressing violence against women, and women's rights in conflict because these issues are all interlinked. It's too easy to think of women as victims of conflict, and it's true that in conflict situations women and girls are the civilians who suffer first and most, but they are also active agents of peace.
Andrew Mitchell, secretary of state for international development, talked about the commitment of DFID to gender equality in all their work. Harriet Harman took the opportunity to ask him why, if he was so commited to gender equality, all his ministers were male and said that to truly empower women, men need to share power.
You can see an interview with Michelle Bachelet here, from her visit to DFID on Monday.