Our Work: Conventions and International Mechanisms: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the CEDAW Committee

      • August 18, 2017 CEDAW Recognizes Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities at 67th Session

        At the conclusion of the CEDAW Committee’s 67th session, Women Enabled international (WEI) is pleased to inform you about advancements the Committee has made in recognizing the rights of women and girls with disabilities.

        CEDAW Calls on Nigeria to End Discrimination against Women with Disabilities During its 67th session, the CEDAW Committee reviewed and issued concluding observations concerning Nigeria’s women’s rights record. These concluding observations contain several references to women and girls with disabilities. For instance, the CEDAW Committee called on Nigeria to adopt the national Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill and the Disability Rights Bill and amend them as needed to ensure they conform with CEDAW. The Committee also noted that women and girls with disabilities face economic and physical barriers to accessing needed social services, including health care, and called on Nigeria to ensure through existing and new innovative programs their access to health care and combat all forms of discrimination against them.
        • These concluding observations reflect recommendations made in a shadow letter to the CEDAW Committee from WEI, Advocacy for Women with Disability Initiative, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, and Inclusive Friends Association, all of which work to promote the rights of women and girls with disabilities in Nigeria or worldwide.


        CEDAW Includes Women with Disabilities in new General Recommendation on GBV During its 67th session, the CEDAW Committee discussed and adopted an updated general recommendation on gender-based violence, General Recommendation No. 35, which supplements its General Recommendation No. 19 on this topic. The updated general recommendation contains several references to women and girls with disabilities and the particular issues they face in the context of gender-based violence. For instance, the CEDAW Committee classified medical procedures performed on women with disabilities without informed consent as a form of gender-based violence and called on states to repeal any legislation that allows, tolerates, or condones this violence. The Committee further called on states to repeal any laws that deter women from reporting gender-based violence, including “guardianship laws that deprive women of legal capacity or restrict the ability of women with disabilities to testify in court.” The Committee also recommended that states implement accessible protection mechanisms to prevent further or potential violence, including by removing communication barriers for victims with disabilities, and called on states to develop and disseminate accessible information, including to those with disabilities, about legal and social resources available to victims.

        • These recommendations reflect comments submitted by WEI and endorsed by 10 other women’s rights organizations in September 2016, available here. WEI commends the CEDAW Committee for these important advancements and looks forward to working with the Committee in the future to ensure the rights of women and girls with disabilities worldwide.

  • July 18, 2017   WEI and Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative (AWWDI), Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), and Inclusive Friends Association, Submission to the CEDAW Committee’s Review of Nigeria, June 12, 2017. Women Enabled International (WEI), alongside local partners Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative (AWWDI), Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), and Inclusive Friends Association--submitted an updated shadow letter to the CEDAW Committee for its forthcoming review of Nigeria in July 2017. The letter highlights that, because of their disability and their gender, women and girls with disabilities in Nigeria face multiple layers of discrimination and stereotypes about their capabilities that mean they are given less priority in families, have less access to education, and are considered less eligible for marriage or to found families. Additionally, women and girls with disabilities are subjected to violence--particularly sexual violence--at higher rates, and in Nigeria's conflict zones, they are frequently left behind when violence comes to their communities, with little access to justice or services. Finally, women with disabilities find that sexual and reproductive health information and services, including those to prevent and address HIV, are not accessible to them and stereotypes that they do not have sex and cannot become parents are pervasive. The shadow letter concludes with several recommendations for the CEDAW Committee to include in its concluding observations to Nigeria following the July 2017 review.

Read the shadow letter here:

WEI and Nigeria Partners CEDAW Review Submission June 12 2017.pdf

WEI and Nigeria Partners CEDAW Review Submission June 12 2017.docx

  • November 12, 2016 WEI--alongside local partners Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative (AWWDI), Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), and Inclusive Friends Association--submitted a shadow letter to the CEDAW Committee to help the Committee develop a list of issues for its forthcoming review of Nigeria. The letter highlights that, because of their disability and their gender, women and girls with disabilities in Nigeria face multiple layers of discrimination and stereotypes about their capabilities that mean they are given less priority in families, have less access to education, and are considered less eligible for marriage or to found families. Additionally, women and girls with disabilities are subjected to violence--particularly sexual violence--at higher rates, and in Nigeria's conflict zones, they are frequently left behind when violence comes to their communities, with little access to justice or services. Finally, women with disabilities find that sexual and reproductive health information and services, including those to prevent and address HIV, are not accessible to them and that stereotypes they do not have sex and cannot become parents are pervasive. The shadow letter concludes with several recommendations for the CEDAW Committee to include when developing the list of issues for its review of Nigeria's women's rights record and for concluding observations following the review in July 2017.

    WEI and Nigeria Partners, CEDAW LOI Submission Women with Disabilities October 14, 2016 FINAL.docx

    WEI and Nigeria Partners, CEDAW LOI Submission Women with Disabilities October 14, 2016 FINAL.pdf


  • August 16, 2014   The CEDAW Committee issued a strong statement on the displacement & devastation to women in Gaza, and highlights the serious risks to women and girls with disabilities in the conflict. The rights of women in situations of armed conflict are spelled out in the CEDAW and in the Committee’s General Recommendation No. 30 (2013) on Women in Conflict Prevention, Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations.

    “The CEDAW Committee is particularly concerned at the displacement of a significant number of women and girls, including older women and those with disabilities in Gaza, as a result of large scale destruction and damage to homes and civilian infrastructure.” 

    Women Enabled International also notes the requirements of the CRPD, especially its Art. 11 on Situations of Conflict and Natural Disasters.


    For the CEDAW Committee statement on Gaza, see this PDF CEDAW Committee Statement on Women and Situation in Gaza July 18, 2014

  • March 19, 2014 Organizations in several countries reject decision of the Colombian Constitutional Court allowing for sterilization of minors with disabilities without their consent. "Sterilization does not protect anybody from sexual violence and in fact it is a risk factor. With this decision the Court disregarded its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, ratified by Colombia. The Convention requires that States recognize people with disabilities' full legal capacity to make their own decisions and that they provide the necessary supports to do so," said Andrea Parra, Director of the Action Program for Equality and Social Inclusion (PAIIS) of the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. Stephanie Ortoleva, from international NGO Women Enabled, Inc. states: "Forced non-consensual sterilization of women and girls with disabilities cannot be tolerated as it not only violates our core human rights, but also our physical and mental health. Empowering others to make such decisions for women and girls with disabilities is an unacceptable form of violence and control." The decision not only disregards the UN Disability Convention, it also ignores the recommendations made to Colombia by the Committee to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which specifically told Colombia to amend its regulatory framework to guarantee that sterilization is conducted with the free and informed consent of women with disabilities.
    Read the CEDAW Committee's Recommendations to Colombia, October 2013, par. 30(e).
    Read the full press release in English (PDF) (Word .docx file)
    Read the full press release in Spanish (PDF) (Word .docx file)
    Read the Columbia's Court's decision: Constitutional Court of Colombia – Press Release No. 08 – March 11, 2014.
  • July 2013 Read Eleanor Lisney's account of Sisters of Frida's participation at the 55th CEDAW session in Geneva. A main consensus among all the UK NGOs who went to the session was how access to justice was being eroded by the austerity measures put into effect by the present UK coalition government. As Sisters of Frida members, we self funded ourselves when we went to Geneva to join the other NGOs. We saw it important that disabled women were represented with other women's organisations. CEDAW is part of the whole 'justice' dimension – our rights were not granted us as a result of the benign good nature of our government but because of the international campaigns for human rights set about into conventions by the United Nations and the European Union. These are some of the human rights instruments that we can use – even if we have to exhaust the domestic legal systems first. This is where we can hold our own government to account. There were many cuts to disabled people's services and we did not have the disaggregated data) that we needed to prioritise and formulate as questions and recommendations to the CEDAW committee. We could have made a better case for disabled women if we had more experience in the procedures but then the essential fact was that we were there as disabled women and our presence was felt and many of the sister NGOs included disabled women in their presentations.

    Read more at: http://sisofrida.org/2013/07/29/post-cedaw-55th-session-and-disabled-womens-access-to-the-justice (more blogs and info at http://sisofrida.org/cedaw and note the presentations by women with disabilities from Cape Verde and Serbia)
  • July 2013 The CEDAW Working Group, a coalition of 42 women's and human rights organisations from across the UK, including a group of women with disabilities from the Sisters of Frida (UK), has prepared a shadow report in preparation for the examination of the UK Government by the UN CEDAW Committee in July 2013. Read the Report here (available only as PDF) or access it at the following link: http://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Women%E2%80%99s-Equality-in-the-UK-A-health-check.pdf

    There are some direct references in this shadow report to disabled women, especially Recommendation 18.

    General Recommendation 18 – Disabled Women:
    Disabled women are disproportionally disadvantaged by the Government's austerity measures. Cuts to health and social care, public services and welfare benefits have led to disabled people taking their own lives rather than live with the impact of these cuts increasingthe barriers they face on a daily basis.

    Recommendation: Create a fair simplified system which assesses disabled women's gender and disability specific needs for benefits, accessible employment opportunities and support. The system must assess disability, housing and income benefit entitlement on a case by case basis, rather than impose a 'one size fits' all model on disabled women

    There have also been several mentions in the press regarding this shadow report:
    - http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/may/13/government-cuts-reversing-gender-equality-gain
    - http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/05/fridas-sisters-ensure-un-will-examine-disabled-womens-issues/

    and blog:
    - http://thewomensresource.tumblr.com/post/50411742451/successful-launch-of-the-uk-cedaw-shadow-report.
  • February 2013 Read Women Enabled's submission to the CEDAW Committee for its February 18, 2013 General discussion on Access to Justice for women.
  • July 2011 Submission by Stephanie Ortoleva for the CEDAW Committee's July 18, 2011 General Discussion on a Proposed CEDAW General Recommendation on women in conflict and post-conflict situations, presenting legal arguments and recommendations for the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities.
  • July 2011 CEDAW Committee to Hold General Discussion on Women and Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations The CEDAW Committee General Discussion was held on 18 July 2011 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The purpose of the general discussion is to commence the Committee's process of elaborating a "General Recommendation on Women in Conflict and Post-conflict Situations." The purpose of the general recommendation is to provide appropriate and authoritative guidance to States Parties on the measures to be adopted to ensure full compliance with their obligations to protect, respect and fulfil women's human rights during times of armed conflict and in all peace-building processes, which includes the immediate aftermath of conflict and long-term post-conflict reconstruction. For further information on this event, see http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/discussion2011.htm
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Stephanie Ortoleva, Esq.,

President and Founder

Women Enabled International, Inc.
1875 Connecticut Ave NW, 10th Floor
Washington D.C. 20009

+1.202.630.3818



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