Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. Described as an international bill of rights for women, this convention came into force on September 3, 1981. The Convention defines discrimination against women in the following terms:
“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
The Convention also established an action agenda to end sex-based discrimination: States ratifying the Convention are required to include gender equality into their domestic legislation, repeal all discriminatory provisions in their laws, and enact new provisions to guard against discrimination against women. They must also establish tribunals and public institutions to guarantee women effective protection against discrimination, and take steps to eliminate all forms of discrimination practiced against women by individuals, organizations, and enterprises. As of August 2009, 185 states have ratified or acceded to the treaty.
Convention oversight is the task of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which is made up of 23 experts on women's issues from different UN member states. The Committee meets twice a year to review reports on compliance with the Convention's provisions that the signatory nations are required to submit every four years.
Report: World: Ageing, Discrimination and Older Women’s Human Rights
From the Perspectives of CEDAW Convention (March 2010)
During the Commission on the Status of Women, the Sub Committee on Older Women in partnership with the NGO Committee on Ageing and individual NGOs like Global Action on Aging, organized a side event entitled “Older Women: 15 years later, where are we now?” Ferdous Ara Begum, expert member of the UN CEDAW Committee, shared the latest developments about a potential General Recommendation on older women. She also analyzed each CEDAW article in relation to older women’s issues in her presentation.
World: Pictures Gallery of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination among Older Women Meeting (July 21, 2009)
The pictures of the CEDAW Committee Informal Meeting with UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes, NGOs and Stakeholders on a General Recommendation on Older Women and Protection of their Rights are available at the above link. This meeting took place at the Headquarters of the UN on July 21, 2009.
World: Key Issues and Recommendations Made at CEDAW Committee Informal Meeting with UN Agencies, Funds and Programs, NGO’s and Stakeholders on a General Recommendation on Older Women and Protection of their Rights (July 21, 2009)
(Article available in Spanish and in
On July 21, a large UN meeting provided an opportunity for the CEDAW Committee and UN agencies, funds and programs, NGO’s and other stakeholders to identify key areas for enhancing the protection of older women’s rights. CEDAW committee member and chair of the working group on the general recommendation Ms. Ferdous Ara Begum introduced the general recommendation. This meeting aimed at recognizing the right of older women to live in dignity. Some key issues: Older women living in areas of conflict, older displaced and stateless women and older women’s access to health care.
World: UN Session on the General Recommendation on Older Women and Protection of Their Human Rights (July 21, 2009)
On July 21, 2009, the UN’s Commission to Eliminate Discrimination against Women took up a general recommendation on older woman and protection of their human rights. Ferdous Ara Begum, the initial sponsor, presented an overview of her work, culminating in the proposal for a general recommendation. Other speakers included Carolyn Hannan, Head of the Division for the Advancement of Women; an UNHCR representative; Judy Lear, Grey Panthers; Bridget Sleap, HelpAge International; GAA’s President Susanne Paul; Jean Smith Jones from the Partnership for the Elderly in Rochester, NY, and a Human Rights Watch spokesperson.
Report: World: Concept Note on the Draft General Recommendation on Older Women and Protection of their Human Rights (May 12, 2009)
This concept note explores the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s decision at its forty-second session to consider a general recommendation on older women and protection of their human rights. The general recommendation on older women includes policy recommendations for mainstreaming the concerns of older women into national strategies and development initiatives so that woman can participate fully without discrimination and on the basis of equality. A huge victory for women, thanks to the persistence and leadership of CEDAW Member from Bangladesh, Ferdous Ara Begum, her CEDAW colleagues and all women.
Report: World: Proposal for a General Recommendation on Older Women: Strengthening the Protection of the Rights of Older Women (November 6, 2008)
Ms. Ferdous Begum, a CEDAW Committee Member from Bangladesh, moderated the lunchtime event which examined the case for a new CEDAW General Recommendation on older women. She emphasized how older women experience age differently from men. The discrimination faced by older women experience is often intersectional since old age compounds other forms of discrimination based on gender, ethnic origin, disability, levels of poverty or literacy.