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Wonder Woman Named Honorary U.N. Ambassador For Gender Equality

A Wonder Woman display at Comic-Con International on July 20.
Matt Cowan
Getty Images
A Wonder Woman display at Comic-Con International on July 20.

The United Nations has announced a new honorary ambassador for women and girls, and she's not a human woman or girl.

She's a comic-book superheroine.

According to a U.N. statement, Wonder Woman will be officially appointed Oct. 21, which is the 75th anniversary of the character's debut.

"Wonder Woman's character is the most iconic and well known female comic book superhero in the world, known for her strength, fairness and compassion, and her commitment to justice, peace and equality," Maher Nasser, outreach director of the United Nations' Department of Public Information, said in a statement to NPR.

He did not comment on how, exactly, the imaginary heroine's powers would be harnessed by the international governing body, but he did say it would mark the start of "a campaign ... in support of the U.N.'s sustainable development goal 5."

This goal states that the U.N. will work to "achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls."

"Women and girls represent half of the world's population and therefore also half of its potential. But, today gender inequality persists everywhere and stagnates social progress," reads a 2014 U.N. fact sheet titled "Gender Equality: Why it matters."

Updated at 10:05 a.m. ET on Oct. 14

Nasser says both Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman on television in the '70s, and Gal Gadot, who plays her in a movie set for release next year will attend the appointment ceremony later this month.

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Wonder Woman's promotion comes about a week after the United Nations announced its new secretary-general would be the Portuguese politician (and man) Antonio Guterres.

Multiple women had been in the race for the role, including a Bulgarian who heads the U.N.'s cultural organization, Argentina's foreign minister, a New Zealander who runs the U.N.'s development program and a Costa Rican woman who led successful international climate negotiations, as NPR's Michele Kelemen has reported.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon poses after naming "Red the Angry Bird" as an honorary ambassador to the United Nations on March 18.
Kena Betancur / AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon poses after naming "Red the Angry Bird" as an honorary ambassador to the United Nations on March 18.

Despite pressure from groups such as the aptly named Campaign to Elect A Woman U.N. Secretary-General and Equality Now, which sent letters to members of the U.N. Security Council and world leaders including President Obama, none of the women in the race polled well.

"Some people believe that this is because, in secret, a lot of male ambassadors in New York prefer the U.N. to be a boys' club," Richard Gowan of the New York University Center on International Cooperation told NPR. But, he said, "there are also a lot of political games involved."

Wonder Woman isn't the first cartoon character to shoulder international responsibility. Winnie the Pooh served as an honorary ambassador for the International Day of Friendship under former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Earlier this year, outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed one of the characters from the Angry Birds mobile game as an honorary ambassador for the International Day of Happiness.

"There is no better way to mark the International Day of Happiness than to have our animated ambassador raise awareness about the importance of addressing climate change," Ban said.

The bird has since appeared on a website urging people to "send a tweet, record a vine [or] take a photo that shows you raising your voice for a good cause."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.