Header image for news printout

Statement of the Chairperson of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembley during its 75th session

​New York, 9 October 2020

Madam Chair, Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to address the Third Committee of the General Assembly for the first time on behalf of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls. We are delighted that the Working Group, a key mandate of the Human Rights Council, is now formally connected with the General Assembly.

Establishment of the Group

The Working Group was established by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. It was created from the efforts of many, among them, Member States and civil society. These actors recognized that in 2010 despite significant progress, discrimination against women and girls persisted in every part of the world. Today, the Working Group together with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women are the only mandates, among 44, to focus on women's human rights. This is despite the fact that women represent half the world's population.

The WG's early reports examined four interrelated areas of women's lives: political and public, economic and social, family and culture, and health and safety. Our most recent reports have focused on reasserting gender equality and countering roll-backs. Each year our thematic report informs an annual resolution of the Human Rights Council.

The Working Group conducts official country visits 18 to date, and issues official communications to Governments. We have sent some 400 communications addressing issues such as marital status and nationality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, adultery, women human rights defenders, domestic workers and access to land.

The Group also develops position papers to advance conceptual debates. The latest position paper analyses the concept of gender in relation to the backlash against gender equality observed in recent years. The Working Group has also presented amicus briefs to Supreme Courts in various regions of the world. In summary, our work contributes to the progressive development of law and policy, protecting and advancing women's human rights in countries around the globe.

Unique to Working Groups within the Special Procedures system, is a convening capacity. Importantly, this convening capacity opens up a space for women's human rights defenders at the international level to inform us of human rights violations impacting on women and girls.

Cooperation and coordination with others working on women's rights is at the heart of our mandate. We are strong when we stand with other UN women's rights mechanisms at both the global and regional levels. The work of the CEDAW treaty body and the Working Group is strongly linked and mutually reinforcing. The Working Group systematically brings the CEDAW normative framework to its country visits, and in turn, the Working Group's findings feed into the work of CEDAW. Our Group collaborates regularly with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, especially through joint communications and public statements and together we join forces with regional human rights mechanisms, such as the Platform of Independent Expert Mechanisms on Discrimination and Violence against Women. We also play a role in gender mainstreaming, ensuring that women's rights are properly incorporated in the work of all Special Procedures and other human rights mechanisms.

Whilst the Working Group has made significant contributions to advancing understanding on women's human rights we also share deep concerns. The overall progress towards an equal and just society where women are free from discrimination has been too slow, too uneven. Marginalized groups of women remain left behind while political conflict, natural disasters and health crises have created new populations of vulnerable women.

The struggle for women's rights today takes place within a global context of increasing backlash. Anti-gender equality actors across all regions are threatening our hard-fought progress. A common feature is their focus on curtailing women's human rights, entrenching stereotypical gender roles and control over women's bodies. These forces are also restricting spaces for the work of women's human rights defenders and civil society.

This extraordinarily challenging context highlights the need to reassert the human rights of women so that every woman and girl, everywhere can live a life of dignity and respect.

Madam Chair,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Finally, I would like to very briefly turn to our latest thematic report devoted to women's human rights in the changing world of work presented to the Human Rights Council at its 44th session last July.

In this report, the Working Group analyzed the gendered dimensions of major trends changing the world of work, including technological and demographic changes, accelerated globalization, and the shift to sustainable economies. Our report sets out a vision for a world of work that starts with women's human rights and transforms the current economic model through the redistribution of power and resources.

The Working Group finalized this report in the weeks prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The significant implications of the pandemic for women's work cannot be overemphasized and our report acknowledged this. We call on States to take a gender sensitive intersectional approach to their responses to the crisis.

Without urgent attention to women's human rights in the world of work, we will miss the opportunity to create an economic

recovery from COVID-19 which places women's human rights at its center and therefore benefits all.

Madam Chair,

Ladies and gentlemen,

We welcome this important opportunity to interact with the Third Committee, which, we hope, could lead to establishing a new comprehensive resolution on the issue of discrimination against women and girls. We count on your support to ensure that this colossal task entrusted to us by the UN Human Rights Council can be duly fulfilled.

I thank you for your attention and look forward to a fruitful interactive dialogue with you.