NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - U.N. Women named Bollywood star Farhan Akhtar as its first male goodwill ambassador to help advance empowerment of women and girls, the organisation said on Thursday.
In his new role as South Asia ambassador for the United Nations agency for gender equality, actor-filmmaker-singer Akhtar will also promote UN Women’s popular HeforShe campaign to engage men and boys in women’s rights.
“We are pleased and honoured to have Farhan as our Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia, for we believe his work and values represent the core values of UN Women,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women executive director, said in a statement.
“We need creative and committed men like Farhan to push the gender equality and women’s empowerment agenda.”
Akhtar, regarded as one of India’s most talented and versatile artists, has long been a vocal advocate for women’s rights and gender equality in India where he founded the Men Against Rape and Discrimination campaign(MARD).
Proud to be part of it,” Akhtar tweeted to his almost 4 million followers on Thursday. “@unwomenindia @UN_Women thank you for the honour and for your unrelenting passion & commitment to creating change.”
“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,40, said in a statement.
In recent years, UN Women has appointed numerous celebrities to boost visibility and support for its gender parity initiatives.
British actress Emma Watson was appointed to the UN Women role in July and launched the HeforShe campaign in New York in September with a well-received speech at the United Nations.
Other celebrity ambassadors include Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman and HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand.
Earlier this year, the United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) named British fashion designer and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham as its international goodwill ambassador.
Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Lisa Anderson