By: Lana Ulrich

December 10th , or International Human Rights Day, marked the end of the recent campaign, 16 Days, aimed at spreading awareness of measures to end violence against women across the world. The color of the campaign was bright orange, and activists, citizens, and leaders all over the world donned orange gear in solidarity of the movement (see hashtag #Orangeurhood for more pictures on Twitter). Even the Middle East, a region not usually known for progressiveness in the field of women’s rights, got in on the action. For instance, the Great Pyramid and Sphinx outside of Cairo, Egypt were lit orange in commemoration.

 Pyramids lit orange in support of ending violence against women.

Source: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/12/around-the-world-women-and-men-of-all-ages-orange-their-hoods

According to Unwomen.org, some events organized in several countries include the following:

  • Kuwait held a walkathon, called “Begin by Breaking the Silence”, which was attended by Government officials from the Ministry of Health;
  • In Jordan, Her Royal Highness Princess Basma bint Talal called on media to better address Article 308 of the Jordanian Penal Code—a focal point of their 16 Days campaign—which currently allows rapists to avoid prosecution if they marry survivors;
  • In Nigeria, 350 people dressed in bright orange clothing rallied their way through the streets of Lagos, forming a sea of orange as they played instruments and waved banners with anti-violence messages; and
  • Rwandan musicians performed in a singing competition in Kigali as part of the Kigali Safe City Programme’s Community Mobilization and Public Awareness Strategy. Competitors wrote and performed original songs related to the issue of violence against women to a crowd of more than 3,000 people.

However, there is still an enormous amount of work to be done in the region. Several countries have not yet ratified CEDAW either. Recently a UN expert called upon Somalia to ratify:

“The [Somalia] Federal Government together with the international community need to allocate adequate resources to strengthen the rule of law institutions and ensure that the interim regional administrations benefit from the New Deal Compact for Somalia … [t]he Government should also ratify key international human rights instruments including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW],” the expert added.


… And so should the U.S.!


  1. I attended the CEDAW event at the World Bank, and was very fnautorte to be among some powerful women, who are on the front lines promoting and advancing CEDAW. The event was very informative and inspiring; particularly, hearing how other countries are implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Ethiopia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Norway and others.While Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State, claims “women’s rights are human rights,” Dr. Sima Samar stressed that “women are half humanity” and that CEDAW is a comprehensive framework in which to advance women’s rights. Though it was acknowledged by Marcia Greenberger, Founder and Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center, that five other countries besides the U.S. had not ratified CEDAW, Dr. Samar scorned the U.S. for its failure to ratify CEDAW, and indicated that its failure weakens our commitment to women’s rights and our judgment against other countries. She further encouraged the U.S. to ratify CEDAW, because of its mechanisms and its accessibility. Sameena Nazar, Founder and Director of Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy, also encouraged the use of Article 2 of CEDAW in the efforts to ratify and implement it.Mahanaz Afkhami, Founder and President of the Women’s Learning Partnership, stressed the use of CEDAW in the election process, and to reach out to men and other movements. Jeni Klugman, Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank, made a very important observation that often gets overlooked, and that is, to consider the cost of inequality. Wade Henderson also stated that the U.S. must show commitment to global rights and that it was a national security issue. Suzanne Nossel, Amnesty International USA’s newly elected Executive Director, pointed out that ratification and implementation of CEDAW in the U.S. requires leadership from the White House. Peter Yeo, Vice President for Public Policy and Executive Director of the UN Foundation, The Better World Campaign, followed by stating members of Capital Hill, DC and the media must be educated about CEDAW.Dubravka Simonovic, a member of the UN CEDAW Committee, also pointed out although countries have different legal systems and different cultures, CEDAW is universal and that all countries ratifying CEDAW are required to apply the same standards. And lastly, Caroline Anstey, Managing Director at the World Bank, offered a world perspective noting, “We [women] have enough studies. We have to take studies to action. A global agreement is the next step.”

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