UN WOMEN is committed to the advancement of women’s human rights and places their realization at the centre of its work in all thematic areas.

Across the globe, women confront manifold violations of their human rights — when they cannot participate in the decisions that affect their lives or claim fair political representation, when they face discrimination in employment, when they are denied entitlement to land and property, or when they suffer violence within their own home. Other obstacles to rights arise when women and girls are prevented from going to school or attaining health care, or are subject to harmful traditional practices.

At the same time, governments around the world have undertaken legal human rights obligations to combat gender inequalities. The key international agreement on women’s human rights is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which is also described as the international bill of women’s rights. Ratified by 185 UN Member States, CEDAW encompasses a global consensus on the changes that need to take place in order to realize women’s human rights. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention’s adoption through the UN General Assembly in 1979.

Under CEDAW, States are required to eliminate the many different forms of gender-based discrimination women confront, not only by making sure that there are no existing laws that directly discriminate women, but also by ensuring that all necessary arrangements are put in place that will allow women to actually experience equality in their lives.

UN WOMEN’s Approach

One of the primary ways UN WOMEN works to advance women’s human rights is by providing support to national actors, in government and in civil society, for their efforts to implement CEDAW. The focus of UN WOMEN support in this area is threefold:

  • facilitating the development of national human rights frameworks in line with CEDAW, such as constitutions, laws and policies;
  • supporting the implementation of existing human rights frameworks to help ensure impact and rights realization; and
  • putting special emphasis on particularly vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as poor or indigenous women, so that national frameworks become more inclusive of and responsive to the full range of women’s rights concerns.