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


Opening Remarks by Sharon Armstrong, Director and Counsellor (Development) for Indonesia and ASEAN, Embassy of Canadafor the Advancing Women’s Human Rights, Milestones Reached and More to Come: National Consultation

Sharon Armstrong, Director and Counsellor (Development) for Indonesia and ASEAN, Embassy of Canada. Photo: Sharon Armstrong

His Excellency Ola Almgren, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Philippines; Her Excellency Senator Leticia Shahani; Honorouable Remedios Rikken, Chair of the Philippines Commission on Women; Deepa Bharathi, Regional Program Manager for CEDAW SEAP; Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to be here today to open this ASEAN national consultation on women’s rights and the celebration of 35 years of CEDAW.

Women’s issues are a particular priority for the Government of Canada, which has sought to actively promote women's rights and gender equality both at home and abroad.

Following our elections on October 2015, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, made history by establishing Canada’s first gender balanced cabinet which consists of 15 women and 15 men.

This innovation is unprecedented in Canadian politics, and is consistent with Canada’s position on women’s rights.

This week our government is further underscoring the renewal of Canada’s commitment to advancing gender equality by sending a delegation of four cabinet ministers to the 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York, held from March 14-17. The delegation includes Canada’s Status of Women Minister, Justice Minister, Indigenous Affairs Minister, and the Minister of International Development.

The Canadian Government is proud to be a leading advocate in the promotion and protection of women’s rights and gender equality. These are central tenets of Canada’s foreign policy and international development agendas. I would also just mention that a World Bank study, released just yesterday, links women’s land ownership to a decrease in violence and poverty.

Canada's programming for ASEAN prioritizes the promotion and protection of human rights, and we are one of the largest regional donors in this area of work. For over 10 years we have partnered with UN Women to strengthen the human rights of women in ASEAN through the implementation of the landmark CEDAW convention; ratified by all ASEAN Member States.

Our partnership has been instrumental in raising awareness on women’s human rights across ASEAN and strengthening ASEAN mechanisms to protect the human rights of women and girls.

Canada partnership with UN Women has also supported the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and the ASEAN Commission on Women and Children in fulfilling their mandates of promoting and protecting women’s human rights.

Canada is also supporting a number of bilateral initiatives on women’s empowerment within ASEAN Member States, including the Gender-Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women Project – or the GREAT Women Project, which is helping women entrepreneurs grow their businesses right here in the Philippines. We have recently renewed our support to the GREAT Women through a new five-year $8 million initiative.

I must say that the Philippines has demonstrated incredible leadership on CEDAW and the issue of women’s rights across the ASEAN region, and that we owe a great deal to Filipino women, including Senator Shahani, for lending their voices to this cause and to Canada’s efforts.

In addition to our engagement in ASEAN, Canada has spearheaded a number of global actions for women.

  • Canada’s leadership on maternal, newborn and child health has helped save the lives of millions of mothers and children in the developing world. Last year, we hosted the “Saving Every Woman, Every Child Summit” in Toronto –mobilizing the global community and pledging an additional $3.5 billion to this priority for 2015-2020.
  • Canada has also played a key role in marshalling global attention and action to end the harmful practice of child, early and forced marriage, and we are working to develop resolutions to address this issue at the United Nations.

Looking Ahead

Strong economic performance over the past decade has made ASEAN one of the most dynamic regions of the world. Continued prosperity will depend heavily on addressing issues of equity and sustainable economic growth.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, let me thank UN Women for organizing this event and for your continued commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women in ASEAN and around the world.

I look forward to today’s discussion and another 35 years of forward momentum on the implementation of CEDAW with the support of our important partners here in the Philippines and across the ASEAN region.

Thank You.