Starting even before birth, a child's health and development prospects are closely linked with the mother's health and socio-economic status.

Realising the rights of women is the key to the survival and development of children and building healthy families, communities and nations.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) deals with countries' obligations to achieve equality between men and women in all spheres of public and private life, including the family.

View the Convention here.

Ending discrimination against women

CEDAW focuses on empowering women, with the goal of bringing equality between women and men. Discrimination against women is not as noticeable in countries such as New Zealand, but in many countries women have very few rights.

The Convention defines discrimination against women as "...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 field."

By accepting CEDAW, countries are committing to actively work to end discrimination against women in their country. This includes:

  • Making fair laws. The legal system should include the principle of equality of men and women, and all discriminatory laws should be abolished.
  • Protecting women against discrimination. This may involve establishing tribunals and other public institutions.
  • Ensuring elimination of all acts of discrimination against women.

CEDAW is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. Countries which accept ('are party to') CEDAW also agree to take appropriate measures against all traffic and exploitation of women.

Currently, 185 countries - over ninety percent of the members of the United Nations - are party to CEDAW.

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