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A Critique Of UNIFEM
Just Because It Sounds Pro-Woman; Doesn’t Make it True!
By Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D.
June 14, 2002

The Rhetoric of UNIFEM:
Created in 1976 when the United Nations declared a Decade for Women and established a fund to “promote women’s empowerment and gender equality,” this effort became the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in 1985. UNIFEM supports numerous projects and initiatives around the world to “promote political, economic and social empowerment of women.” It focuses on meeting the “needs and concerns of women regarding critical issues on national and global agendas”-for instance, to design new “gender-sensitive laws and marketing systems.” UNIFEM’s involvement varies from “small grassroots enterprises” to “multi-national education campaigns.” UNIFEM is involved in “strengthening women’s organizations and networks,” providing political and financial support for women, linking women to governments, the United Nations network and the private sector, developing projects to empower women, and building a framework for women to influence the mainstream.

The Reality of UNIFEM:
The key to understanding UNIFEM is a quote from the Director, Noeleen Heyzer’s, plenary address to the Fourth World Conference on Women. Heyzer said, “It is not acceptable for women to constitute 70 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion absolute poor. Nor is it acceptable for women to work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, but earn only one-tenth of the world’s income and own less than one-tenth of the world’s property. Many fundamental changes must be made.” Heyzer’s remarks embody UNIFEM’s view that women’s empowerment in the third world is not to be an organic internal development reflecting each autonomous society’s values and needs such as evolved over time by trial and error in advanced nations but a finished concept reflecting a western viewpoint of the “fundamental changes” that “must” be imposed. Her remarks also illustrate the faulty data and logic that are the foundation of its philosophy and approach to issues.

  • UNIFEM is an umbrella for promoting a leftist international agenda. Like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, UNIFEM imposes its utopian and ideological solutions without regard to national sovereignty or cultural traditions that spring from local conditions, values, and needs. It is utopian idealism to think that power can be consolidated (without proper checks and balances) and then proceed as though there were no danger that this concentration of power would not be hijacked by someone or some group intent on using it for their own benefit and to impose their will upon others. For example, an examination of the UNIFEM literature reveals pervasive use of the word, “transformative”-as in, transformative tasks and transformative goals. The latest training materials contain these five documents (out of eight) whose titles indicate their leftist agenda: Advocacy Kit for CEDAW, Gender Analysis Training Manual for Grassroots Workers, Demanding Accountability: The Global Campaign and Tribunal for Women’s Rights, Gender Equity in Science and Technology, and Women’s Roles in Technical Innovation.
  • UNIFEM’s personnel have become policy. The interpretation and implementation of UNIFEM’s goals and objectives are in the hands of the radical left. Sincere, well-intentioned people can be disastrously wrong. The people directing and implementing UNIFEM’s programs and policies, the development planners and decision makers, the powerbrokers and the voices in the bully pulpits are leaders of the radical Left. This is most obvious when examining the original purpose (to improve living standards of women in developing nations) in contrast to contemporary emphases (focused on transforming women from homemakers to entrepreneurs and providing gender-equity and gender mainstreaming in training materials). For example, one author makes a distinction between “integrationist” and “agenda-setting” gender mainstreaming. Integrationists simply add on women to pre-existing programs, she wrote. Whereas, agenda-setting gender mainstreaming implies a “more transformative approach whereby adopting women’s issues and concerns would promote a fundamental change in the mainstream.” Those desired changes consist of a left-wing agenda that is primarily to increase the number of “gender entrepreneurs” and enforce “gender equity” rather than addressing economic and cultural needs.
  • UNIFEM’s agenda contradicts, in basic and fundamental ways, the principles and policies on which America is founded. While they cloak their heavy-handed ideological agenda with high-sounding rhetoric, the programs, policies and publications of UNIFEM are diametrically different from the traditional American values. To align with UNIFEM is to align with a radical left agenda at virtually every point-from “reproductive health services” to “working vigorously to support implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action” in every agency and area of the United States government and around the world. UNIFEM partners with the leftist women’s organizations -like the National Organization for Women and The Women’s Economic and Development Organization (WEDO) to redefine the family and insist upon “comparable worth” (sex-based wage and salary price fixing). They promote Senator Hillary Clinton’s view that “Women’s rights are human rights” with all of the implications and ramifications of the “women’s rights” movement embodied in the ideology-including quotas, children’s autonomy, opposition to any sex-role stereotyping (homemaker, mother, etc.), promoting sex worker rights (prostitution as a legitimate occupational choice), opposing distinctions based on sex (promoting the gay rights agenda and mainstreaming lesbianism).

In short, UNIFEM promotes government expansion and programs costing American taxpayers billions of dollars while ignoring the prerogatives of national sovereignty both here and abroad. In addition, UNIFEM bases its programs and policies on faulty data and logic that conform to a flawed utopian perspective that assumes that the Western, developed nations know what is best for developing countries. Thus, funds that should go for women’s legitimate needs get diverted into these agendas. Sadly, UNIFEM cloaks radical social engineering in so-called women’s concerns in order to draw attention away from its heavy-handed imposition of a radical ideology.

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