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Empowering Ourselves: The Role of Women's NGOs in the Enforcement of the Women's Convention

45 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2009  

Afra Afsharipour

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: January 3, 1999


Since its adoption in 1979, one hundred and sixty nations have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. However, due to a lack of effective enforcement mechanisms, the Convention's success in improving the lives of women has been limited. The Convention does not grant individuals a right of petition, and its requirements are not judicially enforceable. Instead, it has relied on governments to report to a United Nations committee of experts on their efforts to eradicate discrimination against women. This Note uses recent developments in Bangladesh to argue that women's non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have the potential to fill the enforcement gap in the existing system.

Bangladesh, a country with a poor record on women's rights, originally took a lax posture towards achieving the Convention's objectives. Leading up to and following the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995, Bangladeshi and international women's NGOs were able to dramatically improve the government's attitude towards the Convention's requirements. This commitment has led in turn to substantive results.

This Note argues that women's NGO's, using methods similar to those employed in Bangladesh, can increase compliance with the Convention. By leveraging their access to the citizenry into participation in the Convention's reporting and evaluation process, women's NGOs can increase government accountability and implementation. However, the Note also cautions that women's NGOs, while assisting national governments, must retain their identity as advocates for women's rights and their ability to criticize and exert pressure on governments.

Keywords: CEDAW, Women's Convention, Bangladesh, NGOs

Suggested Citation

Afsharipour, Afra, Empowering Ourselves: The Role of Women's NGOs in the Enforcement of the Women's Convention (January 3, 1999). Columbia Law Review, Vol. 99, No. 1, 1999. Available at SSRN:

Afra Afsharipour (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA CA 95616-5201
United States

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