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Time to Include Minority Women in CEDAW

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FORUM-ASIA’s Ethnic Minority in Southeast Asia Programme calls for increased input on Ethnic Minority and Indigenous Women in CEDAW reporting. National CEDAW watch group members are committed to making this a reality.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), is being actively monitored by women human rights defenders (HRDs) as it is the only international instrument specifically focused on women’s rights. These women HRDs have formed coalitions called CEDAW Watch Groups in different regions worldwide. In Southeast Asia (SEA), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) is implementing the CEDAW Southeast Asia Programme (CEDAW SEAP) which covers the counties of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam. CEDAW SEAP aims to build and support action at the national and regional levels, for governments and civil society, to effectively implement CEDAW. It supports NGOs in advocacy, monitoring of the implementation of CEDAW and preparation of the alternative NGO reports (shadow reports).

21-24 August, 2007, CEDAW SEAP convened a regional workshop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, of CEDAW Watch Groups on the role of NGOs in monitoring CEDAW implementation; the workshop was attended by the Ethnic Minorities in Southeast Asia Programme (EM-SEAP). Hosted by the Cambodian NGO CEDAW Committee, it brought together about fifty participants from the SEA countries, it also brought in CEDAW national coordinators of from the different countries. It was a forum for sharing experiences and strategies on monitoring CEDAW implementation, analysing government reports, following up concluding comments, and preparing shadow reports. Network development and management information was also shared. Visits to CEDAW Watch organisations in Phnom Penh completed the event.

The EM-SEAP participation was part of building knowledge of treaty implementation by learning from the experiences of CEDAW Watch Groups. It also provided an opportunity to lobby CEDAW Watch Groups to include ethnic minority and Indigenous women and their issues. In most of the countries, the human rights situations of ethnic minority and Indigenous women were missing in the shadow reports. Women are, in general, marginalised, but ethnic minority and Indigenous women are “marginalised within the marginalised”. A strong statement was made for the inclusion of ethnic minority and Indigenous women in the CEDAW Watch circles both through their inclusion in activities and processes, and for organisations of ethnic minority and Indigenous women to actively seek their involvement in the monitoring of CEDAW implementation and shadow report-making. The national CEDAW Watch Group members are committed to make this a reality.