29 September 2016
Meet Our Board President, Elizabeth Shaw – Finalist of 100 Women of Influence Awards
As a busy professional, why do you take time out to volunteer? What volunteer activities do you prioritise and why?
In 2008, I had an incredible opportunity to work with the Australian Mission to the United Nations in New York during the General Assembly. As I participated in negotiations on a wide range of topics, one thing became very clear: that so much of what we are trying to achieve – from economic development to improved literacy rates – starts with the role of women.
When we invest in women, the multiplier effect is huge, and the whole community benefits.
I started volunteering for UN Women National Committee as soon as I was back in Australia, organising events and fundraisers because I believed so strongly in the work of UN Women and wanted to build as much support for their work as possible.
What do you like most about your role on the Board of Directors of UN Women NC Australia?
UN Women is different from other organisations in a number of ways.
One is scale – UN Women works in close to 100 countries around the world. If we are ever going to make significant and sustainable progress toward gender equality, it needs the type of wide-reaching, transformational change that UN Women delivers.
Another is UN Women’s ability to work on multiple levels to drive change: on the grassroots level (though program delivery), with national governments (through policy and advocacy) and on the international stage (bringing all governments together to establish international norms and standards on gender equality and international development).
This means we are tackling problems such as violence against women in the immediate and short term by providing support, medical services, safe bus services etc and over the long term, by changing laws and policies, and creating more gender-equal communities.
In addition to knowing that UN Women’s work is transforming lives around the world, volunteering as a board member connects me to a sense of community in Australia, as I join thousands of other Australians who attend our International Women’s Day events, donate to UN Women and advocate for a strong and effective Australian aid program.
What impact is UN Women programming having on women around the world?
UN Women is creating brighter futures for women and girls all over the world.
I have seen firsthand the impact of UN Women programs in Thailand and Fiji, and met with women whose lives have been changed as a result of UN Women’s work.
One of the most challenging humanitarian situations of our time is the conflict in Syria and the mass displacement of people, leaving women particularly vulnerable.
UN Women is working to provide Syrian women refugees and their families with education, training and job opportunities through UN Women’s Oasis Centres. The evaluations speak for themselves: Syrian women refugees who participate in Oasis Centre programs report a 91% increase in household and community decision-making; a 96% increase in mental wellbeing; and a 20% reduction in domestic violence.
Why do you donate to UN Women?
There is only so far that raising awareness can go. At the moment, what is needed is money to support life-changing programs.
Investing in women is one of the best investments you can make. I donate to UN Women in particular because of the results UN Women achieves on the ground.
Donations of all sizes are making a big difference to Syrian women refugees and their families right now: https://unwomen.org.au/take-action/donate/syria-appeal/
If gender equality means something to you, I would encourage you to join me and take a stand for women around the world.