Wonder Woman handed UN honorary ambassador role despite protests

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Wonder Woman has been appointed a United Nations (UN) honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls.

Despite a petition arguing against the appointment, the female superhero was controversially chosen as the UN teamed up with DC Entertainment and Warner Bros in an effort to raise awareness of gender equality as part of a new campaign.

Described as a "trailblazer for women's rights" by DC Entertainment, Wonder Woman first appeared in a comic book in 1941.

UN protest
Protesters stand in silence arguing against the UN appointment (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Cristina Gallach, UN under-secretary-general for communications and public information, said: "While we have achieved progress towards gender equality, in many parts of the world women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence.

"Gender equality is a fundamental human right and a foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world."

Critics hit out at the appointment, calling for real-life heroines to be chosen instead and about 50 UN staff members silently turned their back to the stage during the ceremony in New York.

UN protest
Protesters at the UN turn their back as Wonder Woman is appointed an honorary ambassador (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Shazia Rafi, a women's rights activist and former UN staff member, said it was "a lot of rubbish that you can appoint a cartoon female to represent gender equality in this day and age, even if it is to reach younger women".

"I'm not against cartoons. I think cartoons have a value. But that is not the issue."

A petition set up by UN staff members called the appointment "extremely disappointing".

Actress Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman in the 1970s TV series, acknowledged the protesters during her speech at the ceremony but called on them to "stand up and be counted".

Lynda Carter
Lynda Carter played Wonder Woman in the 1970s (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

She added: "It's okay that not everyone agrees, but get over it and say, 'What else is new?'"

The campaign will share positive examples of real-life women and girls who make a difference in everyday life.

It will also encourage women to speak out against discrimination, work on preventing gender-based violence and abuse, and support women and girls in leadership and education.

The organisation has previously appointed Winnie the Pooh as honorary ambassador of friendship in 1998 and Tinker Bell as the honorary ambassador of green in 2009.