The Division

© Annette Jalilova

Located in the Office of the Director-General at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, the Division for Gender Equality is responsible for ensuring the promotion of Gender Equality at UNESCO both in programming and in the Secretariat. This work is based on a two-pronged approach involving both gender-specific programmes and gender mainstreaming within UNESCO’s five areas of competence (Education; Natural Sciences; Social and Human Sciences; Culture; and Communication and Information), guided by the Priority Gender Equality Action Plan for 2014 – 2021. The Division is also responsible for providing gender sensitive orientation for intersectoral platforms and the Organization’s thematic areas of focus, such as HIV and AIDS, and climate change.

A Little History

Since its inception over 60 years ago, UNESCO has been at the avant-garde of the efforts to support women’s rights, women’s empowerment, and gender equality. While the promotion of these goals has remained constant, UNESCO’s approach to their achievement has evolved over recent decades. 

In the 1980s, in line with the Beijing Conference and Platform for Action, UNESCO moved from a “Women in Development” approach, to a “Gender and Development” approach, which sought to make all development UNESCO initiatives gender-responsive and focused more closely on power relations between women and men, and disparities in access and opportunities.  The 1990’s brought increased attention to the gender equality dimensions of human rights.  Whereas UNESCO and the international community had previously focused on “women’s needs and interests” as a transversal or cross-cutting issue, the 1993 Vienna Conference on Human Rights firmly established that “women’s rights are human rights,” thereby transforming perspectives on the issue.  While UNESCO was fully committed to the promotion of gender equality at this time, it was viewed as one cross-cutting issue among several others. 

In a landmark decision during the 34th Session of the General Conference in 2007, UNESCO made its greatest commitment thus far to the achievement of gender equality by designating Gender Equality as one of two Global Priorities for the 2008-2013 Medium-Term Strategy. This commitment was renewed in 2013 and constitutes a central priority of the Director-General's mandate.  

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