Brief history

The Division for the Advancement of Women was established in 1946 as the Section on the Status of Women, Human Rights Division, Department of Social Affairs.

In 1972, the section was upgraded as the Branch for the Promotion of Equality for Men and Women under the newly created Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations Office in Vienna. The Centre was then headed by Ms. Helvi Sipila (Finland), the first woman to serve in the UN as an Assistant Secretary-General.

In 1978, the branch was renamed as the Branch for the Advancement of Women. In August 1993, the unit was moved to New York as the Division for the Advancement of Women where it formed part of the Department of Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD). As a result of restructuring, the Division became part of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in 1996.

DAW acted as the substantive secretariat for the four World Conferences on Women (Mexico 1975, Copenhagen 1980, Nairobi 1985 and Beijing 1995). The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing was the largest conference in the history of the United Nations. Under the guidance of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, DAW also carried out the preparatory work for the 23rd special session of the General Assembly in 2000. In 2005, DAW assisted the Commission on the Status of Women to conduct the Ten-year Review and Appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action during the Commission’s 49th session.

DAW has provided substantive servicing to the Commission on the Status of Women since its inception in 1946 and technical and substantive support to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women since 1982.