Unifem

Nicole Kidman had three goals for 2008: Finish the Baz Luhrmann epic “Australia,” give birth to her baby girl, Sunday Rose, “and get people to click on to the United Nations Development Fund for Women’s website.”

Her first two missions are accomplished, and the third takes her to the United Nations at year’s end to present Unifem’s Say No to Violence petition of signatures to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Unifem continues to fund programs, as Kidman explains, “to prevent human trafficking in the Ukraine and domestic violence in Haiti and to create new laws on rape in Liberia,” among other things.

The Say No to Violence petition started in November and now contains more than 230,000 names, including those of many top-level dignitaries, politicians, celebs and others who have clicked onto the Unifem website.

The org also works with more than 100 countries to formulate and implement laws and policies to eliminate gender discrimination and promote gender equality in a variety of economic arenas.

As its goodwill ambassador, Kidman has been especially impressed with Unifem’s “ridiculously simple solutions, but ones that make for huge changes.” For example, “Helping the women in Liberia man their stalls so they had the time to go and vote. Or getting the army in the Congo to keep their truck lights on so that women could get water and food and not be raped.”

Mallika Dutt

Breakthrough is just one of the many orgs that receive grants from Unifem. Its founder and exec director, Mallika Dutt, calls Unifem a partner. “They are a sounding board, providing input and leadership around the world.”

Breakthrough recently was awarded a three-year grant from Unifem — $100,000 each year — to create its first comprehensive campaign, Ring the Bell, to fight domestic violence in India. Unifem has forged a high-profile relationship with the country’s Ministry of Women and Child Welfare.

“International resource allocations for the rights of women are minuscule,” Dutt says. “The U.N. needs to take women’s rights more seriously by having more adequate funding and resources.”

– Denise Smaldino

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