Friday, 25 May 2012

The CEDAW Working Group: bringing an inspiring group of women together

Over the last year, WRC have been gathering evidence from all over the country to feed into our CEDAW shadow report. The UK is coming under review in 2013, and the Government Equalities Office (GEO) has submitted their report to the Committee. It is our job in the women’s sector to ensure that the Committee gets a full picture of the state of gender equality in the UK, and so we at the WRC are bringing together a shadow report, which will be submitted in response to the GEO’s report.

To ensure the shadow report is as accurate and as inclusive as possible, in addition to using the Convention to its best effect, WRC set up the CEDAW Working Group in 2009, where women from a large range of organisations meet every four months for training, to work on the report, and to discuss how best to ensure that CEDAW is reaching everyone it needs to.

Last Monday’s meeting was the first that I had attended, and it was really exciting to be part of a group so committed to improving gender equality in the UK. And not just gender equality, but equality across the board. With representatives from ROTA, Eaves Housing for Women, BIHR, Sisters of Frida and the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain to name but a few, issues of multiple discrimination were consistently addressed. As a group, we have been working to ensure that no minority group is ignored in our report, and so have ensured that NGOs from outside the women’s sector also get a chance to feed into the report. This dialogue has given us the additional opportunity of ensuring that issues specifically affecting women are in the forefront of the minds of organisations writing shadow reports for other international conventions, for example the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Another way to raise the voices of women in the UK is involvement in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Some CEDAW Working Group members attended the CSW this year, and, while they reported that there were great elements to the event, the representation of women from the sector in the UK is very low. With strategic planning for next year’s event, where the focus is violence against women, we hope to be able to join forces with international organisations and maybe hold an event and will also use this global platform to disseminate information about women’s rights in the UK and how we are using CEDAW.

At a time when women in the UK are being given such a raw deal by the Government, it is really inspiring to be part of a group of such fantastic women devoting their time to maintaining and developing the gains in gender equality that have been won over the past decades. In the coming months we will be working to create a really strong shadow report for the CEDAW Committee, and using CEDAW, alongside as many other international conventions as we can, to ensure that the Government is fully aware of its obligations to protect and improve women’s equality.

Ava Lee, CEDAW Intern, WRC

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