International Gender Champions strive towards Gender Balance


On 7th March 2018, ahead of the International Women’s day, the United Nations agencies operating in Nairobi launched the Nairobi chapter of the UN International Gender Champions. This is a leadership network that brings together female and male decision-makers to break down gender barriers and make gender equality a working reality in their spheres of influence.

The launch was attended by UN staff members, the diplomatic community among other dignitaries. Senior UN offers present included Maimunah Sharif, Executive-Director of UN-Habitat, Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment, and Ms. Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi.

Gender Champions
Delegates at the official launch of the International Gender Champions in Nairobi Photo: United Nations Office of Nairobi

“Ms Maimunah Sharif, declared that UN Habitat will achieve its 50/50 gender parity targets in the agreed time frame by actively promoting and encouraging the professional development of all female staff using all measures available. She also committed to offer equal opportunities for their own career development leading to increase female representation in the higher levels. She committed to zero tolerance in sexual harassment within the organization. She also committed to creating clear and safe channels where staff can raise issues relating to sexual harassment in the workplace.

M. Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment, committed to never seat in all male panels. He insisted that the UN system has completely zero tolerance and it should be reported just like any other harassment. He is also looking forward to recruiting more women in 2018 and have a 50/50 situation in all levels.

The #metoo and #timeisup campaign has shed light on the vast occurrence of sexual harassment and the pressing need to change this culture. The Nairobi launch ensured that gender equality is a priority and development leaders pledge to be crucial change-makers. A core commitment for all Gender Champions is the Panel Parity Pledge. The aim is to increase visibility of female experts and decision-makers in the international fora.

Each Gender Champion made two individual commitments specific to moving gender equality forward in their organization. The commitments are meant to galvanize behavioral change at an individual and an institutional level. Each Champion had a specific commitment which relates to the organization and seeks to catalyze innovation and implement best practices to achieve gender equality in measurable, results-oriented and time-bound increments. All Gender Champions are meant to report on their commitments by the end of each calendar year.

By taking the pledge, the leaders committed to strive towards gender balance at every event to which they are invited to speak. A network of Focal Points will be formed at the working level to support the International Gender Champions Nairobi in their work.