Mandate of the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls
The United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on discrimination against women and girls has concluded its session in Addis Ababa on Friday 25 October 2019. This is the very first time that this independent expert mechanism of the United Nations on women’s rights held a session in a region.
The start of this session coincided with the celebration of the African Human Rights Day which focused on refugees, internal displaced persons and migrants, which have been affecting women and girls disproportionally.
During the session the experts engaged with a broad range of regional and national stakeholders working on women’s rights. The expert group had the honour to meet with Her Excellency the President of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewde and discussed with her the remarkable achievements of Ethiopia resulting from a strong political will as well as the enormous challenges that remain to be overcome. The President highlighted the crucial importance of prioritizing education of the girl as driver of change.
The expert group also had the opportunity to brief Africa Union Member States, Africa Union institutions, United Nations agencies, and regional and Ethiopian civil society organizations, Ethiopian National Human Rights Commission and other independent institutions on its mandate and learned of their various initiatives that these entities have put in place to combat discrimination against women and girls. The experts held African regional thematic consultations on the topics of its upcoming reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council focusing on women in the changing world of work, sexual and reproductive rights and health in situations of crisis, and the realization of the rights of girls.
The experts were very grateful for all the stakeholders who have shared their valuable expertise and experience from across the African region.
The UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice: In 2010 the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to establish a special procedure mandate, in the form of an expert working group, to focus on the issue of discrimination against women and the empowerment of women worldwide. The establishment of the mandate recognizes that discrimination against women persists in both public and private spheres and in times of conflict and in peace and transcends national, cultural and religious boundaries. The creation of this mandate represents an important step undertaken by the international community, as it establishes an independent mechanism to engage with a wide range of actors, governmental and non-governmental, to bring about changes in law and in practice.
The expert Working Group has at its disposal several tools in discharging the mandate. It communicates with Governments, bringing to their attention situations of concern, including issues such as constitution building and drafting of anti-discrimination legislation, violence against women, women’s human rights defenders, sexual and reproductive rights and health, and discriminatory state practices. The expert group conducts country visits at the invitation of Governments and reviews challenges and good practices and makes recommendations. It also undertakes research and analysis on issues of relevance for women’s equality. This has been reflected in its annual thematic reports to the Human Rights Council focusing on eliminating discrimination against women in political and public life (2013, A/HRC/23/50); in economic and social life (2014, A/HRC/26/39); family and culture (2015, A/HRC/29/40); health and safety (2016, A/HRC/32/44); a compendium of good practices (2017, A/HRC/35/29); Reasserting equality, countering rollbacks (2018, A/HRC/38/46); Women deprived of liberty (2019, A/HRC/41/33)
The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls is composed of five independent experts: Meskerem Geset Techane, Chair, (Ethiopia); Elizabeth Broderick, Vice Chair (Australia); Alda Facio (Costa Rica); Ivana Radačić (Croatia); and Melissa Upreti (Nepal).
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