Bollywood actor and filmmaker Farhan Akhtar has been appointed as the South Asia Goodwill Ambassador of the UN’s body dedicated to gender equality and
women’s empowerment, becoming the first man to hold the role in the organisation’s history.
UN Women’s South Asia Goodwill Ambassador said Akhtar has represented the voice of numerous concerned men on the important issue of gender equality and violence against women and girls in India through his Men Against Rape and
Discrimination (MARD) campaign.
In his new role, Akhtar would dedicate his efforts towards the empowerment of women and girls, and would serve as an advocate for UN Women’s newly launched ‘HeForShe’ initiative in advocating for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“I am a supporter of UN Women’s HeForShe campaign and the role men and boys can play in stopping crime against women and girls, and working towards gender equality,” Akhtar said. “Through this new partnership I want to call on all men and boys to be a catalyst for change and, through our actions, create a value system to end gender disparity,” he said.
UN Women Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said Akhtar’s work and values represent the core values of the UN body.
Mlambo-Ngcuka said MARD “aims to sensitise men and create awareness about the safety of women. That kind of engagement is essential.”
“We need creative and committed men like Farhan to push the gender equality and women’s empowerment agenda,” she said, adding that Akhtar’s passion and conviction for the cause would galvanise a multiplier effect and reach the hearts and minds of men and boys in South Asia and beyond.
Akhtar’s appointment coincides with the first official visit by Mlambo-Ngcuka to India. Earlier in the week Mlambo-Ngcuka met with the President of India and senior ministers of the new government, and participated in the second Global MenEngage Symposium, which brought together more than 400 NGOs working on gender justice in New Delhi.
The visit to India comes as UN Women’s global initiative Beijing+20 “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture It” is reigniting a global conversation on gender equality and women’s rights in the lead up to the 20th anniversary of the historic 1995 Beijing Conference, which produced what is
considered the most comprehensive women’s rights agenda, the Beijing Platform for Action.
UN Women’s other Goodwill Ambassadors include British actor Emma Watson, Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman and Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand.