International Bulletin - July 1998
"A Future Free From Violence: A World Where All Women Enjoy Their Human Rights"
As we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is time to affirm a vision of hope - to imagine a future free from violence, a world where all women enjoy their human rights.
The Beijing Platform for Action articulates, in strong and concrete language, the right of women to live free from violence; the obligation of governments to pursue and punish rape and sexual violence in armed conflict as war crimes; and the necessity of achieving universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women by the year 2000.
UNIFEM recognises that the work of transforming social values, and creating a culture of respect for human rights of women is a lengthy and critical process. Since the norms and standards of human rights are usually set in the international fora, the critical step of implementation must take place at the national level.
Some of the effective strategies UNIFEM uses at the national level are:
- supporting and working with women's organisations to network, and build their capacity, leadership and advocacy skills;
- focusing attention on the pivotal institutions such as the police, and the legal system in order to bring about changes in attitude, behavior and systems;
- exploring ways in which governments, international organisations, and institutions of civil society could help to build favorable conditions in which men and women, and all groups can learn to live together peacefully.
Some concrete examples of UNIFEM's work in the areas of human rights, conflict resolution and peace-building include the following:
The Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women, established at UNIFEM by the General Assembly in 1996, combines the expertise that exists within the UN system, and the dynamism of the women's groups to create innovative strategies for eradicating gender based violence. To date, 45 innovative initiatives toward eliminating violence against women have been funded in 40 countries. Some of the activities include legal training for community-based women leaders, and educational campaigns for prevention of violence against women and girls. Projects supported by the Trust Fund have utilized many new strategies aimed at increasing visibility on the issues of violence against women through women's advocacy efforts; ensuring that media is more sensitive in reporting on gender-based violence; creating greater awareness of gender-based violence; and efforts to change laws, policies and administrative procedures to make gender-based violence a crime. the Trust Fund has also provided opportunities to create new synergies within the UN system for eradicating violence against women.
The most important international treaty specifically addressing women's human rights is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which was initiated during the UN Decade for Women and has been ratified by 161 countries. To move CEDAW from vision to reality, UNIFEM has developed an array of initiatives to encourage universal ratification; strengthen the awareness and capacity of women's organisations for use of the Convention in their advocacy work; and collaborate with other partners in the UN system to support the work of the CEDAW Committee and the strengthening of the Convention itself. Some of the UNIFEM initiatives at the national level include: Integrating a large component on CEDAW in the school curriculum; integrating CEDAW into UNIFEM-sponsored trainings for human rights advocates and the judiciary; and tracking national-level activities which have led to the successful implementation of the Convention.
UNIFEM has accepted the challenge that the Committee has posed to us in terms of being to CEDAW what UNICEF is to the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
The CEDAW framework can be tremendously useful in working for legal and policy changes at local, national and international levels. With the support of DAW and the UN Development Group, and using its Gender Advisor to the Resident Coordinator System, UNIFEM will work to integrate CEDAW into the development strategies of the UN country team.
At two workshops, UNIFEM has trained a resource pool of 33 women from 17 countries that are reporting on the Convention. These trainings aim to strengthen the understanding of women's rights advocates of the Convention and the Committee's working methods, and its application to their advocacy work at the national level. They are also a resource to the Committee and to their governments. UNIFEM is committed to replicating these trainings at the national and regional levels, and continuing to facilitate the connection between the global and the local advocacy around the Convention.
In the area of peace building and conflict resolution, UNIFEM's African Women's Crisis Programme (AFWIC) provides quick response to internally displaced women as well as refuges and returnees. This programme enables UNIFEM to support women who are in distress as a result of situations of armed conflict and other emergencies. Through a programme modelled around advocacy, catalytic actions and direct support, UNIFEM works to promote women's concerns in the peace process and bring the voices of the afflicts to the implementation process of the Beijing PFA. For example, UNIFEM supported the launching of the Federation of African Women Peace Networks. We are facilitating the participation of twenty women from this federation in the CSW. I hope you will get an opportunity to dialogue with them. UNIFEM is also supporting the establishment of the Mogadishu Peace Market initiative which will contribute to the strengthening of the livelihoods, and the peace-building and reconciliation process between the communities in conflict.
Peace and equitable development will require not only institutions, but also greater understanding and respect for differences within and across national and ethnic boundaries. What is new and very threatening today is the destructive power of our weapons and their spread as big business. Also new is the technology that promotes rapid, vivid and widely broadcast justification for violence. this combination is what will make the world of the next century so dangerous. There is an urgent need for fresh understanding and action to resolve conflicts, prevent new wars, and build peace on a sustainable basis.
We at UNIFEM will expend all our efforts to help forge the political will to implement the programmes and policies necessary to enable every woman in the world to feel the power and freedom of knowing that she is able to live a life free from violence and to exercise her human rights. For in this year of anniversaries and reviews pivotal to the United Nation's principles of human rights, we know that there simply are no sustainable communities or development without peace and women's human rights.
Last Modified: June 05, 2010