Women’s Rights as Human Rights: Local and Global Perspectives Strategies and Analyses from the ICCL Working Conference on Women’s Rights as Human Rights (Dublin, March 1997) Edited by Niamh Reilly
Networking and Solidarity.
Networking to share ideas, experiences, and resources and to identify common concerns is vital to building a women’s human rights campaign in Ireland. In this context we need to "pioneer" new ways of working together.
Networking needs to take place between local groups, as well as among local, national and international groups.
Networking should create concrete spaces for women to come together to express their needs and to formulate their own strategies for action.
Networking must also cut across issues, such as violence against women and the concerns of women with disabilities, and across sectors such as community development, academia, mainstream human rights groups, women’s groups, the legal profession and so on.
Communication, consultation, and the two-way flow of information is key to effective networking around women’s rights as human rights. Local groups, for example, need to learn about human rights instruments while human rights groups need to listen to local perspectives on important issues and act as a resource to those groups.
Women’s groups and mainstream human rights NGOs that have access to the international arena need to ensure that smaller local groups are represented and informed.
In the context of Ireland, more North-South meetings are essential to develop discussions, widen perspectives, and create common ground for action.
While working locally, it is important to keep the national, regional and international dimensions of our concerns in sight and to take this need into account when planning projects.
Networking around women’s human rights involves informing ourselves about, and expressing solidarity with, women in diverse groups.
Education and Awareness.
There is a need for global education programmes that would look at issues such as poverty or reproductive health, for example, and highlight the common ground between women in Ireland and other regions.
Human rights education is needed to create awareness about human rights ideas and practice in relation to women’s lives. Such programmes should be action-oriented, use accessible language and formats, and look at local agendas in light of human rights instruments and tools.
A human rights education handbook is required that would gives summaries of all the treaties and agreements signed by the government along with discussion topics and questions.
Personal development programmes that foster women’s skills, capacities and self esteem are an important step in the wider context of promoting women’s human rights. This includes developing a sense of ownership and entitlement with regard to setting policy agendas and asserting demands.
Education campaigns and programmes are needed to challenge prevailing attitudes and practices that undermine women’s human rights—either on the part of individuals or government, or that are widely held throughout society.
NGOs that have more experience working within the human rights system like Amnesty International, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Commission for the Administration of Justice should work in partnership with other groups that are now developing human rights analyses and actions.
We need to be innovative about women’s human rights education and how to mobilise different constituencies of women. Women working in the home, for example, can be isolated and politically invisible. They are unlikely to see such concerns as childcare, access to jobs, or domestic violence as human rights issues. Informal venues such as coffee mornings or parent-toddler groups should be used to foster discussion and to make the issues of women in the home more visible.
When lobbying elected officials at the local, national or regional level, NGOs and individual women can use particular articles and paragraphs of human rights treaties and agreements that the government has signed (including the Beijing Platform for Action and the Vienna Declaration) to strengthen their recommendations. Using the language of human rights is an effective way of giving local issues more credibility.
In addition to using human rights agreements to backup local agendas, NGOs need to lobby the government to ratify outstanding treaties and to remove reservations and fully implement treaties already ratified.
Further, the government must be lobbied to develop national plans for the implementation of non-treaty human rights agreements like the Vienna Declaration and the Beijing Platform for Action
In addition to lobbying elected officials and government departments, there are opportunities each year to lobby at intergovernmental human rights gatherings where key decisions are made about human rights practice and procedures, including the annual meetings of the UN Commission on Human Rights (Geneva) and the Commission on the Status of Women (New York), and the meetings of various committees overseeing different UN human rights treaties.
Some Suggested Areas for Action.
Seek the recognition of women’s economic rights, for example, including women’s unpaid work in calculations of the Gross Domestic Product, making provisions for women to receive pensions whether they have worked inside or outside the home, and investigating obstacles to women’s access to credit.
Seek the development of national child care and early childhood education policies that would provide comprehensive, affordable and accessible services.
Target gender equity in education and training; call for research into the obstacles to women’s education, training and employment, and for policies that will increase women’s participation in high-skilled and high-tech employment.
Develop coordinated national media campaigns to combat negative gender stereotyping and racism.
Seek legislative reforms including a renewed campaign for comprehensive equality legislation, and calling for the implementation of the Refugee Act, and the immediate reform of the Incitement to Hatred Act which is ineffective and is often used as an excuse not to bring in other legislation.
Call for equality within government structures – elected and administrative – and seek plans of action to accomplish this goal. One suggestion for advancing women’s representation in politics is the formation of women-only political parties. There is also a need for in-depth research into the obstacles preventing women from taking up public office.
Suggestions for Conference Follow-up.
Plan regional meetings to bring the conference proceedings closer to the local level.
Circulate the list of all who attended the conference to facilitate the formation of an ongoing women’s human rights network .
Publish and disseminate the conference proceedings along with useful information to facilitate networking among the conference participants and others.