Six things you need to know about CEDAW (and women’s rights) in Ukraine

Jan 30, 2017

Photo credit: UNDP Georgia

 

In this article UNDP presents six major developments in relation to women’s rights in Ukraine, and particularly to the implementation by the Ukrainian government of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

1. CEDAW is the international bill of rights for women, and Ukraine has ratified it

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is often referred to as the ‘women’s bill of rights’. It is one of the core international human rights treaties of the United Nations treaty system, which requires Member States to undertake legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. The CEDAW Convention was adopted in 1979 and ratified by 189 states, including Ukraine, which is now legally bound to put its provisions into practice and to submit national reports every four years on measures taken to comply with the convention obligations. So far, Ukraine submitted 8 periodic reports, the last of which will be soon reviewed by the CEDAW Committee in Geneva.

2. Civil society and women groups play a key role in ensuring women’s rights are respected

For the Ukrainian Government to effectively progress towards ending gender discrimination and fulfill its obligations under the CEDAW Convention, it needs also to listen to independent insights.

That’s why multiple civil society organisations, part of the “Gender Strategic Platform”, have collated information on the situation of women across Ukraine. Their work documents the prevalence of various forms of discrimination and violence against women, as grassroots testimonies of the substantial and entrenched barriers Ukrainian women still grapple with in different areas of their lives. This information is now presented in the Alternative Report to the 8th State Report on the Implementation of Ukraine’s commitments under CEDAW.

3. In February, Ukrainian civil society will report to the Committee on The Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva

During its 66th session on 14th February 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women will consider reports of non-governmental organizations from Ukraine and other seven countries (El Salvador, Germany, Ireland, Jordan, Micronesia, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka).

Ukrainian civil society organisations will have the opportunity to make a so-called “Oral Statement” to the Committee. Only about 10 minutes are allocated for all CSOs wishing to intervene on one particular country. It is therefore essential that they coordinate their interventions.

UNDP, UN Women, UNPFA, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom have jointly supported strategic planning for participation of the Ukrainian civil society in the CEDAW process. In an event which took place on 26 January, organizations working with the rights of women in various domains, as well as women facing multiple forms of discrimination such as Roma, women living with HIV, internally displaced women, LGBTI and others coordinated their participation in the upcoming CEDAW session.

The Alternative Report will be considered by the Committee along with the State Report during the assessment of Ukraine’s compliance with its commitments under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

4. Gender equality is still lagging behind in Ukraine

The alternative report points out that most of the State's priority reforms do not apply gender equality approaches to the reform agenda. No assessment of the gender impact of reforms is being carried out either.

Civic activists also emphasize a gap in employment opportunities. According to the State Statistics Service of Ukraine, there are 700,000 less working women aged 15-70 (7.9 millions) than working men in the same age bracket (8.6 millions). Official statistics also show that women on average earn 35.6% less per month (3,966 UAH) than men (5,379 UAH) for equivalent positions and skills.

However, civil society groups have also noted a number of positive developments, particularly on police reform: Ukrainian police is now 25% female, and women police officers today patrol the streets for the first time in Ukrainian history.

Even if the number of women MPs has increased only by 1.4%, with women still largely underrepresented in decision-making, a parliamentary subcommittee on gender equality and non-discrimination has started work in 2016.

This resulted in the adoption of several important pieces of legislation for the advancement of women, such as the Law "On Local Elections", which sets gender quotas for electoral lists.

5. Supporting CEDAW is a priority for the UN in Ukraine

As long as there is discrimination against women and girls, there is inequality. Its elimination is a cornerstone of UN mandate and of all our work, and we see civil society as a crucial driver of change in achieving gender equality in Ukraine. We work closely with the CEDAW Committee, government, and with our development partners to see CEDAW working through action at the country level”, says Anastasia Divinskaya, UN Women Gender Advisor.

As a part of the UN family and in close cooperation with UN Women and the UN Country Team in Ukraine, UNDP In Ukraine supports the work of the Gender Strategic Platform, a coalition of over 45 women's and human rights organisations which prepared the 8th Alternative Periodic Report about the situation of women across the country.

Supporting the CEDAW process is also key to advancing progress on gender equality in the framework of Agenda 2030, and in particular on Sustainable Development Goal n.5: Gender Equality.

6. UNDP supports gender equality in Ukraine in many other ways, too

The promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women is central to the mandate of UNDP. Around the world, UNDP is giving special attention to women facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. In Ukraine, this means also strategically assisting those disproportionally bearing the weight of the ongoing economic crisis and armed conflict - rural and internally displaced women and girls. As a result of targeted UNDP support in 2016, more than 1 million women, including female IDPs benefited from UNDP’s socio-economic activities to reduce women’s socio-economic disadvantages in rural areas. About 500 women-led or women-owned enterprises benefited from UNDP business development services and technical and financial support to business associations and over 1000 internally displaced women found a job.

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