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Gender advocate wants more awareness of women’s human rights treaty

As actions to prevent and end violence against women and girls around the world come into sharp focus during the 16 Days of Activism observed on  November 25 – December 10, Professor Emerita of Gender, Social Change and Development at UWI (St. Augustine) Rhoda Reddock, is urging enhanced regional exchanges of good practices.

She was Guest Speaker at the Annual CARICOM Secretariat’s Staff Mixer hosted by the Gender and Development Programme within the Directorate of Human and Social Development.

During her presentation titled: November 25: Violence Against Women and Women’s Human Right, she called for greater involvement of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and non-state actors to police governments obligations under the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW), especially as it relates to the timely submission of Country Reports and its dissemination. Reports should be submitted to the Committee for the Elimination of Violence Against Women CEDAW Committee of Experts, one year following the ratification of the Convention on the elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Initial Report), and every four years thereafter, a Country’s Report is due.

State Parties’ Reports to the Committee are based on progress and challenges encountered in the areas of women’s economic, social, cultural and political rights, as well as questions from the Committee addressing implementation gaps in order to accelerate progress. Professor Reddock also urged Member States to submit Shadow Reports in an effort to be inclusive of the diverse views in the region.

The Gender Specialist is one of the 23 experts on women’s rights from around the world which comprise the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Globally, the CEDAW Convention is the second most ratified. All 15 full members of CARICOM have ratified the Convention.

The 16 Days of Activism Campaign from 25 November to December 10, includes several important observances including the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, Human Rights Defenders’ Day on November 29, World AIDS Day on December 1, International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development on December 5, and Human Rights Day on December 10. 

Professor Reddock said the Caribbean region has been at the mainstay of women human rights, recalling that it was at the Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encounter in Bogota Columbia in 1980 that the idea was first adopted for designating November 25, the Day against Violence against Women. The day is a poignant reminder of the Mirabel sisters who were assassinated in 1960 by order of the country’s dictator Rafael Tujillo.

Her presentation underscored the seminal contributions of women activists, organisations and landmark events to the increased international focus on Gender Based-Violence and Women’s Human Rights. One such event was the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute hosted by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership of Rutgers University in 1991, which recommended 16 days to bring the issue of violence against women and girls into focus.

Professor Reddock lauded the important contributions of Caribbean women to the global and Inter-American human rights systems, mentioning the Hon. Madam Justice Ret’d Desiree Bernard of Guyana, Professor Dr Barbara Bailey of Jamaica, and Ms Marion Bethel of The Bahamas who is at the serving out her second term on the Geneva based Committee. Madam Justice Ret’d Bernard and Professor Bailey both served two four year terms on the CEDAW Committee, in the past.

She also referenced legendary women’s advocate Dr. Peggy Antrobus of Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines who attended the first International Conference on Women in 1975, which paved the way for the 1979 agreement for treaty Convention on the Elimination of Violence against Women. This rich legacy and tradition of Caribbean women’s involvement in the international human rights system must be celebrated and continued, Professor Reddock stated.

Describing the observance of 16 Days of Activism Campaign against Gender-Based Violence as “an excellent opportunity for CARICOM to reflect on its relationship with the global and regional human rights system,” she said it should bring to remembrance the “diversity, breadth and extent of violence experience by women locally and globally.”

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