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Guidelines on How to Write a Shadow/Alternative Report

  • Click here for print version of complete guidelines
  • Click here for Spanish version of complete guidelines

General Guidelines

What is the difference between a shadow report and an alternative report?

First it is important to note the difference between a shadow report and an alternative report. When an NGO writes its report, with access to the government report submitted to the CEDAW Committee, this is called a shadow report. When an NGO writes its report where no government report is available (e.g. either because their government has not written one or it writes it too late), this is called an alternative report.

What is the purpose of the shadow/alternative report?

The purpose of the shadow/alternative report is to provide the CEDAW Committee with information on the substantive rights outlined in the CEDAW Convention. So for example since Article 10 of the CEDAW Convention is on the right to education, the report would include information on the right to education. And since Article 9 is on the right to nationality, the report would include information on the right to nationality. And so on and so forth. In relation to each of these rights, the report explains what the status of this right in your country is and what can be done to improve it.

With a shadow report, you have an added element to the report. It not only includes that status of that right in your country (as explained above) but it also compares the status of that right as compared to the information provided by the government. So for example for the right to education, the shadow report would discuss the status of that right in your country plus compare it with the information on the right to education provided by the government in its report. It is a critique of the government's report.

How should I organize my report?

The best way to organize your report is by Article. So, for example, each subheading in your report will be an article of the CEDAW Convention. Subheading one would be on Article 1 of the CEDAW convention (the definition of Discrimination in your country), subheading two would be on Article 2 of the CEDAW Convention (policy measures that have been undertaken to eliminate discrimination in your country), etc.

The broad structure of the CEDAW Convention is as follows:

  • Articles 1 – 5 provides the general substantive framework of the Convention.

  • Articles 6 – 16 provides specific substantive areas of the Convention.

  • Articles 17 – 23 outlines the role of the CEDAW Committee and the procedures pertaining to the Convention and finally,

  • Articles 23 – 30 outlines the administration and interpretation of the Convention.

Note, the shadow/alternative report need only provide information on the substantive articles of the CEDAW convention, i.e. Articles 1 - 16. Note also, Articles 1 - 5 of the CEDAW Convention should be written differently than Articles 6 – 16 since they cover broader issues as opposed to the specific ones enumerated in Articles 6 – 16. (See specific guidelines for these articles in Part II).

What language should my shadow/alternative report be in?

Whilst the shadow report can be prepared in English, Spanish or French, you are strongly advised to provide an Executive Summary of the report in English. The Executive Summary would include:

  • A summary of the main critical points of the shadow/alternative report;

  • A summary of the recommendations to the critical points above and to the challenges encountered in the implementation of the CEDAW Convention.

Guidelines for Writing Shadow/Alternative Report, Articles 1-5

Articles 1 - 5 are general in nature and set out the underlying principles of the CEDAW Convention: Equality, Non-Discrimination and State Obligation.

Below we have set out a series of questions for each article. Note these are not meant to be an exhaustive list. Note also that you are not meant to answer each question specifically, but rather use them as a way to prompt information.

Article 1: Definition of discrimination

  • Has the definition of discrimination as given in Article 1 of the CEDAW Convention been incorporated into the Constitution and laws of your country?
  • Do the laws of the land also address both direct and indirect discrimination?

Article 2: Policy measures to be undertaken to eliminate discrimination

  • Has the government legally provided for the principles of substantive equality and non-discrimination of the CEDAW Convention to be incorporated into domestic laws at the national level?
  • Is the CEDAW Convention applicable in the courts?
  • Has any of the provisions of the CEDAW Convention been directly invoked in domestic courts to gain equal rights for women? Is there case law?
  • Are lawyers and advocates able to directly cite the CEDAW Convention in court?
  • Are there national laws that conflict with the CEDAW Convention?
  • Where there is a conflict between national laws and the CEDAW Convention, which one supersedes?

3. What measures, if any, has the government undertaken to ensure the practical realization of these principles of equality and non-discrimination?

  • Are there provisions to ensure that non-State actors, such as individuals, also comply with these rights and principles?

6. Are there competent and sensitised tribunals to hear such cases? Have all relevant government officers in all sectors as well as the judiciary and relevant legal personnel been trained to carry out their obligations under the CEDAW Convention?

7. Are there specific sanctions for discrimination on the basis of gender included in the domestic legislation?

  • Has any other appropriate legislation been enacted to make discriminatory acts in the public and private sectors actionable? Such legislation could take the form of an Equal Opportunities Act or an Anti-Sex Discrimination Act.
  • What sanctions are in place for discrimination against women by the private sector or public sector?
  • What steps have been taken by the government to ensure that women are informed about their rights?
  • What legal remedies are available to women who have been discriminated against or have their rights violated?
  • Are the remedies also available to women whose perpetrators are from the private sector or public sector?
  • Are there specific institutions and procedures laid out in order for women to have access to the remedies such as Office of the Ombudsman or special tribunals?
  • If these institutions and procedures are in place, how effective are they in addressing the violations and providing the remedies?

9. Has an inter-sectoral monitoring mechanism been established to gather data on compliance with the obligations under the CEDAW Convention?

  • Are there assessments carried out to measure the effectiveness of laws and policies that are meant to promote women’s equality?

Article 3: Guarantees basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, on an equal basis with men

  • Has the government created national machineries which address the development of women, create equal opportunities for women and ensure women’s equal access and results to those opportunities?
  • If so, what kinds of machineries have been created?
  • What are the competence and mandate of these machineries?
  • What is the level of coordination with other institutional machineries?
  • What level of progress has been achieved in addressing the development and advancement of women in your country in all spheres i.e. political, economic, social and cultural?
  • Can these machineries be more effective?
  • Have the national development plans in your country addressed women’s development and advancement on a scale that is representative of the women’s population in your country?
  • In the national development plans, has the government incorporated macro-economic and social policies that will ensure women’s access and enjoyment to overall economic and social development?
  • What percentage of the budget in the national development plans is geared towards the goals for the development and advancement of women?
  • Did the development of these national plans utilize the definition as provided for in Article 1 of the CEDAW Convention in ensuring that the plans do not discriminate against women, either directly or indirectly?
  • Do the national development plans include specific provisions for specific groups of women in your country including rural women, indigenous women, disabled women, migrant women, minority women and marginalised women in your country?
  • Are there any monitoring systems in place to evaluate the implementation of the national development plans in relation to women’s development?
  • Are there mechanisms in place to address the shortfall of the national development plans implementation especially in relation to women’s development?
  • How are the women in your country affected by the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) agreements?
  • Has there been any assessments made on the impact of these agreements on the rights of women in your country?
  • Is there adequate data to assess progress made in the implementation of the CEDAW Convention such as data disaggregated by sex, by ethnicity and other relevant variables.
  • Aside from that is there data collected to identify obstacles to the achievement of de facto rights for women and to assess the effects of laws and policies on women?
  • Is there a plan for implementation of the CEDAW Convention that sets out benchmarks for progress?
  • Are there plans for special programmes to enable women to access rights given in the law, or plans that delineate responsibility, identify inter-sectoral cooperation, allocate budgets and integrate capacity building measures for the implementers?
  • Are these integrated into the mainstream national development plans?
  • Has the government involved NGOs in planning any of the above?
  • Does the government/state party report mention specific commitments and institutional arrangements for implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action that includes accountability to NGOs?
  • What is your analysis of the efficiency or effectiveness of state machinery or national institutions meant to promote human rights in general and women’s rights in particular?
  • What are your recommendations for government action under each of the issues or problems you have identified?

Article 4: Temporary special measures to achieve equality

  • Has the government taken any temporary special measures to improve specific situation of women in your country that would bring them closer to experiencing equality with men, i.e. the implementation of affirmative action policies in education, decision-making participation?
  • Are the temporary special measures limited to the public sector or are they also extended to be applicable in the private sector as well?
  • Are there specific temporary special measures that address specific groups of women such as rural women, indigenous women, disabled women, migrant women, minority women and marginalised women in your country?
  • Are there mechanisms in place to monitor the implementation of temporary special measures and to measure their progress in accelerating de facto equality for women in your country?

Article 5: Sex roles and stereotyping

  • What did the government do to overcome negative perceptions of women and stereotyping of their roles within the family and the society?
  • What are they implementing to change prevailing mindsets among the population?
  • How have gender equality campaigns address the issue of stereotyping of women and men and the roles that they play within the family and the society?
  • Is there political will by the government and other related institutions and organisations in overcoming cultural and religious obstacles to women’s equality? If so, how is this shown?
  • What concrete actions are taken by the government to eliminate harmful traditional practices?
  • Initiatives to raise awareness on harmful traditional practices are critical but not sufficient to change harmful cultural and religious practices. Has the government taken steps to put in place relevant laws and legislations to eliminate these harmful practices?

Guidelines for Writing Shadow/Alternative Report, Articles 6-16

Articles 6 - 16 are very specific in nature, as seen below:

  • Article 6: Trafficking and Prostitution

  • Article 7: Political and Public Life

  • Article 8: Participation at the International Level

  • Article 9: Nationality

  • Article 10: Equality in Education

  • Article 11: Employment

  • Article 12: Healthcare and Family Planning

  • Article 13: Economic and Social Benefits

  • Article 14: Rural Women

  • Article 15: Equality before the Law

  • Article 16: Marriage and Family Law

Once again we have set out a series of questions that can be asked for each article. The same set of questions can be asked for each article. Note once again that you are not meant to answer each of these questions specifically, but rather they are meant to prompt information.

Questions for Articles 6 - 16

1. What issues and rights are raised in the CEDAW Convention article?

  • What is the government obligated to do to ensure that right?
  • What is the status of that right in your country?
  • Has the government acknowledged these issues/problems in their report to CEDAW? If so, how has it presented these issues/problems and are you in agreement in relation to?
  • Prevalence and magnitude of the problem
  • Contributing factors - immediate, historical, systemic, etc.
  • Effects on women
  • What does the government say should be done to address the problems and what does it say it is already doing? What is your analysis of this with regard to:
  • Appropriateness of what the government says should be done?
  • Effectiveness of what the government is doing. Are there statistics or evidence of the scale or the effectiveness of government action? Does the government monitor its own actions?
  • If in your opinion the government’s actions are not effective, what are the contributory factors?
  • Is there evidence in the report that the government is taking steps to implement what it says should be done?
  • Have the relevant actors been identified?
  • Is there an allocation of adequate resources?
  • Are there laws or policies to mandate the action?
  • Are there institutional arrangements to facilitate the action?
  • Are relevant personnel being trained?
  • Is there a public awareness programme?
  • Is there a plan for support services if needed?
  • For countries presenting periodic reports, what action has the government taken to follow-up on the Concluding Comments made by the CEDAW Committee in relation to this right at the previous state party report review?
  • What are your recommendations for government action under each of the issue(s) or problems(s) that have been identified?