Cedaw to fight gender-based discrimination

Nikiwe Kaunda, the Gender and Human Rights Programme manager at the Embassy of Ireland.

The Soul City Institute for Social Justice, located in Dunkeld, hosted a discussion on 30 August to review the progress made by the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) in South Africa.

The Cedaw was adopted by the United Nations in 1979 and commits itself to eliminate gender inequality and ensure the protection of women against discrimination.

The panel discussion was facilitated by the Institute’s advocacy manager Matokgo Makutoane and featured panelists Tinyiko Khosa, the director of international relations at the Department of Women, Dr Lesley Ann Forster, the founder and director of Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre and Nikiwe Kaunda, the Gender and Human Rights Programme manager at the Embassy of Ireland.

“This platform serves to push government to have Cedaw objectives achieved. If adopted correctly, the Cedaw convention can be a platform to empower women. Popularising of the Cedaw instrument in South Africa has been on a small scale,” said Khosa.

Forster said that there have been numerous challenges with femicide and violations of women’s rights in Africa but added that the advancement of Cedaw will facilitate protection of women’s rights.
Forster added that Cedaw was a global policy which has, over the past 20 years, proven very practical in its implementation.

“There is political will as attested to by the robust legislative and policy framework. There are cases which illustrate that Cedaw, its provisions as well as those of other African instruments, can be used to successfully challenge discriminatory laws, practices and even social norms,” said Kaunda.

Kaunda said there are still many challenges, notably those faced by young people who are vulnerable to discrimination and exclusion, making it difficult for them to enjoy the benefits of Cedaw.

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Makutoane also emphasised the need for women to understand their rights and demand the end of gender inequality. “We need to have a clear understanding of what Cedaw means for gender equality in our communities. Beyond civil society, we must ensure that women and girls know how to draw on the convention in order to demand and act on their rights.”

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Laura Pisanello

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