As the chairwoman of the UN Women for Peace Association, Muna Rihani Al Nasser is passionately fighting violence against women worldwide. As an ambassador’s wife for over a decade, she has been privy to the inner workings of international government policies as well as the private sector which she has tapped to assist in eradicating these atrocities towards women. Through her fundraising efforts to their annual March in March to End Violence Against Women, she has worked tirelessly to raise awareness amongst policymakers and has made strides in effecting change through educating women in war-torn countries. Here, Resident Magazine catches up with this global powerhouse to learn more about the efforts behind the UN Women for Peace Association. Each year, the UN Women for Peace Association honors individuals who have made a difference in the lives of women and girls.
RM: What are the missions of the UN Women for Peace Association?
MR: UN Women for Peace started with few ambassadors’ wives who were trying to promote the idea of empowering women and ending bans against women. At the beginning, this organization that we started was really like a club. But we later realized that the best thing to do was target the private sector to give back to the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Towards Women. As this is part of the general assembly, there are no politics in this trust fund because all the money goes to a pool which gives grants to organizations that end violence against women. It can be towards ending sex trafficking or domestic violence, or for education and changing mindsets, so it covers all kinds of violence against women all over the world. The money goes to these countries according to their needs, not according to who they are. As I was the wife of the Qatar ambassador for over a decade , I realized that through his work at the UN all governments put women’s issues at the bottom of the agendas. So, I thought if we draw the attention from the private sector and give back to the UN, in this sense, we provide more money for women’s issues. We also wanted to push governments to change their policies and prioritize women’s issues. Over the last two years, the terror of ISIS over refugees all over the world has become obvious. We need to save these girls in refugee camps through education or else they will be recruited into ISIS groups or left on the streets, which could lead to child brides, sex trafficking, and other kinds of abuse. This year, our main priority is to launch schools for refugee girls. It is also important to build awareness in New York, which not only hosts the UN but serves as a role model to other countries. If the United States of America supports women’s issues and empowers women, other countries will follow.
RM: When did you launch?
MR: Four years ago, we started a march (March in March)to End Violence Against Women in celebration of International Women’s Day. It started at the UN which represents a symbol of freedom for everyone. We also launched our annual Awards Luncheon to celebrate International Women’s Day and to honor people who are working effortlessly for women and girl’s issues. It is a vehicle to generate funding for our programs. We also have a big media campaign to show people that it’s a responsibility of every one of us. We have to engage men as well, because as much they are part of the problem, they are part of the solution.
UN Women for Peace Association’s Annual Awards Luncheon will be held on Friday, March 10, 2017 at the UN Nations Headquarters in celebration of International Women’s Day. Guests of Honor will include President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, and his wife, Marijcke Thomson, Martha Stewart, and Ambassador Nancy Brinker.
This year’s honorees are Mrs. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcukva (Executive Director, UN Women); Loreen Arbus (Loreen Arbus and The Loreen Arbus Foundation/The Goldenson-Arbus Foundation); David Batstone (President & Co-Founder, Not For Sale); Dayle Haddon (Founder & CEO, WomenOne); Deborra-Lee Furness (Co-Founder, HOMELAND); and Lin-Manuel Miranda (for his overall support of women’s rights).
UN Women for Peace Association, founded in 2008 under the patronage of H.E. Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, raises awareness and advances the goals of UN agencies who provide opportunities for women through social, cultural, educational, and empowerment programs under the banner of a global peace building process. All of our proceeds go directly to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, which aims to prevent violence against women and girls, provides services and programs to those affected by violence, and strengthens the implementation of laws and policies on such violence.