Raising our voices: women’s rights and gender equality for 2018

by Hayley Willingale, treaty monitoring

Published: 23 Jul 2018

Today we launch our biggest ever assessment of the state of women’s rights – Pressing for progress: women's rights and gender equality in 2018

The report’s publication coincides with a meeting of the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva, who are about to embark on a major review of women’s rights in UK.

This meeting will be a chance for us and other groups to advise the Committee on our key concerns before they question the UK government on their record on women’s rights early next year.

The UK government submitted its own report to the Committee last November, but ensuring that CEDAW hears accurate, expert analysis from a range of organisations is an essential part of the process.

To help achieve this we’ve supported three organisations to take part – Engender (working in Scotland), Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales and Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) (working in England).

Having spent months holding meetings around the country, receiving responses through an online consultation and conducting their own in-depth research, their submissions to CEDAW represent the views and concerns of over 100 women’s rights organisations. Together, their contributions will ensure that the experiences of women across Great Britain are heard on the global stage. The three organisations have said:

‘It is essential that the voices of women and their organisations are heard as the UK’s inadequate performance on women’s rights is examined. It is clear that legal equality is not enough to create substantive equality for women. We need laws to be implemented and programmes and spending to consider their needs. Crucially, the organisations that advocate for women need to be resourced if we are to achieve true equality.’

Whether campaigning for the right to live without the fear of violence, or for the right to participate in politics at the highest levels, women’s rights movements are not only shaping many of the major debates happening today but are fighting for real change.

Here in the UK we don’t necessarily think of their work as being part of the wider global movement of women’s human rights defenders, but this context is key. Our current challenges resonate across time zones and time periods, and our civil society organisations are as essential, dynamic and energised as at any time in our history.

We are also pleased to be supporting the Centenary Action Group (CAG), a coalition of over 100 activists, politicians and women’s rights organisations that formed to celebrate 100 years since the Suffragettes secured the first women’s votes in the UK. Their work in explaining why we’re #StillMarching, and highlighting the progress still required in the fight for gender inequality, is key to ensuring that women’s voices are listened to here at home too.

As Claudia Craig, CAG Campaign Manager, said:

‘The aim of the group is to ensure that the suffrage centenary isn’t just a lot of old photos and history programmes – but instead delivers a lasting legacy that can help deliver a step change in women’s rights in the UK and women’s political engagement.’

At this pivotal moment in time, supporting women’s active participation in shaping the policies that affect them couldn’t be more vital.

Go to our CEDAW page for more information about women’s rights and our latest report.