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No Woman Has Had Top Post at UN


Motohide Yoshikawa, left, Japan's ambassador to the United Nations, talks with Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador, following a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, Sunday, Feb. 7. Some are pushing for the UN to name its first woman secretary-general. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Motohide Yoshikawa, left, Japan's ambassador to the United Nations, talks with Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador, following a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, Sunday, Feb. 7. Some are pushing for the UN to name its first woman secretary-general. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)


International Women’s Day on Tuesday is all about better education and better jobs for women.

That includes one job in particular: Secretary-General of the United Nations. It is the UN’s top post and no woman has had that post.

The UN was founded in 1945, and has had eight male secretaries-general.

A woman secretary-general, says Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, “would serve as a powerful symbol to the approximately 3.6 billion people in this world who are women.”

Ban Ki-moon of South Korea has said he will give up the secretary-general post at the end of the year. He has been secretary-general since 2007.

Among the candidates to replace Ban are three women, Irina Bokova, now director-general of the UN Organization for Education, Science and Culture; Natalia Gherman, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Moldova; and Vesna Pusic, first deputy prime minister of Croatia.

Male candidates include Danilo Turk, former president of Slovenia, and Kevin Rudd, Australia’s former prime minister.

The Financial Times recently wrote that German Chancellor Angela Merkel might be a surprise candidate for secretary-general.

Jeane Krasno is chair of the group Campaign to Elect a Woman UN Secretary-General.

Krasno said she will observe International Women’s Day in New York. An event there will recognize important work women do for the UN. That includes providing food, housing and security for families during famines and armed conflicts.

“The argument has been in the past that there aren’t enough qualified women to choose from,” Krasno told VOA. “That argument no longer holds water.”

She said her group has identified 38 women with “incredible experience, achievement and qualifications.”

The United Nations tends to select secretaries-general on a rotating basis to make sure each world region gets a person in the top UN job. For this election, the UN is said to be looking at an official from Eastern Europe, according to multiple news reports.

“If that argument is valid, what about representation for women who make up over half of the world’s population?,” Krasno asked.

Krasno teaches political science and international relations classes at Yale University, Columbia University and the City University of New York.

I'm Kathleen Struck.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or share your views on our Facebook Page. Tell us who you would like to see be the head person at the UN.

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Words in This Story

particular – adj. used to show that one individual or thing is being described

symbol – n. an action, object or event that expresses or represents a particular idea or quality

approximatelyadv. almost correct or exact

incredible – adj. extremely good, great, or large

achievementn. something that has been done through effort or hard work

qualificationn. special skills, experience or knowledge that makes someone able to complete a job or activity

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