2 Mar 2012 - by A4ID

Working to realise women’s rights with Equality Now

A4ID’s global network worked with international human rights organization Equality Now helping them to realise the civil, political, economic and social rights of girls and women.


Every March on International Woman’s Day (IWD) the world comes together to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women across the world. However, despite the progress made, the fact remains that human rights of women and girls is still a major global issue, including in the developing world. This year’s theme for IWD was “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” The theme has of course been a major topic in recent times given the huge outcry and call for legal reform in the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape case in 2012.

Equality Now

A4ID development partner Equality Now works for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women and girls around the world including calling for the repeal of all laws that discriminate against women. Whilst discrimination against women is partly a consequence of cultural norms and practices, it is also a legal issue. Legal discrimination against women can take many forms; gender neutral laws, the inadequate enforcement of laws and lack of access to justice.

A major step was taken to address discrimination against women in 1995 when 189 governments attended the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. This resulted in a document called the ‘Platform for Action’ which called for concrete action to enhance the advancement and empowerment of women all over the world e.g. the revocation of all remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex. At the ‘Beijing+5’ review meeting in 2000, governments set themselves a target date of 2005 to achieve this. However, this goal has still not been met.

Equality Now is working to push governments towards meeting the goal by documenting and seeking the repeal of a large number of explicitly discriminatory laws covering everything from citizenship to employment, inheritance to divorce.

As part of this work they produce regular reports highlighting a representative sample of laws around the world that discriminate against women. They also provide input into various reports as an NGO stakeholder, including a report prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on how the UN deals with discriminatory laws through its various mechanisms

Equality Now and A4ID

Equality Now approached A4ID seeking support in their work. Through our pro bono lawyers from the DRC, Ecuador, Burma, Somalia and Tunisia A4ID was able to ensure that crucial legal research relating to discriminatory laws in their countries was conducted. Access to local lawyers was essential for this project as these individuals had in-depth expertise and the ability to comment on country-specific issues. This was used to supplement the desk-based research carried out by Equality Now.

Equality Now described the legal research assistance as invaluable. The organisation used it also where it could to directly feed into international legal mechanisms: the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) individual country reviews, and the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Reviews.