Regional Results Sharing meeting CEDAW SEAP


Remarks by Roberta Clarke, Regional Director for UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacificfor Celebrating Achievements Re-Committing to Ending Gender Discrimination.

H.E. Marie-Louise Hannan, Ambassador of Canada to ASEAN, Representative of Minister from MOWECP, Members of the judiciary from South East Asia, Representatives of national women’s machineries, and other ministries, national parliaments, Representatives of ASEAN bodies- AICHR, ACWC, ACW, AIPA, ASEAN Secretariat, Former CEDAW Committee members, Partners, friends, colleagues

I join in welcoming you to this Regional Results meeting on the implementation of CEDAW in Southeast Asia.

Let me start by thanking our governmental and civil society counterparts from 10 countries for your partnerships in accelerating the realization of women’s human rights in South East Asia.

I also wish to extend UN Women’s appreciation to Global Affairs Canada for the continuous support for UN Women’s CEDAW Southeast Asia Program over the past 12 years.

Thirty seven years ago, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women came into force as an expression of the global demand for states to take decisive action to transform unequal gender norms. It represents political will to guarantee equality of opportunity as well as equality of results.

CEDAW and the General Recommendations that have been developed to guide interpretation, call for a comprehensive transformation of all societies recognizing how central gender equality is to development, justice and peace. CEDAW demands that we identify and change social norms that constrict women’s lives and cause harm.

As a result, in implementing CEDAW, the world has changed for the better. In South East Asia where all member states have ratified CEDAW, the progress in realising women’s human rights is evident. Increased investments in education and health services have improved the quality of life for many women and girls. More women are engaged in the labour force and in an ever-expanding range of occupations and women’s participation and leadership in the public, private and community sectors is more evident than at any other time in history. And more men are sharing family responsibilities and championing equality.

Still despite the ratification and notwithstanding the far-reaching global commitments in the Beijing Platform for Action, insufficient action and under-investment means that discrimination and inequality persists for far too many women everywhere and in this region.

It is the unacceptablility of this which has fortified the resolve of member states when they adopted the SDGs in 2015, with the first target in SDG 5 being ‘ending discrimination’. SDG 5 reiterates CEDAW with its focus on economic empowerment, equality in decision making and ending violence against women. And it draws our attention to harmful practices which are sustained by unequal social norms (early, forced and child marriage as well as female genital mutilation). In its sum, CEDAW, the BPFA and now SDG 5 are reaffirm that voice, choice and safety must be assured for women.

For the last 5 years though this CEDAW project, we have together sought to realise that vison and to do so by reminding duty bearers, state actors, of their obligations and therefore accountabilities. Mindful of the centrality of the justice system to the enforcement of the rights, the project has focused on generating knowledge about women’s access to justice as well as the working with the administrators of justice to remove the influence of gender bias and stereotypes. With your leadership we have improved the capacity for monitoring and reporting on gender equality and generated policy and advocacy tools

And together we have made concrete gains:

  1. From 2011–2016, 31 laws were developed or revised.
  2. An additional 10 laws are in process of revision or adoption
  3. Five national strategic plan/action plans were adopted
  4. CEDAW principles were mainstreamed into training curricula for lawyers, judges and prosecutors in Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam.
  5. Cambodia and Thailand have developed indicators to monitor CEDAW that can be replicated regionally as a good practice
  6. First time studies were prepared on women’s use and experience of plural and community based dispute resolution systems
  7. Capacity building of national women’s machineries and MOJ on CEDAW based law making in 7 programme countries will ensure the sustainability of future laws being more compliant to CEDAW

This project, along with Regional Programme on Regional Human Rights Mechanisms in South East Asia, also funded by the Government of Canada allowed for support to ACWC in the preparation of the Regional Plan of Action on Ending Violence against Women which was adopted by the 27th ASEAN Summit in November 2015. WE have also worked with AICHR in its consideration of a protection mechanism with a focus on women’s rights.

Along the way, policy makers and justice practitioners provided normative leadership especially in the context of extremisms and fundamentalisms. I recall at the first judicial colloquium in 2013, the participating judges rejecting customary rules, religion and traditional practices as justifications for violations of the rights and freedoms of women. The judges also committed to deepen appreciation of gender socialization, unequal power relations, and gender expectations and how these shape the experience of the administration of justice and contribute to the differential access to justice.

The research-based publications on gender stereotyping in the justice sector and the case book on CEDAW-related decisions respond to the judges concern for improved practice. These are resources will be translated into all national languages and will continue to contribute towards the training of judges, lawyers and gender equality advocates. I urge you to keep them close as reference guides.

In addition to this work on justice, the project facilitated the generation of knowledge on impediments to women’s political participation. Under the leadership of ASEAN Committee on Women, led by Cambodia, studies on women’s political participation were completed which showed the trend for women’s participation in elected bodies across the AMS is unfortunately not upward, neither at national level nor at sub-national level. The study documented the range of factors that deter women’s representation at decision making levels in the public and political sectors:

  1. Gender stereotyping that derides women’s ambitions for political representation
  2. Women reproductive roles limit women to be proactive and flexible in politics.
  3. Lack of support from family members for women to participate in politics;
  4. Lack of self confidence
  5. Inadequate support including campaign finance

Considering these reports, in October 2014, the ASEAN Inter-parliamentary Association called at national level for the consideration of legislation that facilitates women’s political participation such as special measures, campaign financing and gender responsive budgeting. AIPA also recommended the mentoring of young women leaders to participate in political decision-making, with a focus on integrity and leadership.

These normative statements by influential networks anchored in evidence and analysis are readily available and must continue to drive political will to end the exclusion of women from the spaces where decisions are made about national priorities and resource allocations.

One hallmark of the sustainability of this project has been facilitation of networks of members of judiciary, members of CSOs, ASEAN bodies, CEDAW Watch Groups, committed to sharing practices. Of special note is the community of judicial practice which was launched in 2015 and currently has 150 members.

Overall, I am proud to say this is a project with substantial convergence between the stated objectives and the achievements. And so over the course of the two days we have an opportunity to share stories of progress and partnership.But even as we do this, we know that there is much that remains to be done to make the change so that no one is left behind. Our work is far from finished and we must not be complacent about law reform and policy development as we know that it is in implementation that progress lies. Deeds not words is what we need. Or as Shanti Dairam reminds us in the publication on the Promise of CEDAW, ““treatment does not count, only outcomes do”.

The Consultation offers an opportunity to all stakeholders of UN Women to re-commit to ending gender and sex discrimination, and to “Step It Up”, Committing to Gender Equality by 2030. "Planet 50-50 by 2030.For UN Women, we are calling for sustained actions in 5 key areas:

  • governments to demonstrate strong leadership and commitment to advance women’s rights and counter conservative and extremist agendas;
  • reaching the most marginalized women and girls by tackling stark and rising inequalities and multiple forms of discrimination;
  • strengthening and supporting feminist and women’s movements to exert greater influence in policy decisions;
  • greater contributions of men as gender equality advocates; and
  • Exponentially increasing investments in gender equality and women’s rights.

We can only make this change through partnerships as were developed in this project with NWMs, Ministries of Justice, Ministries of Planning, Law Enforcement agencies, National Human Rights Institutions and Offices of Ombudsman.

We also need to recognize, like the SDGs, that we need an integrated approach which takes into account and addresses intersecting inequalities. Gender equality without addressing income deprivation, for example, will not improve the quality of life for women.

I wish to recognise a number of ASEAN regional partners: AICHR, ACWC, ACW, AIPA ASEAN Secretariat. Through their leadership, the project was also able to contribute to a wider understanding of the points of confluence across the human rights agenda, as with the CRC and CEDAW.

We have also built strong partnerships with institutions such as the Commonwealth Secretariat, ICJ, APWLD, IWRAW, APF (Asia Pacific Forum for NHRIs), AMAN and the ASEAN Human Rights Workers Group (in Ateneo University).The project has been so fortunate to receive the guidance of CEDAW members- current and former, including Ambassador Manalo, Shanthi Dairiam and Aurora de Dios (who is also ACWC member and as we speak today, she is helping Myanmar government on their CEDAW Mock session).

This project has had many Canadian champions, from Ambassadors to our counterparts within the development departments in Jakarta and Thailand, all of whom have engaged us constructively, asking questions and giving guidance.As we close and think forward, let me reiterate UN Women’s commitment to sustaining our collective work and the partnerships of this project.