CEDAW AT 35: Advancing Women’s Human Rights, Milestones Reached and More to Come


Roberta Clarke, Regional Director for UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. Video: Nathan Beriro

Remarks by Roberta Clarke, Regional Director for UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacificfor Advancing Women’s Human Rights, Milestones Reached and More to Come: National Consultation.


Hon. Remedios Rikken, Chair of the Philippines Commission on Women; Ms. Sharon Armstrong, Director and Counsellor (Development) for Indonesia and ASEAN, Embassy of Canada; Sen. Leticia Shahani, Sen. Santanina Rasul; Distinguished guests and colleagues from government and civil society.

I join in welcoming you to this closing consultation on the project “Improving Women’s Human Rights in Southeast Asia” (CEDAW SEAP II).

We hold this meeting in the 35th anniversary of Philippines’ ratification of CEDAW and at the outset of the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at which the member states will be considering women’s empowerment and sustainable development.

This consultation is also taking place in Women’s Month, celebrated in March in the Philippines.

There is much achievement to celebrate in the Philippines which has led the region in the adoption of gender equality norms and standards, being also the first of ASEAN countries to ratify CEDAW and one of few to ratify the Optional Protocol.The data on the Philippines bears out the results of consistent and concerted efforts by the government and the vital women’s movement to promote substantive equality. The Philippines ranks 7th on the Global Gender Gap Index which tracks economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. There is real progress in education and health though much more to do to secure equality of representation in political and public decision making.

Much of this progress has been stimulated by strengthened legal frameworks on women’s human rights. But beyond the laws and polices lies the hard work of implementation, a global problem because of lack of sufficient political will, and inadequate investments and resources for gender equality.

Strengthening state accountability to implement CEADW responsive laws and policies was the focus of UN Women’s regional programme, which with support from the Government of Canada has been implemented in eight (8) countries in South East Asia.

Here in the Philippines, over the last four years, UN Women worked with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), with members of the judiciary, with legislators, with representatives of civil society, the academe, and with organizations of rural, indigenous and Muslim women.

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) is to be commended on its national and regional leadership as it led a broad consultative process on the Women’s EDGE Plan as a tool for promoting a ‘whole of government’ approach to implementing commitments to CEDAW.

Because of the project’s activities, there is greater understanding of CEDAW as a standard for policy outcomes. We have sought to enhance women’s access to justice especially for women living in plural legal contexts where there may be competing value systems based on unequal gender stereotypes.

And we have sought to enhance the capacities of rural, indigenous and Muslim women to advocate in their own interests including more recently in the context of the extractive industries, land rights and climate change-affected communities. How has CEDAW made a difference in the life of women and girls? Over the course of this consultation we will hear the stories of our partners and get an understanding of the ways in which women’s lives, their relationships at the community have changed or are changing as a result of the strengthened policy environment.

This national consultation marks a transition in our common work for promotion of CEDAW. The project officially it closes on June 30. But beyond projects and programmes, the work on CEDAW continues. And the Philippines is a beacon of possibilities.

We are here to inspire one another, to recommit to CEDAW and to commit to sustaining the work that is being taken on by an increasingly diverse range of actors.

I wish to express UN Women’s appreciation for Jeannie Manipon and the team in the Un Women Project Office for their work and commitment.

And finally I wish to thank the Government of Canada for its generous support and for being a constant ‘companion’ in this regional initiative to improve women’s human rights in Southeast Asia.