WCW & UNICEF Partnership

Research & Action Report Spring/Summer 2007

Rangita de Silva-de Alwis, senior advisor on international programs at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), continues to strengthen and build relationships with colleagues from around the world who are working to improve and enforce rights for women and children. She recently submitted a paper, “Child Marriage and the Law” for the Gender Equality and Human Rights Unit of UNICEF. This paper offers a human rights framework and concrete legal guidelines to combat the practice of child marriage. Although law-related strategies alone are inadequate to address child marriage, legal guidelines help to raise awareness, create clear benchmarks, standards, and remedies to address child marriage. The paper challenges the practice of child marriage within the framework of feminist legal analysis. The feminist legal method involves questioning the assumption of gender neutrality in law and asking why the lived experiences of women do not inform and shape laws and lawmaking.

This past March, WCW and UNICEF co-sponsored an interactive dialogue at the UN Commission on the Status of Women that addressed the interconnectedness of children’s rights and women’s rights advocacy historically, conceptually, and from both legal and sociological perspectives. The program, “Partners or Strangers: Women’s and Children’s Rights Advocates,” highlighted global experiences of some collaboration between the two groups in terms of strategies and practices employed in the areas of policies, laws, and budgets to the benefit of both their causes. It also provided examples of partnerships that can be established to promote the realization of the rights of both women and children. Susan McGee Bailey, WCW executive director, facilitated the panel which featured Shanthi Dariam, committee member for the Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; de Silva-de Alwis; Moushira Khattab, vice chair of the UN Commision on the Rights of the Child; and Rima Salah, deputy executive director of UNICEF.

Building upon this new partnership, UNICEF has requested that WCW draft a chapter in the UNICEF Handbook on Legislative Reform: Exploring the Link Between Women’s Rights and Children’s Rights in Relation to Legislative Reform. This chapter will explore the ways in which women’s rights and children’s rights intersect in family law, property law, and employment law that mutually reinforce both women’s and children’s rights. This project will weave together the multiple strands of WCW research and action projects and will help develop an analytical framework that can be used as a model to guide both lawmaking and the implementation of laws on behalf of women and children in different jurisdictions.

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