November 29, 2007
BANGKOK, THAILAND—Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) is proud to partner with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for “Women and Children: The Human Rights Relationship,” a conference that examines the intersections and gaps between women’s and children’s rights in Asia. Slated for December 9–10 in honor of Human Rights Day, the conference brings together rights advocates from across the region in order to dialogue and to build shared agendas based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Bangkok, Thailand. Rangita de Silva-de Alwis, WCW senior advisor on international programs, leads the ongoing initiative.
“The aim of the conference is to create a paradigm shift that advances the wellbeing of both women and children in order to shape a world that is equal for everyone,” states de Silva-de Alwis. “Our strategic partnerships with the vanguard of the women’s and children’s rights movements, as well as other change agents in the Asia region, allow us to bring these disparate networks together to use both gender lenses and a child rights perspective to advance these rights at the policy-making and programmatic levels. This is a truly historic moment of the women’s and children’s rights movement in Asia. It’s very exciting.”
Numerous case studies reveal that children’s rights cannot be guaranteed in a framework that diminishes women’s status and discriminates against them. Further gender-based subordination is deeply embedded in childhood and is part of the continuum of discrimination and violence that runs through women’s lives. WCW’s de Silva-de Alwis notes that the human rights framework is an effective entry point for analysis and actions to promote gender equality and the rights of children.
Savitri Goonesekere, one of Asia’s most renowned scholars on the rights of women and children, pioneered the discourse on the linkages between the two rights agendas and will serve as the keynote speaker. Other CEDAW and CRC participants include: Ferdous Ara Begum, the first woman to lead Bangladesh television as Director General, the first female Commissioner of Taxes in Bangladesh, and a member of the CEDAW Committee; Saisuree Chutikul, former Vice-Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, current CEDAW Committee member, and one of the world’s leading voices in the fight against human trafficking; Shanthi Dairiam, a CEDAW Committee member and feminist expert who founded and headed the International Women's Rights Action Watch-Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific) for 12 years; Yanghee Lee, chairperson of the CRC Committee, and Professor of Child Psychology and Education at Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Republic of Korea; Heisoo Shin, an expert of the CEDAW Committee who has been a leader in bringing the issues of sexual slavery and other women’s human rights abuses to the forefront of the international justice agenda; and Dubravka Šimonović, a national of Croatia and CEDAW expert who served as the Committee’s Rapporteur in 2005 and 2006 and currently heads the Human Rights Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“A key goal for our work at the Wellesley Centers for Women is to strengthen and deepen our international connections and collaborations in order to learn from women around the globe and thus strengthen our domestic work while also sharing our findings and expertise with our global partners,” reports Susan McGee Bailey, executive director of WCW. “Partnering with UNICEF on this important initiative further supports our commitment to groundbreaking research and programmatic work that will deepen our understanding of and offer solutions to the challenges facing women and girls.”
Bailey will travel to Bangkok in early December with de Silva-de Alwis and Wellesley College student Stephanie Tung, who has been supporting the planning and will serve as special rapporteour for the conference. For more than 30 years, WCW has brought together an interdisciplinary community of scholars engaged in research, training, analysis, and action. The groundbreaking work has been dedicated to looking at the world through the eyes of women with the goal of shaping a better world for all. For more information on “Women and Children: The Human Rights Relationship,” visit www.wcwonline.org/asia2007.