(S)Heroes of the UN: Kate Gilmore

Date: 
Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 | Worldwide | iSeek | UN Foundation 

They defend the vulnerable and fight for human rights. They command forces and build coalitions for peace. And they take on the world’s toughest challenges.

Women now make up half of the senior leadership team of the United Nations. Throughout the Organization, from field operations to headquarters, women are leading the way in solving problems and creating change.

Secretary-General António Guterres has made gender equity – both within the UN and around the world – a key priority.

Meet another "(S)heroes of the UN", as highlighted by the UN Foundation: Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.

When it comes to speaking out about human rights abuses across the globe — particularly against girls and women, Kate Gilmore doesn’t mince words.“If violations at this pace, this deliberately, on this scale, with such clear knowledge of their life and death consequences were committed at the end of a fist or a gun, they would be denounced as crimes,” she says of recent efforts to curtail access to sexual and reproductive health services.

In the face of this regression, as she recently told a group of journalists at the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver, those committed to the rights of women and girls don’t need more hope: “We need first more courage, compassion, and far greater generosity.”

Gilmore began her career as a social worker in Australia, where she helped create the country’s first centre against sexual assault. She then continued her fight for women’s rights at Amnesty International and as a Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency.

Today, she helps protect the planet’s most vulnerable people as second-in-command at the UN Human Rights Office. For families affected by conflict in places like Ukraine, Myanmar, Syria, and South Sudan, this means documenting and reporting human rights abuses to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council, and UN member states.

The agency she works for reports on human rights violations wherever they occur and also provides technical advice and support to Member States and other stakeholders on how to address and carry out human rights obligations. In 2017, the agency also provided rehabilitation support to 40,000 survivors of torture in 78 countries and helped 10,000 survivors of modern slavery move forward with their lives.

Gilmore and her colleagues, who are currently working in 70 countries across the planet, also help uphold the treaties, conventions, and declarations that preserve and defend the dignity, freedom, and safety of all people everywhere.

When asked about who inspires her, Gilmore recalls meeting a 14-year-old mother of two who had survived incest, rape, and domestic violence before escaping with her children. Telling her story through tears, this girl-mother told Gilmore that she expected her to make a difference — so that no other girl would have to go through what she had endured.

“She is the person to whom I must be first and foremost accountable,” Gilmore says.

In her words:

“This pushback against women’s rights is counterfactual, it’s counter-science, and it’s counter-law.”