On Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment: An Interview with UN Women's Lakshmi Puri

United Nations officials, civil society groups and worldwide media coverage hailed last month's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for taking a significant step forward in the campaign to end gender-based violence. The outcome document from the 57th CSW -- supported by UN Women -- included substantial agreements regarding the promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment, including the need to guarantee women's reproductive rights and access to health services.

Following the CSW, Lakshmi Puri, who had been instrumental in facilitating months of preparations as well as the final two weeks of tough but successful negotiations, took over as acting head of UN Women after Executive Director Michelle Bachelet stepped down. Puri, who is also assistant secretary-general of the UN, has been a force in elevating UN Women's prominence over the last couple years. The agency is making women's rights a central focus of the post-2015 development agenda -- an effort particularly critical at a time when both women and their rights are being subjected to a number of high-profile attacks.

Talking to Puri gives one the deep sense of the interconnectedness that UN Women prioritizes in advancing gender equality and women's empowerment. By working with other UN agencies, governments and civil society groups globally, UN Women is proving the profound societal benefits of enhancing women's economic and political standing, along with education and health services. Puri spoke with The InterDependent about these issues and more.

The ID: Could you talk about the importance of this year's Commission on the Status of Women? Puri: Absolutely, in fact, the CSW outcome and the commission itself were historic in so many different ways. Firstly, in terms of participation and mobilization of governments and civil society around this inter-governmental institution -- the only one which has really sought to make policy and drive political commitment from member states to promote gender equality and women's empowerment and to implementation on the ground.

We had more than 6,500 civil society participants [registered]. We had nearly 2,000 government delegates participating. And apart from the numbers, it was the intensity and the commitment and the passion with which everyone came together on, among others, the priority theme of ending violence against women.

It was also historic in terms of the kind of preparations UN Women carried out -- and this has been acknowledged across the board by member states and civil society -- that never before had such preparations and political mobilization at the national and regional levels been undertaken.