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IULM University
Master in Communication for International Relations (MICRI)
8th edition A.Y. 2013/2014
Women’s rights violation and C4D
Analysis and comparison of two communication
campaigns
Federica Gazo
Matriculation No. 1005236
Index
Introduction.......................................................................................................................................... 1
1. Background information.................................................................................................................. 3
1.1.C4D: definition and approaches ................................................................................................. 3
1.2.Women’s rights overview........................................................................................................... 7
2. A successful case study: “Ban FGM” campaign ........................................................................... 14
2.1. Campaign’s description........................................................................................................... 14
2.2. Campaign’s analysis and strengths.......................................................................................... 17
3. A unsuccessful case study: “Let them play” campaign ................................................................. 25
3.1. Campaign’s description........................................................................................................... 25
3.2. Campaign’s analysis and weaknesses ..................................................................................... 27
4. Comparison and results.................................................................................................................. 33
Conclusion ......................................................................................................................................... 37
Bibliography....................................................................................................................................... 39
Websites............................................................................................................................................. 39
1
Introduction
This project work addresses the topic of Communication for Development with a specific focus on
women’s rights, mixing a theoretical and an analytical approach. The aim is to understand the issue
first from its definition and then from its practical application through a case studies’ analysis, to go
back, finally, to a theoretical approach.
Communication for Development (C4D) is a branch of communication that can be identified by its
own features: it aims at obtaining a progress in underdeveloped areas through a two-way dialogue
and a real local involvement. The concept has evolved according to the various communication
theories, but also the theses about development influenced it; it widened up to comprise different
approaches based on the goal and the tools used.
Among the topics addressed by Communication for Development women’s rights are included.
Despite the considerable improvements made throughout the decades, the situation of the
entitlements belonging to women and girls around the world still needs developments both in the
legal and cultural aspect.
These are the subjects of the first part of the project work, that aims at providing the necessary basic
information to contextualise the issue and define a reference background to develop the subsequent
analyses. The first chapter, in fact, drafts an overview on both themes.
A definition of Communication for Development is provided through the reference to statements by
international conferences and UN bodies. Its historical development is briefly summarised, together
with the theories that supported it, up to the current approaches and categories.
The same illustration is given for women’s rights: after their definition, their historical advancement
is described. The main legal instruments, including conventions, covenants and laws at international
and national level, are also quoted to define the legal framework and finally the current situation
around the world is outlined reporting some of the main data.
After setting the theoretical framework, the project work moves then to a deeper insight into the
topic, taking on a practical and analytic point of view. Two campaigns on women’s rights, one
successful and one not, are described and analysed in depth to understand their strengths and their
weaknesses.
The successful case is “Ban FGM” campaign of the organisation No Peace Without Justice, that
aims at obtaining the adoption, by the United Nations General Assembly, of a resolution to ban
female genital mutilation. Thanks to the accurate design, implementation and development of the
whole campaign, to the actors involved and the tools used, it successfully reached its goal.
2
On the other side, the unsuccessful campaign is “Let them play” by Human Rights Watch. Its goal
is to ensure the participation of Saudi female athletes in the 2012 Olympic Games, but it failed in
achieving it. In fact, despite the great role played by the organisation, the campaign has been
developed with some lacks and mistakes regarding the goal itself, the stakeholders and the
communication.
The second and the third chapters are dedicated to one campaign each. After the introduction of the
organisation and the description of the topic, the campaign is analysed in all its main aspects, as
goal, stakeholders, strategy and actions, communication tools, implementation and achievements.
The analysis then goes deeper and evaluates the success or failure of the campaign, identifying the
causes in its elements and establishing connections between features and results.
After the analysis of two real and practical cases to highlight the positive and negative elements that
influenced their development and outcome, the point of view is extended to draw general
observations applicable in campaigning.
The fourth chapter compares the two campaigns and underlines the differences between them
regarding approaches and implementation. Then, it connects the strengths and weaknesses to
deduce recommendations that can be valid also in other situations.
One campaign represent a successful case and the other an unsuccessful one: this peculiarity allows
to look at the issue from different points of view, to compare different approaches and to deduce
clearly the key elements.
3
1. Background information
In order to carry on properly the analyses of the campaigns, some background information are
necessary to create a frame of reference.
Reporting the definition and the main features of the Communication for Development helps to
understand the campaigning mechanism, while an overview on women’s rights provides the
knowledge on the campaigns’ topic.
1.1.C4D: definition and approaches
In the crowded field of communication, among the various theories, the different branches and the
number of terms used to define them, it is possible to distinguish the Communication for
Development (C4D) from its own features, goal, functions and applications.
Despite the difficulty of including all the aspects of the C4D in a single definition, we may refer to
some statements from the United Nations context as interesting sources for its illustration.
The United Nations chose a common view on the subject trough the adoption of a resolution,
agreeing upon a formal and shared C4D definition:
“Communication for development stresses the need to support two-way communication systems
that enable dialogue and that allow communities to speak out, express their aspirations and concerns
and participate in the decisions that relate to their development.”1
Later, a more precise and technical definition arose during the First World Congress of
Communication for Development:
“Communication for development is a social process based on dialogue using a broad range of tools
and methods. It is also about seeking change at different levels, including listening, building trust,
sharing knowledge and skills, building policies, debating, and learning for sustained and meaningful
change. It is not public relations or corporate communication.” 2
The Congress was a milestone in the development of the concept. Organised by the World Bank,
FAO and The Communication Initiative in 2006, it gathered together in Rome academicians,
1
Article 6 of the General Assembly Resolution 51/172 (1997).
2
The Rome Consensus, 2007.
4
practitioners and decision makers from all over the world. The aim was to analyse in depth the topic
and insert it in the policy-making process: to do this, the event fostered the dialogue and the
interaction among the participants, to discuss new data and researches, to share experiences and best
practices and to build a network.
UNICEF also addresses the topic of Communication for Development and implements it in its
activities. This UN body leverages C4D’s potentialities to amplify the voices of children and
communities and to promote child survival, development, protection and participation. Successful
case studies range from polio immunization, curbing maternal mortality, delaying child marriage for
girls and use of ITCs for development.
A more complex definition, that points out precisely C4D’s aim, is provided by UNICEF as
follows:
“..a systematic, planned and evidence-based strategic process to promote positive and measurable
individual behaviour and social change that is an integral part of development programmes, policy
advocacy and humanitarian work. C4D ensures dialogue and consultation with, and participation of
children, their families and communities. In other words, C4D privileges local contexts and relies
on a mix of communication tools, channels and approaches.”3
All of these definitions share some common elements that identify the main characteristics of the
C4D. First, the communication’s features in its technical aspect. C4D consists of a two-way flow of
information together with frequent feedback, an exchange of knowledge and opinions from both
sides to establish a fruitful dialogue. As regards the tools used, they range widely according to the
situation’s needs.
Another discerning trait is the stakeholder engagement. Communication for Development is first of
all a social process: the keyword is participation and the local communities have an active role both
in the communication and in the project’simplementation.
The element, finally, that maybe differentiates best the C4D is its final goal. It aims to spread
information and knowledge, to change mindset and behaviours, to build a valuable social progress
and a real development.
All these elements were strongly affirmed in the main outcome of the First World Congress of
Communication for Development, the Rome Consensus, a declaration that summarises the key
recommendations coming out of the debates and discussions. The event stressed the relevance of
the C4D in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the following need for planning and
3UNICEF website http://www.unicef.org/cbsc/index_42328.html

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Project work abstract

  • 1. IULM University Master in Communication for International Relations (MICRI) 8th edition A.Y. 2013/2014 Women’s rights violation and C4D Analysis and comparison of two communication campaigns Federica Gazo Matriculation No. 1005236
  • 2. Index Introduction.......................................................................................................................................... 1 1. Background information.................................................................................................................. 3 1.1.C4D: definition and approaches ................................................................................................. 3 1.2.Women’s rights overview........................................................................................................... 7 2. A successful case study: “Ban FGM” campaign ........................................................................... 14 2.1. Campaign’s description........................................................................................................... 14 2.2. Campaign’s analysis and strengths.......................................................................................... 17 3. A unsuccessful case study: “Let them play” campaign ................................................................. 25 3.1. Campaign’s description........................................................................................................... 25 3.2. Campaign’s analysis and weaknesses ..................................................................................... 27 4. Comparison and results.................................................................................................................. 33 Conclusion ......................................................................................................................................... 37 Bibliography....................................................................................................................................... 39 Websites............................................................................................................................................. 39
  • 3. 1 Introduction This project work addresses the topic of Communication for Development with a specific focus on women’s rights, mixing a theoretical and an analytical approach. The aim is to understand the issue first from its definition and then from its practical application through a case studies’ analysis, to go back, finally, to a theoretical approach. Communication for Development (C4D) is a branch of communication that can be identified by its own features: it aims at obtaining a progress in underdeveloped areas through a two-way dialogue and a real local involvement. The concept has evolved according to the various communication theories, but also the theses about development influenced it; it widened up to comprise different approaches based on the goal and the tools used. Among the topics addressed by Communication for Development women’s rights are included. Despite the considerable improvements made throughout the decades, the situation of the entitlements belonging to women and girls around the world still needs developments both in the legal and cultural aspect. These are the subjects of the first part of the project work, that aims at providing the necessary basic information to contextualise the issue and define a reference background to develop the subsequent analyses. The first chapter, in fact, drafts an overview on both themes. A definition of Communication for Development is provided through the reference to statements by international conferences and UN bodies. Its historical development is briefly summarised, together with the theories that supported it, up to the current approaches and categories. The same illustration is given for women’s rights: after their definition, their historical advancement is described. The main legal instruments, including conventions, covenants and laws at international and national level, are also quoted to define the legal framework and finally the current situation around the world is outlined reporting some of the main data. After setting the theoretical framework, the project work moves then to a deeper insight into the topic, taking on a practical and analytic point of view. Two campaigns on women’s rights, one successful and one not, are described and analysed in depth to understand their strengths and their weaknesses. The successful case is “Ban FGM” campaign of the organisation No Peace Without Justice, that aims at obtaining the adoption, by the United Nations General Assembly, of a resolution to ban female genital mutilation. Thanks to the accurate design, implementation and development of the whole campaign, to the actors involved and the tools used, it successfully reached its goal.
  • 4. 2 On the other side, the unsuccessful campaign is “Let them play” by Human Rights Watch. Its goal is to ensure the participation of Saudi female athletes in the 2012 Olympic Games, but it failed in achieving it. In fact, despite the great role played by the organisation, the campaign has been developed with some lacks and mistakes regarding the goal itself, the stakeholders and the communication. The second and the third chapters are dedicated to one campaign each. After the introduction of the organisation and the description of the topic, the campaign is analysed in all its main aspects, as goal, stakeholders, strategy and actions, communication tools, implementation and achievements. The analysis then goes deeper and evaluates the success or failure of the campaign, identifying the causes in its elements and establishing connections between features and results. After the analysis of two real and practical cases to highlight the positive and negative elements that influenced their development and outcome, the point of view is extended to draw general observations applicable in campaigning. The fourth chapter compares the two campaigns and underlines the differences between them regarding approaches and implementation. Then, it connects the strengths and weaknesses to deduce recommendations that can be valid also in other situations. One campaign represent a successful case and the other an unsuccessful one: this peculiarity allows to look at the issue from different points of view, to compare different approaches and to deduce clearly the key elements.
  • 5. 3 1. Background information In order to carry on properly the analyses of the campaigns, some background information are necessary to create a frame of reference. Reporting the definition and the main features of the Communication for Development helps to understand the campaigning mechanism, while an overview on women’s rights provides the knowledge on the campaigns’ topic. 1.1.C4D: definition and approaches In the crowded field of communication, among the various theories, the different branches and the number of terms used to define them, it is possible to distinguish the Communication for Development (C4D) from its own features, goal, functions and applications. Despite the difficulty of including all the aspects of the C4D in a single definition, we may refer to some statements from the United Nations context as interesting sources for its illustration. The United Nations chose a common view on the subject trough the adoption of a resolution, agreeing upon a formal and shared C4D definition: “Communication for development stresses the need to support two-way communication systems that enable dialogue and that allow communities to speak out, express their aspirations and concerns and participate in the decisions that relate to their development.”1 Later, a more precise and technical definition arose during the First World Congress of Communication for Development: “Communication for development is a social process based on dialogue using a broad range of tools and methods. It is also about seeking change at different levels, including listening, building trust, sharing knowledge and skills, building policies, debating, and learning for sustained and meaningful change. It is not public relations or corporate communication.” 2 The Congress was a milestone in the development of the concept. Organised by the World Bank, FAO and The Communication Initiative in 2006, it gathered together in Rome academicians, 1 Article 6 of the General Assembly Resolution 51/172 (1997). 2 The Rome Consensus, 2007.
  • 6. 4 practitioners and decision makers from all over the world. The aim was to analyse in depth the topic and insert it in the policy-making process: to do this, the event fostered the dialogue and the interaction among the participants, to discuss new data and researches, to share experiences and best practices and to build a network. UNICEF also addresses the topic of Communication for Development and implements it in its activities. This UN body leverages C4D’s potentialities to amplify the voices of children and communities and to promote child survival, development, protection and participation. Successful case studies range from polio immunization, curbing maternal mortality, delaying child marriage for girls and use of ITCs for development. A more complex definition, that points out precisely C4D’s aim, is provided by UNICEF as follows: “..a systematic, planned and evidence-based strategic process to promote positive and measurable individual behaviour and social change that is an integral part of development programmes, policy advocacy and humanitarian work. C4D ensures dialogue and consultation with, and participation of children, their families and communities. In other words, C4D privileges local contexts and relies on a mix of communication tools, channels and approaches.”3 All of these definitions share some common elements that identify the main characteristics of the C4D. First, the communication’s features in its technical aspect. C4D consists of a two-way flow of information together with frequent feedback, an exchange of knowledge and opinions from both sides to establish a fruitful dialogue. As regards the tools used, they range widely according to the situation’s needs. Another discerning trait is the stakeholder engagement. Communication for Development is first of all a social process: the keyword is participation and the local communities have an active role both in the communication and in the project’simplementation. The element, finally, that maybe differentiates best the C4D is its final goal. It aims to spread information and knowledge, to change mindset and behaviours, to build a valuable social progress and a real development. All these elements were strongly affirmed in the main outcome of the First World Congress of Communication for Development, the Rome Consensus, a declaration that summarises the key recommendations coming out of the debates and discussions. The event stressed the relevance of the C4D in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the following need for planning and 3UNICEF website http://www.unicef.org/cbsc/index_42328.html
  • 7. 5 embedding it in the strategy’s setting. Therefore, a long-term focus and a strong partnership among governments, NGOs, academia and citizens are required. The most important point was probably the focus on the local people: an inclusive approach, an horizontal communication and the integration of cultural points of view were defined as the main pillars of C4D. It is important to notice that, as coming from the United Nations framework, the quoted statements refer to an international level, trying to identify a common view and a shared definition among different states. This is a key step to clarify the concept both in the theoretical and in the operational context and to develop the issue. Moreover, it is firmly recognised the necessity of integrating communication in the projects’ concept and implementation, making it a strategic function: this is an important message from an high level international organisation about the fundamental role of communication as an agent of development. Furthermore, the C4D’s concept differentiated itself from the other types of communication and its definition became more and more precise and operational. C4D’s concept progressed in step with the different approaches on development and with the evolving communication theories: both of them created the background and influenced C4D origins. One of the first view on development is illustrated by the Modernization theory, appeared after the Second World War. It defines the “modernization” as the process undertaken by the poorest countries to evolve. The way should consist in following the steps of the developed countries, in particular acquiring the same economic customs.4 In this context mass media have an essential role, as they are considered the best tool to spread information and best practises in under developed countries, conferring them a great power of diffusion, persuasion and changing habits and behaviours. At that time, in fact, the prevalent communication approach was represented by the “Sender-message-channel-receiver” model.5 According to it, the communication process is a simple procedure of sending and receiving information from a source directly to a receiver. It is a one way andtop-down flow, that lacks in evaluating any form of exchange or feedback. Considering this background, the common practice in the development context of that period was a one-way communication from the developed countries to the poorest ones, transmitting the practices to follow in order to reach a full development. The expected progress. however, didn’t occur and the poorest countries couldn’t catch up the developed ones. 4Andre Gunder Frank, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Faletto Enzo. 5David Berlo, 1960.
  • 8. 6 Subsequently, at the beginning of the 1970s, in Latin America, a criticism of the Modernization theory started to appear. The Dependency theory6divides the world in a “core” composed by the developed countries and a “periphery” of the under developed countries. The former ones are charged of growing through exploiting the latter ones, that provide raw materials and cheap labour. RaúlPrebisch defined more precisely the relation between the two sides of the world: the periphery produces primary goods to export, while the centre produces secondary goods. The centre, thanks to its commercial institutions, can retain savings, while in the periphery companies and workers are weak and have to pass on technical savings to customers in the form of lower prices. This results in an higher export rate for the peripheral nations to get the same value of industrial exports and in bigger benefits of technology and international trade for the centre. Historical and political factors, in addition to the economical one, were included in the argument and the causes of the underdevelopment shifted to the western side, but in communication there wasn’t a similar change. In fact, although a demand for a more balanced share of information at the international level, the communication mechanism was always top-down and the focus remained on mass media. By the end of 1970s, the approach started to change more deeply. The local communities were considered as the first source of development, their participation in the design and implementation of programs became essential and they moved from passive recipients to active agents. To make it possible, alternative, horizontal and multi-directional communication methods were adopted to establish a dialogue and engage local people. Communication for Development finally came to be understood as a two-way process in which communities could participate as key agents in their own development. The last goal of C4D is obviously the development of a country or the improvement of a situation, but this means passing through subgoals that represent the way chosen to reach development and thatinvolve different functions: probing socioeconomic and political factors, identifying priorities, assessing risks and opportunities, empowering people, strengthening institutions and promoting social change. Therefore, it’s possible to identify several approaches, that can be classified according to those subgoals. Communication for Development can use, as a tool to advancement, the spread of information to build the background of awareness necessary to progress. Campaigns of information dissemination, indeed, focus on filling specific knowledge gaps and needs, trying to reach the largest audience through different media campaigns. 6Hans Singer, RaúlPrebisch,1949
  • 9. 7 The Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) programs aim, not only to spread information, but to convert it in established knowledge to educate people and illustrate positive behaviours to follow. Training programs, in particular, focus on transmitting knowledge to build and improve skills that can be employed to enhancing individuals or community conditions. Communication for Development can be directed, also, to change a behaviour. For example, the Behaviour Change Communication aim at transmitting information, good practices, inputs and motivation in order to persuade to modify individual behaviours resulting in a condition’s improvement. This approach is supported by the idea that development starts from individual behaviour and therefore it is most applied in health programs. On the other hand, Communication for Social Change (CFSC) assumes a wider point of view and focuses on the community as a starting point for development. The aim here is to change not only the individual behaviour, but all the practices and mechanisms inside a community, considering social, economic, cultural, political andinstitutional factors. The community is engaged, through dialogue and participation systems, in defining its own needs and goals. In this context, the Social Mobilization approach tries to involve and engage all the community to take active part in the decision-making process and in the follow-up about specific well-being issues. C4D, finally, can pursue development trough addressing directly to institutions. Institutional strengthening focuses on reinforce an institution regarding both its internal and operational mechanisms and its image towards the public. The advocacy activity, then, is about collecting information from different sources and transforming it into argument to promote an issue or highlighting a problem. It addresses institutions, political and social leaders to influence decision-making process, to ask for a policy’s change, to insert an issue in the public debate. 1.2. Women’s rights overview Women’s rights are rights and entitlements belonging specifically to women and girls, established to protect and empower them. They concern the social, economic and political spheres and range broadly, including not only but also, the right to bodily autonomy, to vote, to fair wages, to education, to enter into legal contracts, to have marital and parental rights. Even though significant improvements have been made over the past decades, these rights are still necessary and essential for the gender-based discrimination that women often experience. They are denied, through their lives and on a daily basis, equal possibilities and access to every field, from
  • 10. 8 household to work, making them more likely to be at risk of poverty, violence, disease and poor education. Women’s rights are institutionalised, being supported by law and practices, but only partially and in some countries, while in many cases they are still ignored or even repressed.In fact, women’s rights have not been protected adequately by international law for a long period. This lack of attention was due to an inherent feature of the legal system: it focused more on the public sphere, taking into consideration public conducts, actors and issues,rather than the private sphere, to which women’s rights mainly apply. During the Sixties, the women movement started to create networks to draw attention on gender inequality and advocate for equal rights. It succeeded in fostering the debate and bringing the issue to the decision-making core, finally seeing the realisation of legal tools to protect women.The first step taken in this direction dated back to the United Nations Charter of 1945. United Nations showed to take care of gender equality since its constitution, thus spreading an important signal at global level. Equality is affirmed through all the Charter; in particular, Article 1 expresses the need to protect human rights of every human being without any sort of distinction, including on the basis of sex. Moreover, in theCharter Preamble it is possible to find a specific reference to the equality of women’s rights. Only one year later, a meaningful action was undertaken, focusing specifically on women: United Nations established in 1946 the Commission on the status of women, the principal global policy- making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Its aim was to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote women’s rights and empowerment worldwide. It elaborated a number of declarations and conventions on specific topics (as political rights, marriage, etc.), but the framework was still fragmentary and incomplete. An additional development occurred in 1948 with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR). The Commission on the status of women worked for ensuring gender neutral language and to insert in it specific references to gender equality: Article 1 reaffirms the equality of all human beings, while in Article 2 human rights are affirmed to be entitled to every human being without distinction. The UDHR is not a legally binding document, but the two instruments originated from it, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, gave to the UDHR principles normative force and reaffirmed once more the gender equality regarding the specific rights they protect.
  • 11. 9 A number of significant goals were achieved during the Decade for Women, established by United Nations from 1976 to 1985. Women from many different geographic, cultural, religious, racial and class backgrounds gathered and organised to advocate for their rights, creating a real global movement. In this context, United Nations sponsored several conferences on that topic (Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980 and Nairobi in 1985) to evaluate the status of women’s rights in the world and to formulate strategies for advancement. In the same period the central and most comprehensive document to protect women’s rights was set: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women(CEDAW) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979, marking a key international agreement. Preceded and prepared by theDeclaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, a statement of political and moral intents, the Convention aimed at giving it normative force and representing an international bill of rights for women. Article 1 of the Convention defines specifically “ discrimination against women”, as: “Any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”7 The definition is quite broad, aiming to include all the potential cases of discrimination. It’s necessary to note also the use of the words “effect or purpose”, that means that the discrimination can be both intentional and in the exercise of rights. Furthermore, it denounces that "extensive discrimination against women continues to exist" and emphasizes that such discrimination "violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity". The definition enlarges the understanding of the concept of human rights and gives formal recognition to the influence of culture and tradition on restricting women's enjoyment of their fundamental rights. The fields in which CEDAW protects women’s rights and equality are numerous: economic, social, civil and political sphere, political and public life, legal proceedings and documents, marriage and family, education, employment and health. The legal status of women receives the broadest attention, proclaiming women as individuals with their own rights, irrespective of their marital status that has often affected them, while the link between discrimination and women's reproductive role is also another matter of recurrent concern in the Convention. 7Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Article 1
  • 12. 10 The Convention not only provides a list of rights, but sets also an agenda for national action to guarantee the enjoyment of those rights. States are first required to take legal measures to deem null and void all instruments directed at restricting women's legal capacity. At the same time, they must establish positive measures, including also but not only legal ones, to modify discriminatory practices, conducts and prejudices in the public, private and cultural sphere. As every UN convention, the CEDAW involves a monitoring mechanism, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, that consists of twenty-three independent experts on women’s rights from around the world. This treaty body aims at monitoring the implementation of the Convention and its tasks consist of reviewing reports from states, issuing general recommendations on the interpretation of the CEDAW, reviewing complaints from individual and NGOs, investigating gross violations. At the beginning of Nineties, several events and statements marked once again the importance assumed by the issue. In 1993, United Nations organised the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, during which it was stated that women’s rights are human rights. Despite all the developments, it was even necessary to underline it, but this meant a further recognition of the validity of the claim for women’s rights and represented an opportunity for drawing attention to the topic. One year later, a step forward was made in the context of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (ICPD). First, it reaffirmed some basic principles, as women’s empowerment, gender equity and reproductive rights. More important, it proclaimed the relationship between fulfilment of women’s rights and improvement of their political, social, economic and health status on one side, and advancement and sustainable development on the other. This principle was also expressed in the Programme of Action of ICPD, that included achievements in women’s rights among the goals for development. In 1995, another meeting on the topic, theFourth World Conference on Women in Beijing further developed some points. A famous speech by then-US first lady Hillary Clinton, stated: “Human rights are women’s rights (...).Women must enjoy the right to participate fully in the social and political lives of their countries if we want freedom and democracy to thrive and endure.” It sets an important link between women’s rights and political freedom and democracy, getting global attention. The Conference generated two significant document, the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action. Although not legally binding, they have a significant ethical and political meaning and can
  • 13. 11 be used to pursue local, regional and national efforts to address women’s human rights. The Platform for Action was a practical plan to assure gender equality in the law context: its three strategic objectives were to fully implement all women’s rights instruments (especially CEDAW), to ensure nondiscrimination under the law and in practice and to achieve legal literacy. The international community committed itself to achieve these goals and, in particular, governments had the main role regarding the legal efforts, but also citizens, organisations and enterprises were involved in the process as essential actors. As one of the most recent achievements, it should be mentioned the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, that led to the eight international Millennium Development Goals. Among them, the global community included “promote gender equality and empower women” and established as target for the 2015 the elimination ofgender disparity, first in primary and secondary education, and in all levels of education. The related activities focus also, as a consequence, on the employment of women outside agriculture and women access to Parliamentary seats. The inclusion of gender equality and women’s empowerment as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals was important to understand the situation, define specific targets and settle down a deadline to assure their achievement. In this context, the United Nations Development Programme linked the sustainable development with women’s rights and developed specific projects on women’s empowerment. The goal is to support women’s participation in the decision-making process to include their point of view in the governance institutions and in civil society. These were only the main international agreements on the protection of women’s rights, but the list is longer and includes also a variety of national and regional treaties. All the legal instruments described so far state the universal acceptance of the non-discrimination principle and found, on the pillars of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, a comprehensive and systematic framework to establish rights, drive improvements and ask for remedy. Nevertheless, the recognition of women’s rights in the world is still uncertain and the denial of these rights is still persistent and widespread. To understand the significance of the situation, an overview of the status of women’s rights around the word can be summarised as follows: Health: ● Over half a million women continue to die each year from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes;
  • 14. 12 ● Rates of HIV infection among women are rapidly increasing. Among those 15-24 years of age, young women now constitute the majority of those newly infected, in part because of their economic and social vulnerability. Discrimination and violence: ● Gender-based violence kills and disables as many women between the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer; ● Women trafficking is increasing; ● The feminilization of migration is an ongoing phenomenon. Education and work: ● Worldwide women are twice as likely as men to be illiterate; ● Poverty is a major barrier to secondary education, especially among older girls; ● The world has achieved equality in primary education between girls and boys, but few countries have achieved that target at all levels of education; ● Women still earn less than men, even for similar kinds of work; ● Women are largely relegated to more vulnerable forms of employment. Law and politics:  Continued existence of laws that directly discriminate against women, despite clear international legal obligations;  Many of the countries that have ratified CEDAW still have discriminatory laws governing marriage, land, property and inheritance. Looking at the ongoing situation, many problems have to be faced and many obstacles stillneed to be overcome by appropriate actions. In particular, the future challenges regard mainly two areas of intervention, the implementation of international laws and the cultural sphere. Regarding the first aspect, the main concern is related to the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Seven UN members have not even signed the Convention and two have not yet ratified it, including the relevant default of United States. Moreover a number of state parties made reservations, often about quite significant implications, that disable the correct functioning of the Convention. In this context, the incomplete and fragmented implementation of laws leaves space for back steps in the protection of women’s rights.
  • 15. 13 In relation to the second aspect of concern, many obstacles are placed by the culture. Women’s rights apply mainly to the private sphere, that is often subjected to culture and tradition heritage and to which government can’t claim fully access. As a result, in many countries, discrimination and violence against women and girls, that occurs in the family and under the guise of religious and cultural traditions and practices, continue to remain hidden in the private sphere where perpetrators of such human rights abuses typically enjoy impunity for their actions. The principles and practices related to women’s human rights are continuously evolving. The large body of international covenants, agreements and commitments to women’s human rights developed over the past several decades provides women with an alternative vision and vocabulary to confront violations to their human rights. Such guidelines are important tools for political activism and a framework for developing concrete strategies for change.