Improving Women’s Human Rights in Southeast Asia (CEDAW SEAP Phase II)

Programme Duration: 5 Years (2011 – 2015)
Budget: USD 9.63 million
Donor: Canadian International Development Agency


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 186 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. 

About the Programme

The Regional Programme “Facilitating CEDAW Implementation towards the Realization of Women’ Human Rights in Southeast Asia (CEDAW SEAP)”, has been implemented by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) – now UN Women – since mid-2004. Supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the programme covers eight countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam. The first phase of the programme focused on raising awareness of CEDAW Convention among stakeholders, catalyzing actions for the legislative change, and capacity development for more effective implementation and monitoring of CEDAW commitments.  

The key achievements of the first phase of the CEDAW Southeast Asia Programme include:

  • Changes in policies and legislations The Programme supported governments and women’s NGOs through the advocacy and capacity development towards amendment of discriminatory legislations and adoption of new laws that promote gender equality. For instance, in the Philippines, the Magna Carta of Women was enacted in 2009.  In Vietnam, the Law on Gender Equality and the Law to Combat Domestic Violence was passed by the National Assembly in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In Indonesia, an amendment to the Law on Political Parties was passed in 2007.
  • Increased commitment by Governments to CEDAW implementation. Greater political will was generated by the Governments as result of advocacy and capacity development support provided by the Programme.  Overall, greater attention was paid to CEDAW implementation and reporting. The Prime Minister of Cambodia issued a decree assigning line ministries to take follow-up actions on CEDAW Concluding Observations; and the National Assembly of Vietnam requested the Prime Minister to report on follow-up action taken on the 2007 CEDAW Concluding Observations are the examples of such commitment.  Support from the Programme demonstrated increased commitment by NGOs which not only prepared shadow reports, but increasingly applying CEDAW norms and standards  in their advocacy work for better government policies.
  • Increased use of CEDAW by women’s groups to claim women’s human rights. Aside from successful legislative advocacy, women’s NGOs have embraced CEDAW to demand actions to women’s human rights in many areas. In Cambodia, during the commune elections in April 2007, political parties included more women candidates resulting in doubling the number of elected women in commune councils as a result of advocacy campaign carried out by the Committee for the Promotion of Women in Politics (CPWP). The first communication under CEDAW Optional Protocol from Southeast Asia was filed with the CEDAW Committee by a woman from the Philippines with assistance of the Women’s Legal Bureau (WLB). WLB is now offering their help for women’s groups in other countries to identify and preparing cases using Optional Protocol.

The CEDAW SEAP’s second phase, now renamed “Improving Women’s Human Rights in Southeast Asia“  builds on the results of the first phase. It will focus on knowledge generation and exchange, stock taking and priority setting for advancing the implementation of CEDAW in the region. 

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 skills and knowledge of government officials and civil society gender experts on CEDAW compliance in development and monitoring new and revised legislative frameworks.
  2. Increased awareness among formal and informal justice system actors of CEDAW commitments.
  3. Strengthened monitoring and accountability mechanisms for implementation of CEDAW commitments

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. To sustain capacities beyond the Programme period, partnerships with relevant training institutions and law schools will be made to develop training materials and integrate CEDAW norms and principles in relevant training curriculum.

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 while at the national level focus will be given to the development of inter-sectoral mechanisms and institutions. In addition, partnerships with existing regional inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations will be further strengthened.

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. In particular the programme will pay greater attention to:

  • Capturing and systematically analyzing the knowledge and lessons gained from work across countries to draw out successful strategies and approaches that could be replicated;
  • Capturing and analyzing strengths and potentials of creative/innovative strategies for awareness raising or capacity development on CEDAW to develop replicable models and approaches.

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 CIDA funded regional project on “Regional Mechanisms to Protect the Human Rights of Women and Girls in Southeast Asia” and other UN Women programmes.

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

For more information on the project, contact UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, CEDAW Southeast Asia Programme.  Email:  [ Click to reveal ]

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