The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) was established in 1976 to aid in the incorporation of women’s needs and concerns into development programs and policies. Since its founding, UNIFEM has worked alongside other U.N. agencies and governments to promote women’s rights.
UNIFEM will be losing funding from its second highest donor, the Netherlands. Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation Agnes van Ardenne explained that Dutch development aid will begin to focus on fewer organizations in order to promote efficiency. Minister van Ardenne believes that women in developing countries will benefit more if large development organizations (such as the UN Development Programme and World Bank) take full responsibility for protecting and advocating women’s rights.
On a positive note, the 2005 spending bill passed by the U.S. Congress doubles U.S. contribution to UNIFEM to $2 million, and another $1 million will go to the UNIFEM Trust Fund to Support Actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women. However, UNIFEM will still be facing a loss of over $1 million in funding. In response to the budget shortcomings, UNIFEM has been forced to scale back important projects in Africa, such as the effort to fight HIV/AIDS among women. The Netherlands’ withdrawal of support has raised the issue of how to best promote women’s rights. Should special advocacy groups promote them, or is it more efficient to allow humanitarian organizations to take full responsibility? In putting their funds into the U.N. main development program, the Dutch are pursuing what is known as the “gender mainstreaming” approach—which puts responsibility for women’s issues on all personnel in an organization rather than on gender specialists.
Compiled from: “Women’s Rights:Ready to Swim in Mainstream?” Bojana Stoparic, Women’s eNews, 28 January 2005.