Regional Programme on Improving Women’s Human Rights in Southeast Asia


Programme Duration: 2011 – 2016
Donor: DFATD 


The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), often referred to as the international women’s bill of rights, provides a powerful framework and legal obligation for countries to move towards achieving gender equality and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To date, CEDAW has been ratified by 189 countries. Despite widespread ratification of the Convention, however, full implementation of its provisions has lagged.  Concluding Observations by the CEDAW Committee, the 15-year Review of the Beijing Platform for Action in 2010 (Beijing+15), and the reviews of the achievements of the MDGs all stress that State Parties need to improve the implementation of CEDAW in order to make gender equality reality. 

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 19 December 1979. It came into force as a treaty on 3 December 1981. It is described as the International Bill of Rights of Women.

  1. It establishes that women have civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, which are to be enjoyed by women on an equal basis with men regardless of marital status.
  2. It considers discrimination against women as a human rights violation.
  3. It sets standards on women’s human rights.
  4. It obligates State Parties to protect, promote and fulfill women’s human rights.

About the Programme

The Regional Programme “Improving Women’s Human Rights in Southeast Asia” focuses on knowledge generation and exchange, stock taking and priority setting for advancing the implementation of CEDAW in the region. It has the overall goal of reduced discrimination against women in South-East Asia, and the intermediate expected outcome of enhanced South-East Asia regional processes that facilitate CEDAW implementation.

Supported by the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD), the programme covers eight countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Philippines, Myanmar, Timor Leste and Viet Nam.

The project works towards the realization of the following outcomes:

The Goal /Ultimate Outcome of the Programme

Reduced discrimination against women in Southeast Asia

  • Intermediate  Outcome:

Enhanced Southeast Asia regional processes that facilitate CEDAW implementation 

  • Immediate Outcomes of the Project:
  1. Increased knowledge and skills to apply CEDAW compliance in the development and monitoring of new and revised legislative frameworks
  2. Increased awareness among formal, semi-formal and informal justice system actors of CEDAW commitments
  3. Strengthened monitoring and accountability mechanisms for implementation of CEDAW commitments

During 2013, the programme made notable progress in several key areas:

  • Increased ability of CSOs to advocate for law reform through improved tools and methods for legal reviews of national laws to ensure compliance in CEDAW, and through enhanced understanding of issues faced by disadvantaged groups of women.
  • Strengthened understanding of WHR norms and standards, and increased use of international instruments such as CEDAW and the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW Convention (OP-CEDAW) among legal professionals, law makers and justice sector actors, which resulted in an expanded regional pool of WHR experts. 
  • Improved understanding of inter-agency coordinated implementation and monitoring on CEDAW by parliamentary, judiciary and executive arms of governments at national and subnational levels in several counters. 

Project Strategy

UN Women will employ the following strategies in this project:

1) Advocacy and support for legislative change: The Programme will support reviews of national laws and policies to ensure compliance with CEDAW. Capacity development of gender advocates in the government and civil society, including national women’s machineries and women’s NGOs, will be supported to enable them to play an active role in advocating for legislative change.  

2) Building national expertise on implementing CEDAW: The Programme will support capacity development of the executive, legislative, judiciary and civil society to understand and apply CEDAW and its Optional Protocol to guarantee women’s human rights. The Programme will support the governments to improve their monitoring of the CEDAW implementation. The Programme supports governments to improve their monitoring of CEDAW implementation. 

3) Network/institution building and strengthening: The learning and exchange of expertise on application of CEDAW will be anchored through nurturing the development of national and regional networks and institutions. Examples of regional networks include the CEDAW Watch groups, the network of justices and judiciary institutions. To sustain capacities beyond the Programme period, partnerships with relevant training institutions and law schools that produce training materials are developed so that CEDAW is integrated into existing curriculum and trainings.

4) Knowledge generation and dissemination: The Programme will respond to common needs and gaps in knowledge by leading the development of common methodologies and approaches at the regional level.

5) South-South exchange and cooperation: The Programme will continue to facilitate the regional exchange of experiences and expertise to support advancement of women’s human rights at the country level, in Southeast Asia and beyond.  

6) Further coordination with related initiatives such as DFATD funded regional project on “Regional Mechanisms to Protect the Human Rights of Women and Girls in Southeast Asia” and other UN Women programmes and with other UN Agencies is a key element of the programme.

Programme Partners

Key governmental agencies in the executive, judiciary and legislative arms Training institutions of the government National Human Rights Institutions and academic institutions Regional inter-governmental organizations Regional and national  civil society organizations UN Agencies and development partners The project is generously supported by the government of Canada. For more information on the project, contact UN Women Office for Asia and the Pacific, CEDAW Southeast Asia Programme.  Email: [ Click to reveal ]

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