Letter to Organisations & Agencies that serve the people with disabilities

BPW CEDAW Letter Apr 13

International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia-Pacific (IWRAW – AP) CEDAW Consultation and Training Workshop.

Held Friday 12 – Sunday 14 April 2013 – hosted by Pacific Women’s Watch (New Zealand) Inc. (PWW(NZ))

Title: New Zealand Women in Leadership and Decision-making Understanding the Human Rights and Gender Dimensions of CEDAW through the Committee’s Concluding Observations in July 2012.

IWRAW – AP is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is the organisation mandated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide training for NGOs attending sessions of the CEDAW Committee. It is the only organisation that assists CEDAW Monitoring Committee to promote shadow reports, to facilitate the participation of women – not to speak for women, to creat space for women to speak and to facilitate speakers to the Monitoring Committee. The resource team of two highly skilled facilitators, Dorathy Benjamin and Tashia Peterson, delivered a three-day intensive workshop, which is usually provided to NGOs prior to a Government presenting its Report. It covers:

  • Understanding the Convention – it has the largest number (187) of Government ratifications of any UN Treaty. It also has General Recommendations of issues not addressed in the 16 Articles of importance to women – e.g. economic impact of divorced women, domestic violence and women with disabilities. CEDAW sessions will all now be in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Preparing and making an NGO Oral Statement
  • Introduction to the CEDAW Committee of experts – strengths and interests
  • Protocols to be observed during the session
  • Education of NGOs in their home country following the session.

PWW(NZ) in its concern that only a small number of NZ NGOs have had the advantage of attending an IWRAW AP Training Workshop, considered that the workshop is so valuable for the future empowerment of NZ NGOs , that it decided to provide the funding for it as a gift to the women of NZ in celebration of the 120th anniversary of suffrage.

The workshop programme which had been especially designed for NZ purposes included the promotion of “shadow” and “alternative” reports, and the essential elements in their preparation, including the analysis of Government 4-yearly reports and facilitating the participation of women in contributing to an NGO report.

There was a diverse mix of cultures working together – Maori, Pasifika, Asian and Pakeha. All age groups were represented within those 28 women attending – it was exciting to see the number of young women attending (at least a third of those present), bringing their perspectives to the discussion. For those of us who are concerned about not attracting young women to our organisations, it was interesting to listen to how they network and resolve issues in their way. When I asked how they did this – social networking was the response – not committees. On reflection though, they decided they do work in committees. When I asked them how they got their message to Government, they acknowledged they needed to find a way to work through the established organisations. We need to find a way to represent their views.

A DVD on UN Treaties was played and should be available through Auckland University for attendees. (40 minutes long)

This introduced the Universal Periodic Review under which sits all mechanisms. The UN Human Rights Council was established in Geneva in 2006, replacing the International Human Rights Commission. It is an intergovernmental body – with 47 elected member states and is the principle UN body responsible for human rights. It is to this that each country/member state must report every four years to all other member states – critiquing each other – with apparent bullying and critical questions asked. The New Zealand Government reported in 2010 (accompanied by a Shadow Report submitted by the NZ Human Rights Commission) and is currently preparing, through consultation, its 2014 Report. It is to this Review that I have since prepared and submitted observations, on behalf of BPW NZ and NCWNZ, in relation to Women with Disabilities.

Under the Human Rights Treaty System there are obligations for each Government/Member State – the Treaties being legally binding. There are nine core HR Treaties and Optional Protocols – NZ has ratified seven Treaties but not all of their Optional Protocols that are available for ratification. Each Treaty has a Review process with a Commission established for each.

We were educated of different types of law:

  • International Human Rights Law (e.g. CEDAW),
  • Treaty Law – a legal agreement between two or more States, and
  • Customary International Law – practices of what states have done over time e.g. the right to legal representation.

Optional Protocols were explained – legal instruments to enhance existing Conventions whereby only State parties to the Convention can ratify, but still have the ability to later opt out through an Inquiry Procedure. OPs do not introduce new rights – it is a complaints process for residents of Member States to make a direct complaint to the Monitoring Committee, having exhausted all domestic remedies prior to submitting the complaint. The costs are inhibitive for most citizens. NGOs could combine to use political pressure as well as funding and other resources.  An Inquiry Procedure is less formal than the Complaints Procedure – CEDAW Article 8 enables the Committee to conduct an enquiry into violations that are “grave violations” or “systematic violations” which refer to the scale or prevalence of a violation


We were shown a critique of mainstream Human Rights – its inability to take note of abuses against women and particular ways in which women are deprived of their rights including a failure to understand sex-based differences as constituting a site of vulnerability and inequality

We compared Treaties with documents that evolved from UN World Conferences such as the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies and the Platform for Action. (Good chart supplied – hope to access through formal report from PWW.)

The Oral Presentation process was explained. On Monday of Weeks 1 and 2 of the Session, the morning is occupied by the Monitoring Committee delivering an Introduction to the four member states which have submitted reports. The afternoon is the only time that the Human Rights Commission and NGO’s can make their Oral Presentations from 3-4pm during a total of 10 minutes per State with time for questions after each presentation.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – each day six hours in total with one State Report (can be up to 50 pages addressing all Articles) presented each day with an opening statement and then addressing article by article with the Committee asking questions on each one and the Government given time to reply.

A Shadow Report reviews a State Report (often done by the HR Commission but listing all organisations involved into a consolidated report) and an Alternative Report is alternate views such as submitted by NGOs,(again listing all contributing organisations) or can be submitted in the absence of a State Report. These must be submitted to the Monitoring Committee 2-3 weeks prior to the hearing of the State Report.

On Saturday morning, under the theme of Analysis of Issues of Advocacy, guest presenter Julie Ratford-Poupard from Women’s Health Action, shared and reflected on her experiences when attending the CEDAW Session in New York. She attended the Monday Training Session and a lunch for NGO’s, to understand Protocols re their Oral Submissions, to meet and know about the Committee members – many of whom are lawyers, so NGO’s need to understand legal/law language. She said it was great to hear acknowledgement of New Zealand NGOs longstanding questions, with further questions from the committee on current reports presented in the afternoon. She attended the hearing for the NZ Government report, presented by Minister of Womens Affairs, Hon Jo Goodhew. The Committee raised:

  • Temporary measures – why is the Government not using them?
  • Action Plan for Women – why is there not one? Min. Goodhew said that NZ does not have an appetite for this. (She informed us that all 120 MPs have copy of the Concluding Observations and Recommendations – with Gender of the Agenda)
  • Anything that is regressive? It was noted that NZ is sliding backwards in regards to women’s rights with changes to legislation.

Tashia asked how the State Delegates reacted to NGO’s. Julie said they watched Mexico – this appeared to be a dangerous situation of Govt. V NGOs. With the NZ situation, NGO’s appeared to be “liked” by the Minister, by the CEO and Director of Policy Debbie Moran. We need to keep an open dialogue but this is hard to achieve. NGOs get pushed back alot. The Committee grilled the State Party but Minister Goodhew was consummate in her responses.

The Shakti representative who had also been to the Session, said it was frustrating to hear the Govt. Report – information Shakti had provided was not included and did not reflect their input. It was a whole of Govt. Approach – not just MWA. Debbie Moran was good and seems on our side but has to work in a govt. Environment.

Following this, we experienced discrimination, first hand, through a practical activity called “New Planet Activity” – I will record this separately as it could be undertaken by clubs or at a Regional Meeting. We were asked following this, how we personally felt as either the discriminator (half the attendees) and the discriminated (the other half) – it was enlightening. Some felt it created mob mentality, some felt empowered or bullying while others felt weak and bewildered (depending on which “label” you were). The interesting case was the one person in a wheelchair who was labelled to be discriminated against, had no rights removed from her. One attendee felt it reflected the National Government which has made 23 policy decisions over the past few years, that have taken away women’s rights or harmed women.

A key outcome from “power relations” was to learn to be empowered.

Key Features and Core Principles of CEDAW.

This included the history of CEDAW

The key features – First 16 Articles most important but missing components such as Domestic Violence, Inequality as a result of divorce and its effects on women, and Women with Disabilities are included in the General Recommendations that sit alongside CEDAW.

We were set tasks and case studies to complete with discussion guidelines to assist – this would lead us into researching issues and into the preparation of a report that would reflect on implementation/non-implementation of CEDAW (and other treaties) by the Government.

We discussed Different types of Equality which led us into the first case study which was on Formal v Substantive Equality. This was based on an actual law suit in the city of Kampur, focussing on a prison for men where different degrees of offending were not separated, with 20% of prisoners being imprisoned for sex offending and who were scattered through the prison. Women warders were assigned “safe desk jobs” but challenged the regulation in court. We were set questions about the decision by the court to uphold this. A previous court case had been won by prisoners who stated that the violent and chaotic conditions were themselves illegal because it endangered their lives.

The point made was it was the responsibility of the State Government to ensure a safe environment for everyone – prisoners and workers alike. What was the standard or principle that needed to be set? Fix the prison conditions – it also perpetuated a myth that “women are vulnerable”

Approaches to Equality

  • Formal – while essential it is not enough. It does not recognise differences
  • Protective – recognises differences but denies rights and so has long term adverse consequences for women. It reinforces male v female stereo-types and does not lead to social transformation
  • Substantive – recognises differences but also affirms equality between male and female. It places obligations to correct the environment that disadvantages women. Hence it is also called the Corrective Approach but this depends on the context – the term Substantive is better language. It makes the playing field even/flat but requires all initiatives (law, policy, programmes and services) to lead to Equality of opportunity, of access and of results and benefits.

The example was given of Education

  • Opportunity
  • Access
  • Results and benefits available

But how many graduate? Why? And once graduated (in NZ more women graduating in the professions) – where was the equity? Lack of career development and lower pay.

This led to the discussion of the different between Equality and Equity (see power point when available). Depends on the allocation of resources. Equity relies on the spread of equitable resources – topping up women’s pay to meet men’s – need a level playing field, not just a lump sum to improve pay, before any pay increase is agreed for both. Make sure when using these terms that the correct term is used.

The Principle of Non-Discrimination – a social construct.

Article 1 – CEDAW – Definition of Discrimination – which is broad as well as deep.

The State has changed legislation and now has an outcome to prevent discrimination against women – it cannot regress.

Discrimination can be Direct or Indirect

De Jure – in law and De Facto – in reality

We were set the next Case Study on the Principle of Non-Discrimination : regarding a fish farm project in Lomak, which had policy that it would provide equal opportunities to women and men to be trained as fish farmers but one condition proved discriminatory – farmers had to have a pond before fish fry, fish food and technical training could be supplied – but no women took up the offer – not one owned a pond because of cultural laws.

A possible outcome could be that NGOs could supply a fish tank, with more available as business grows through using a micro-credit system. Hopefully, cultural mores could evolve and change using CEDAW to effect that change

Shakti representatives reflected a NZ situation of underage and forced marriages in the migrant, especially Asian community. Legislation in NZ has not kept up with the changing population demographics of NZ to address this situation and future being faced by migrant girls and young women. By 2025, it is estimated that 45% of the population (of NZ or Auckland?) will be Asian. The attendees discussed Dr Jackie Blue’s Bill waiting to drawn from the Ballot Box, that addressed the marriageable age in NZ but is not absolute to CEDAW nor to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which states that a person is legally a child until 18 years of age. Their bodies are not mature enough for childbirth but are forced into a sexual relationship through early marriage – some as young as 12. Young migrant women are being denied education and future economic security through not being educated for employment. (This discussion led me to undertake further research and draft a Resolution on Marriage to the BPW NZ Annual Conference. This was successfully adopted and submitted to NCWNZ for its Executive Meeting Conference in September. It was accepted in an amended form because it was requesting a change in NCWNZ policy which cannot be changed until the full Conference in 2104).

State Obligation – The binding nature of UN Treaties. (a power point presentation)


  • The State has to RESPECT the rights of women. The State and its agencies cannot do anything to violate women’s rights (Article 2 d&f)
  • The State has to PROTECT the rights of women (Article 2 b,c &e)(from private actors such as other institutions, private enterprise or individuals – including contracting out)
  • The State has to PROMOTE the rights of women
  • The State has to FULFIL the rights of women (Article 2 a,c,f, and Articles 3 & 4)
  • The State must ensure DE FACTO equality – not just equality under the law (Article 2a) with an obligation of MEANS (laws, policies, programmes etc.) and an obligation of RESULTS.

Who is a State Party?

  • Every agency and agent of the State – from top to bottom and from left to right
  • All branches of Government

CEDAW Article 2 – Substantive Equality. Defining Discrimination

Includes in a constitution and other laws, in policies; review and repeal laws; mechanisms for redress; all women – citizen and non-state; State and non-State actors.

CEDAW Article 3 – data for different categories of women is needed – (collection of sex disaggregated data).

CEDAW Article 4 – Temporary Special Measures – (TSM) (while working on long-term goals)

Includes affirmative action; the need to respond to women’s advantage; and to accelerate de facto equality of women. The CEDAW Committee noted that the NX Government has failed to recognise that there is discrimination in the acquisition of these merits (e.g. education qualifications).

The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) is a TSM programme actioned by UN Women NZ and BPW NZ in partnership to work through the corporate sector.

CEDAW obligations do not cease in periods of war, political and physical events and disasters.

Non-regression and non-deregation are core principles underpinning the State’s obligations towards fulfilling human rights for all.

Inter-sectionality needs to be recognised.

Guidelines for Writing Shadow and Alternative Reports

Articles 1-5 : Core obligations of the State, are general in nature and set out the underlying principles of CEDAW

Articles 6-16 : Specific Areas of Rights (the ppp provided lists of questions addressing each Article)

The NCWNZ Framework of Tasks for the NCW led NGO Alternative Report is a good lead-in to preparing a Shadow or Alternative Report.

In summary:

Section 1 –

Evidence of Disparity / Contributing Factors / Effect or Impact of Women

An example was provided (ppp) of Domestic Violence in Sri Lanka.

Section 2

State obligation / Effectiveness of State Action / Gaps in State Action / Recommendations (referring to assessment of effectiveness and gaps)

We then work-shopped this in groups identifying specific issues – I worked with a group selecting “Disabilities”.

Reports are limited to 10 pages but there is discussion about extending coalition reports to 20-30 pages. These could cross-reference to individual reports – perhaps a 5-page report on each issue.

An Executive Summary:

  • A summary of the main critical points – by Article, of the Shadow/Alternative Report
  • A summary of the recommendations to the critical points above and to the challenges encountered in the implementation of CEDAW.

Organise the Report by Articles of CEDAW in the same way the Government Report is organised.

Chart of Progressive Action by NGOs – following each quarterly report (ppp).

A SWOT analysis (both internal and external) on CEDAW advocacy – by organisation / by issue. Each attendee carried out a SWOT analysis – I did mine “by organisation”, for BPW NZ.

Draw up an Influence Map.

Prepare an Action Plan – Strategies that need to be developed, to whom do you make contact? Who are Allies / Opponents? Competing values / systems?

Principles of Advocacy (ppp)

Identifying and Addressing Barriers (ppp)

a) General

b) Specific

Lessons learned

Conventions are legally binding – they must be delivered at national level.

Giving CEDAW Teeth

The teeth of CEDAW lies in its implementation. The roles of NGOs is in pushing for implementation.

Global to Local Circle –

Monitoring / implementation / national /international


Develop succession plans – young people to be able to share history and the context in which CEDAW operates.

Read summary records – an insight into Government – questions and answers

Important to collate legislation that is harming women e.g. cuts to Adult Community Education which provided women with social contacts as well as continued learning/retraining/upskilling. There are “lost groups” – need to know names of organisations being forced to close because of lack of funding – the Working Women’s Research Centre is under threat of closing. Charitable status being removed from others (e.g. NCWNZ) prevents organisations from raising funds. ANGOA – Association of NGOs Aoteoroa – is fighting for charitable status for NGOs.

Coalitions are preferable long-term – with individual reports annexed. CEDAW reports will now go to the Human Rights Council in Geneva from the Division of the Advancement of Women.

A Coalition needs to develop a long-term vision and a long-term strategy with short-term goals and aspirations

A networking platform needs to be developed – such as the email addresses of the attendees at the Training Workshop. Use all our strengths together.

There must be collaboration – not divisiveness.

There was discussion about the difference in approaches of PWW(NZ) and NCWNZ.

PWW(NZ) stated that it deals with policy changes, has strong input from youth with their vision, and recommends that NGOs prepare an Action Plan for NZ Women. Members are ethnically diverse.

NCWNZ has established Working Groups on Issues (5 groups of disadvantaged women recognised in the Concluding Observations)and Themes (such as education, employment, health, marriage etc.). Working Groups for each Issue and Theme are lead by member organisations such BPW NZ, UN Women NZ, Rural Women, Shakti and some Convenors of NCWNZ.

The MWA believes there is no need for an Action Plan for NZ Women – no means of measuring or reviewing.

There was no consensus reached on who should lead a coalition – we decided to work as we are and maybe it will evolve into one main coalition over time.

Process for Shadow / Alternative Reports

Dates to be met – a concrete timeline for the completion to be developed.

Dorathy will up date us on some information required such as the number of pages – yet to be decided by the Committee.

“Influence Mapping” – coalition building strengthens international influence in Agenda Setting.

A reminder of the Universal Periodic Review – consultation currently underway around four main centres plus Kaitaia and Rotorua for iwi consultation.

Expected Outcomes fully met

  • A solid foundation of education on the Human Rights embedded in CEDAW
  • A framework for monitoring not only CEDAW but also other UN Treaties e.g. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the second Universal Periodic Review due 2014.
  • A more holistic engagement with the CEDAW review process, which encompasses pre-review and post-review strategies
  • Strategies for collaboration with government and non-government agencies in promoting the implantation of CEDAW in a positive way
  • A very much enlarged constituency of NGOs knowledgeable about CEDAW .
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