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NGOs and CEDAW

The CEDAW Convention provides a positive legal framework for women's rights but it will not automatically confer rights on women. What it does is that it legitimises women's claims for rights and women can be transformed from being passive beneficiaries to active claimants. It creates the space for women's agency.

The CEDAW Convention is largely dependent on the political will of governments. This political will can be created through a strong and highly conscious constituency, not only among women and women's groups but within government bureaucracy as well. The urgent need is to raise awareness and develop skills at various levels in relation to the CEDAW Convention among women, government functionaries, lawyers and members of the judicial system. At the ground level, advocacy for the application of the norms of the CEDAW Convention has to be linked to the international mandate of equality and non-discrimination.

This linkage also requires the establishment of a relationship between women's groups and the CEDAW Committee that monitors States parties' compliance with their obligations under the CEDAW Convention. Women's interaction with the CEDAW Committee can help integrate their perspectives into the interpretation of the convention's articles. This in turn will increase the CEDAW Convention's scope for domestic application and contribute to the development of women's rights jurisprudence within the UN system. Women can thus transform the CEDAW Convention into a truly living instrument and be critical actors in establishing norms and in the setting of standards for women's rights.

The participation of women from all regions and in all their diversity in the setting of international norms is also critical because of the need for universal minimum standards of human rights. This is so especially in the light of rising fundamentalism in our countries. There is a need to engage in the process of evolving core set of universal norms and standards for women's rights. Otherwise, rights for women will be subject to changing ideologies and shifting socio-economic and political contexts. The women we are working with are ready to engage in such standard-setting. In fact it is vital that they do that, so that their experiences and needs form the basis of such standard setting, thus linking the national to the global and the global to the national.