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Fight For Gender Equality Faces Resistance From The United Nations: Study

Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal, was sworn in December 2016 after a campaign in which many countries urged selection of a woman.

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U.N.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses delegates during the opening session of a UN Migration Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Dec.10, 2018. VOA

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has inched up slightly in the eyes of women’s groups who said on Wednesday he has delivered on some promises to make the global organization a feminist institution but faces a major backlash and resistance.

The Feminist U.N. Campaign, a coalition of women’s rights groups, advocates and U.N. staff, gave him a grade of B-, up from the C+ it gave him a year ago.

The coalition launched its report card after the secretary-general said he would be a feminist leader when he took office two years ago.

United Nations, Global warming, climate change
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses during the opening of COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

Global movement

In that time, the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment and assault has become a global movement.

Guterres has promoted women’s rights and equality publicly, sought gender parity in leadership and rolled out efforts against sexual harassment and gender-based violence, the report said.

But an internal backlash and bureaucracy threaten his progress. His efforts to make structural changes have met “considerable resistance” from staff and member states that resist women’s rights, it said.

Lyric Thompson, an author of the report and a director at the Washington-based International Center for Research on Women, said she thinks Guterres has “a genuine intent and interest in being a champion” of women’s rights.

Women's March,
People carrying signs join hundreds of demonstrators in the Women’s March in downtown Los Angeles, Jan. 20, 2018. VOA

“The question is can he do everything in his power to be a feminist leader who enables that transformation and who makes it the new normal?” she said to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The U.N. is “years away” from being a feminist institution, and attitudes of immunity and privilege operate to scuttle equality efforts, she said.

Just last week, a U.N. survey showed one third of its staff and contractors experienced sexual harassment in the past two years.

More than 30,000 people answered the survey, complaining of offensive jokes, remarks and sexual stories and of being touched in ways that made them uncomfortable.

The U.N. has tried to increase transparency and strengthen how it deals with such accusations over the past few years after a string of sexual exploitation and abuse accusations against U.N. peacekeepers in Africa.

The head of the U.N. agency for HIV and AIDS is stepping down in June, six months before his term ends, after an independent panel said his “defective leadership” tolerated “a culture of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying, and abuse of power.”

Women
Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, center, address the human rights conference titled “Protecting Health Rights of Women and Girls Affected by Conflict,” during the U.N General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2018 at U.N. headquarters. VOA

‘Considerable progress’

The secretary-general’s office said it was pleased that the women’s groups saw improvement in Guterres’ handling of gender issues and agreed that more needs to be dome.

Also Read: Women Living in Countries with Gender Equality have better Cognitive Test Scores: Study

“At the same time, we believe the secretary-general has achieved considerable progress within the complex U.N. system at achieving real reforms to make the U.N. a better workplace for women and men alike,” his office said.

Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal, was sworn in December 2016 after a campaign in which many countries urged selection of a woman. The U.N. has not been headed by a woman since its creation in 1945. (VOA)

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UNICEF Launches Its Biggest-Ever Appeal To Help 73 Mn People

Fontaine says UNICEF has had to drastically cut back services for gender-based violence in Central African Republic because it only has received 36 percent of the money it needs.

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UNICEF
Children wait to be treated at a roadside UNICEF clinic, in Kananga, Democratic Republic of Congo VOA

The U.N. Children’s Fund is launching its largest-ever appeal for $3.9 billion in life-saving assistance for 73 million people, including 41 million children affected by conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies in 59 countries.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.N. Children’s Fund says 2019 also marks a year of heightened conflict, with more countries at war than at any time in the past three decades.

Among the greatest victims are more than 34 million children affected by conflict or disaster. UNICEF says they are suffering horrific levels of violence, deprivation and trauma with little access to protection and life-saving assistance.

UNICEF Director of Emergency Operations Manuel Fontaine says 88 percent of this year’s appeal is for humanitarian crises driven by conflict. He says the single biggest operation is to help Syrian refugees, the largest displacement crisis in the world, and the host communities in five neighboring countries of asylum.

syrian refugee children,
Syrian children, evacuated from rebel-held areas in the Eastern Ghouta, are seen playing at a shelter in the regime-controlled Adra district, on the northeastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, March 20, 2018. VOA

“The 2nd largest appeal is for Yemen, which over the past year has seen conditions, unfortunately, that were already catastrophic for children get even worse, if that is possible” Fontaine said. “Eight out of 10 children, which is over 11 million, now require humanitarian assistance in Yemen.”

UNICEF’s biggest operations traditionally have been in Africa. But this year the Democratic Republic of Congo places third, followed by Syria and South Sudan.

Fontaine says Africa unfortunately is the continent with the biggest gap in funding. He tells VOA African countries are not getting the attention they need, and that has serious consequences for humanitarian operations.

Yemen
Graphic content / A Yemeni woman holds a child suffering from malnutrition as they sit on a bed at a treatment centre in a hospital in the third city of Taez in the country’s southwest on November 21, 2018. VOA

“In a country like Cameroon, which is one of the countries for which we have concerns, particularly in northwest and southwest region at the moment. We had aimed to immunize 61,000 children against measles and because of lack of resources, we could only immunize a bit more than 2,000,” Fontaine said. “So, obviously, we are far behind what we need to do.”

Also Read: Millions Of Urban Children in Worse Condition Than Rural People: UNICEF

Fontaine says UNICEF has had to drastically cut back services for gender-based violence in Central African Republic because it only has received 36 percent of the money it needs. In all cases, he says funding shortfalls have very direct implications on the lives of children and women. (VOA)