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1.All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights

2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms...without distinction of any kind, such as sex…or other status...

7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.

23.(1) Everyone has the right to work...(2) to equal pay for equal work.

21.(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country…(2) Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country."

(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 1, 2, 7, 21, and 23.)

I,2.Each State Party…undertakes to respect and ensure…rights…without distinction of any kind, such as…sex…or other status.

(...) All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals…

(...) All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law…[T]he law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground.

(International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Part I, Article 2; Part III, Article 14 and 26)

The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the present Covenant.

(International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Part I, Article 3.)

...The term ‘discrimination against women' shall mean 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."

(Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Part I, Article 1.)


Human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings; their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of Governments.

(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. !, para. 210.)

…The Platform for Action reaffirms the importance of ensuring the universality, objectivity and non-selectivity of the consideration of human rights issues."

(Beijing Platform for Action,Chap. I, para. 212.)

Equal rights of men and women are explicitly mentioned in the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations. All the major international human rights instruments include sex as one of the grounds upon which States many not discriminate.

(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. I, para. 214.)

The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirmed clearly that the human rights of women throughout the life cycle are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. The International Conference on Population and Development reaffirmed women's reproductive rights and the right to development.

(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. I, para. 216.)

If the goal of full realization of human rights for all is to be achieved, international human rights instruments must be applied in such a way as to take more clearly into consideration the systematic and systemic nature of discrimination against women that gender analysis has clearly indicated.

(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. I, para. 222.)

Human rights are not worthy of the name if they exclude the female half of humanity. The struggle for women's equality is part of the struggle for a better world for all human beings, and all societies.

(UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali,United Nations, 1995)



As you reflect upon the quotations from the human rights documents cited above, what human rights principles do
you find at the core of each of them?

How are these principles applied in your community? Your culture?

Are these principles applied differently in other countries and cultures that you know of?

For historical and political reasons, the two Conventions framing the basic ‘International Bill of Rights’ focus on political, civil rights on one hand,
 and economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand.

Are all these rights similarly treated in our society? If they are treated differently, which are given most attention?

What reasons are given for the difference? How do those reasons match your experience?


Gender Awareness: a New Phase Of Human Rights

All the areas of concern of the BPFA, correspond to violations of existing international human rights instruments and standards rooted in three basic documents which form the International Bill of Rights: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The world has changed since the International Bill of Rights was conceived, partly as a result of its existence, but also as a result of new technologies. It continues to change. Even as we seek to ensure observance of existing standards, new problems are identified and new standards are called for. Human rights are about human beings living human lives They necessarily have a dynamic, future-oriented quality. They must reflect our continuing histories, or else they become irrelevant.

An important slogan connected with political developments in the last thirty years has been the reminder that "the personal is political", made cognizant by the women’s movement. It was recognized that women’s rights are not simply a private –personal- affair, but have ramifications into the essential operations of the state, society, and the public-political- sphere, as true about any other category of human rights. CEDAW broke new ground by bringing together different categories of rights affecting the status of women and showing how they were related.

Another important contribution of CEDAW has been to activate reflections about the relationship between the local and the global, as a result of this double dimension -grassroots, and international - both equally important in the mobilization of women.

The growing awareness that no vital issue is neutral when it comes to gender brought about the need to review the existing human standards and perhaps augment them. We must bring gender awareness to the consideration of public issues and integrate a gender perspective into all the solutions proposed to address them.

Gender Awareness and Good Governance

In 1999, the Secretary-General of the United Nations proposed a framework to stimulate good governance at the local, national and international levels in conjunction with the process of economic globalization. In this proposal, companies and business associations were invited to embrace nine principles in the pursuit of good governance, as an expression of their social responsibility. These principles are subdivided in 3 categories: human rights, labor and environment. Reading this framework from the perspective of gender makes clear the relation between economic development at all levels, good governance, human rights, sustainable development and women's participation.

Human rights for all, including women:

(a) Access to basic necessities as a universal human right;

(b) Equal access to natural resources (e.g. property rights and rights to basic resources);

(c) The right to improved living conditions for all including women;

(d) The right to participate in public affairs.


(a) Elimination of discrimination of women with regard to their employment in all sectors;

(b) Protection from the undesirable consequences of macro-economic developments for employment opportunities for women;

(c) Protection from the impacts of labor migrations on men, women, children and families.


(a) Ecologically sustainable environmental management, taking into account the specific individual and collective interests of user groups, including women;

(b) Initiatives to involve women in promoting sustainable uses of natural resources of water and the transfer of behavioral patterns;

(c) The integration of women's knowledge about ecosystems upon which their life depends.


The Women’s Human Rights MOVEMENT: A Change of Perspective

Florence Butegwa, an activist from Uganda, pointed out that when you clearly define women’s needs and perspectives within a framework of human rights you are indicating that women are not asking for special treatment. At the same time you are creating a profound change of perspective

[You] are starting from a position of entitlement – (...) you are not begging or calling upon someone’s benevolence [...but] demanding something that you are entitled to by virtue being a human being.

That recognition is extremely empowering but it is also transformative for the women (we) are talking to and working with on a daily basis. When a woman starts to reflect on what it might be like to have freedom from violence in the home and in the community, the idea that we are entitled to that freedom can provide great motivation and energy to get through a difficult situation.

Using the human rights framework (enables) women to transcend national boundaries ... to access the strategies of the women’s rights movement in other (...) countries, and to adapt them (...) in our own context. [The]principles are the same. The way (underlying human rights) have been translated to the national level may differ, but the basic principles remain the same.

(Florence Butegwa (1997) Women Taking Action to Advance Their Human Rights: The Case of Africa in- Strategies and Analyses from the ICCL Working Conference on Women’s Rights as Human Rights Dublin, March 1997 Niamh Reilly ed.)

The Women’s Human Rights Movement: Affecting Social Change

Pramila Patten, a human rights lawyer from Mauritius, offers the following reflections on the way in which human rights principles have affected the global movement for women's rights as human rights. She observes the great challenges that still face us as we try to ensure for all women the full realization of their universal human rights.

Every human being is entitled to enjoy human rights and to have them protected by the laws and practice of her/his country of residence. Under international human rights law, women and men alike are vested with fundamental freedoms and human rights without regard to characteristics such as sex, race, or any such personal attributes. Regardless of cultural particularities, religious tenets and levels of development, women all over the world are entitled to enjoy human rights. However, it was only with the International Women’s Decades (1975-1995) and the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1980) that gender based human rights violations became a significant international issue.

Over the past ten years, women from all over the world have launched an unprecedented international movement for women's human rights. At the 1985 UN World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya, human rights began to emerge as a key issue for women. Even so, it was hardly mentioned in the Conference's official declaration or action plan, known as the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies.

When the Fourth World Conference on Women met in Beijing in 1995, thousands of women throughout the world had taken up the goal of achieving universal respect for human rights . It thus became the framework for the entire intergovernmental plan of action. Between Nairobi and Beijing (e.g. at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, the World Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, the Social Summit in Copenhagen in 1995) women's rights activists challenged the neglect of women and of their rights; they argued that women’s status could only be improved in any particular country if their rights were fully recognized and enforced everywhere.

The effect of this activism has been remarkable, especially at the international level. For the first time in history, governments have committed themselves to protect and promote women's human rights as a high priority. In the chapter on violence against women, we tell how governments acknowledged the widespread use of rape as a tactical weapon of war and included its prosecution in the mandates of the ad-hoc criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The UN Human Rights Commission has appointed a Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. The UN General Assembly has adopted a Declaration on Violence Against Women, and the Organization of American States has established a new regional convention against violence. Further, in the chapters on institutional mechanisms and governmental accountability, we describe how UN member states set up agencies to monitor and implement the provisions of CEDAW and the BPFA.

Yet, despite these and other promising changes in international law and policy, women’s day-to-day reality, all over the world is characterized by the denial of their fundamental human rights. Too often, they lack the tools and training they need to shape and use the human rights system to combat abuse and advance their rights.

Many women are unaware of their human rights, have no knowledge of the women's human rights movement and see the international human rights protections, to the extent they are aware of them at all, as abstract and beyond their reach. So, while activism over the last decade has clearly made women's human rights more visible, the challenge now is to make them more accessible.

Awareness of these rights and awareness of the possible use of international standards to promote and protect them must extend beyond the international human rights elite to include everyone. Every woman should know her rights. And every woman should know how to effectively claim the rights granted her by CEDAW. Human rights literacy must include awareness of these rights, but most especially the capacity to assert these rights.

This means

• Understanding what rights are,

• Knowing which rights have been defined and assured by the world community including

the various standards and their institutional mechanisms for protection and enforcement,

• Recognizing the legal and political options and alternatives available and,

• Acquiring the skills to shape the necessary strategies and alliances to assert one’s rights.

But, most of all, to assure the human rights of women means understanding the significance of gender to human equality. The concept of equality means much more than treating all persons in the same way. Gender is one of the factors that distinguishes among people and makes their situations different. Equal treatment of persons in unequal situations will perpetuate rather than eradicate injustice. True equality can only emerge from efforts, which address and correct all the imbalances, which favor men above women, one race above another, one ethnic or religious background over all others. Gender equality demands the correction of injustices based on sex and the imbalances of power and privilege between men and women.

Among the goals embraced by human rights education and promoted by PDHRE are some essential to achieving gender equality. Among them are:

Informing women that they have human rights and are entitled to enjoy them. Women cannot meaningfully exercise their rights unless they know they have them. It is through awareness and knowledge that women can exercise their rights and use national, regional and international human rights systems to demand protection. Information on women’s human rights also helps women recognize cultural practices and national laws that violate their human rights, such as those you may have discussed in your reflections on the quotations from the human rights documents.

Exposing and combating rights violations based on sex or gender. Historically, human rights practice has failed to recognize rights violations in which being female is the risk factor. Some of these violations are justified on the basis of biological differences (e.g. reproductive functions). Others are based on gender, or the socially constructed roles and values ascribed to women (e.g. homemaking). In either case, despite CEDAW and other human rights instruments, abusive laws or practices motivated or justified by sex or gender have not yet gained full international recognition as human rights violations. It is this lack of recognition that led to the human rights emphasis in the Beijing Platform for Action. Talking about women’s human rights creates an opportunity for individuals and groups of women, men and civil society organizations interested in promoting a life of dignity for all human beings to work towards recognition of these practices as violations of the human rights of women.

Shaping a new human rights practice that fully addresses the human rights of women. Although existing human rights aim to protect all human beings, male or female, in practice human rights have not been applied equally. An adequate understanding of how human rights could or should protect women still needs to be developed and disseminated. Many advocates for human rights lack familiarity with relevant theory and appropriate methods to investigate gender or sex-based rights violations. Standard methods of investigation do not necessarily encompass gender, nor do they always make the necessary link between the State and action by private individuals, who are often the immediate perpetrators of violations of women’s human rights. Another difficulty is that human rights mechanisms such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights are not set up to provide proper hearings of women’s grievances. However, a growing number of women’s human rights advocates have been very adept at the interpretation and application of human rights standards; and some have been successful at extending the international protections, such as the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence of Women, and the Optional Protocol to CEDAW. Still, most of the world’s women are not aware of the existing mechanisms and how to make use of them. The purpose of this handbook is to contribute toward building the human rights awareness essential to achieving gender equality.

(Adapted from Pramila Patten, "Women’s Human Rights", 1999 paper prepared for PDHRE towards Passport for Dignity, 1999.)



Has this country and/or community experienced progress in the advancement of women’s human rights as described by Pramila Patten?

What is being done in our country? (Our town? our village or neighborhood?) to expose violations of the human rights of women?

What is being done to educate women about their human rights?

Which of the rights enumerated in CEDAW are now the subjects of legal protection in this country? Is the protection effective? How do the laws and the actual practices match?

Are some areas of your life currently affected by discrimination? Which ones?

What form does gender discrimination take in your life?

Ask around you about your friends’ and relatives’ experience. Are most women aware of their human rights? Do they know what avenues are available to them to claim those rights?

Have you or anyone you know experienced discrimination as described in the CEDAW definition? Were there legal or institutional remedies available? Were they used? If no, why not?

Do you think more protections are needed? In which area? Are they feasible?

Sampling CEDAW-in-Action

While the preparation for Beijing stimulated a great deal of activism and education, the BPFA in turn has stimulated many new initiatives for learning about human rights. One source to find out about them is the archive of the CEDAW-in-Action electronic network. Although new contributions have ceased, the archives are still available online, and make for fruitful reading.

Educating Lawyers About the Meaning of the Law in Russia

- Human Rights awareness is most essential to jurists. Women in the legal profession and human rights educators have been offering training for their professional counterparts in various parts of the world. One example is a seminar held in June 1999 for judges from Russia and the Confederation of Independent States. Jurists from North America and Europe also attended. The seminar (48 women and 4 men) focused on the human rights conventions and introduced many of the participating jurists to CEDAW: about which many of them knew next to nothing. If they knew about it, very few had the Conventions, (especially CEDAW) readily available. Most acknowledged the usefulness of the volume of the major international standards. Some said that the volume, as their "desk book", would become a standard reference and that they would use the Conventions, especially CEDAW in the formulation of their decisions .

(Based on attorney Diane Post’s report to CEDAW-In-Action Electronic Network 6/29/1999)

Cedaw in Turkey

A letter from Women for Women’s Human Rights

"I am writing from Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR), an autonomous women’s NGO based in Istanbul, Turkey. WWHR was established in 1993 as an action research group. Their work has grown to include training in legal literacy and human rights, advocacy and lobbying, production of publications and outreach materials and networking ... A more exciting use of CEDAW is ... a training program called "Legal Literacy and Human Rights Training for Women." The 15-module program covers a variety of areas ranging from violence against women to economic rights, from sexuality to gender-sensitive parenting. We have integrated CEDAW into the training as an example of an international standard of women’s human rights. The Turkish translation of the full text of CEDAW is disseminated to all the participants and this text is used as a reference in various modules. The training also emphasizes the importance of internationally binding human rights treaties like CEDAW superseding national law. WWHR has been implementing this program since 1995 in various parts of Turkey. Since 1998, it has expanded through collaboration with the community centers of the Directorate for Social Services. It is now being implemented by social workers of community centers in five regions.

WWHR has also been advocating the integration of CEDAW into the National Plan of Action for Human Rights Education as one of the main international human rights Conventions. We are one of the four NGOs sitting on the Committee for Human Rights Education, which is responsible for the development and monitoring of the National Plan. As the only women’s NGO on the Committee we have been advocating the inclusion of women’s human rights as an integral part of the National Plan.

(from Ipek Ilkkaracan, Coordinator, WWHR. wwhrist@superonline.com. 6/21/99)

A Constitutional Commission formed in Zimbabwe: an online debate

Women’s and human rights advocates in Zimbabwe were particularly interested in the formation in 1999 of a Constitutional Commission which had a broad six months mandate. This endeavor ended with the submission of the Commission’s report to the President of Zimbabwe on 20 November 1999. A commission member saw the Commission’s mandate as authorizing a "rewriting of the Constitution of Zimbabwe in general, with specific reference to three pillars of the State, viz: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary in order to promote good governance and the rule of law." Human rights provisions were to be addressed in this examination. The Commission was to hold a series of public hearings during its tenure, and take written submissions.

Women’s and human rights groups responded "very firmly to the decision and appeared prepared to press home a case against Article 23 of the Constitution." Article 23(1) prevents discrimination, yet Article 23(3) recognizes exceptions to 23(1) and consequently allows gender discrimination in a number of matters, including adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, devolution of property on death or other matters of personal law, as well as in the application of African customary law.

Some suggested that an immediate objective of advocates should be to secure a "redrafting of Article 23 that breaks down the wall of exclusion which it erects between customary law and constitutional rights." There was general agreement regarding the "utility of focusing on standard-setting work with the international mechanisms as a way of sustaining international...human rights and political agendas."

Four general arenas for advocacy and input were delineated here:

A. Before the Constitutional Commission: The member cites that organizing efforts may be of particular use in this arena, yet advocates must be careful about how direct intervention is framed so as not to undermine the "domestic legitimacy of groups on the ground." Identity policies and culture play a significant role in this discussion of reframing African customary law. The author suggests devising a major submission to the Commission, to be signed by a broad coalition of groups, which argues from the perspective of international human rights norms and comparative good practice. Development of a working group has been suggested in order to draft a report for the Commission by the end of August.

B. Reporting (cescr, hrc, cedaw)

Based on a previous submission, the author suggests building an analysis of provisions of additional international legal instruments, which are violated by the Magaya decision. She suggests that, in addition to citing provisions regarding the right to an adequate standard of living, a combined reading of Articles 2, 3 and 26 of the ICCPR would be useful in this case. There is a request for groups/representatives in New York to take the lead in this project.

C. Standard Setting (U.N.HR Commission/Treaty Bodies) Property rights and the right to housing could be invoked to bolster efforts to promote a resolution from the Commission on Human Rights on the Magaya case. In addition, there was a suggestion for a lobby to secure comments from the treaty-implementing bodies regarding the protection of human rights in situations when "customary, statutory and maybe religious norms are all currently sources of law."

Other developments, however, contradicted this positive move. In the judiciary realm, there has been a repeated pattern of judges taking a ‘fundamentalist’ view of customary law taken in its most patriarchal form, e.g., in the case of widows’ rights and women’s rights in general, treating them as ‘junior males’. Although the women’s customary status had its problems, it also had included customary safeguards, which have been increasingly eroded or made dysfunctional by current economic processes. Critics of the judgment were sharply rebuked by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, leading to a flurry of activities by human rights activists.

Supreme Court Issues Warning / Letter-Writing Campaign

In May 1999, the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe sent a letter to a number of women’s and human rights organizations that had criticized court decisions. The letter (signed by Acting Assistant Registrar) issued a formal warning to legal practitioners and others who "indulge in gratuitous and unfounded insults to the Judiciary, and in public demonstrations against the Judiciary", in " contempt of court." (While) "no action will be taken at this time" against those organizations sending the critical letter, it is " assumed that the Chairman of each organization takes full responsibility for the content of the letter."

A letter-writing campaign was launched by groups inside Zimbabwe (supported by groups outside the country) requesting that letters be sent to Zimbabwe’s government officials, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the CEDAW Committee and the U.N. Human Rights Committee to "prevent further degradation of women’s human rights.

A member from the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy posted information regarding work being done with members of the CEDAW Committee regarding Zimbabwe. CRLP worked with two CEDAW members to draft and send a letter to the Zimbabwe Constitutional Commission.

The letter describes the urgent need to ensure gender equality in accordance with the Women’s Convention in Zimbabwe, calls for the repeal of Article 23 (3), which is the clause within the anti-discrimination article that allows discrimination against women under certain circumstances, and calls for the addition of a clause to the Constitution which would prohibit discrimination grounded in interpretations of customary law. This new clause would position the Constitution as the supreme law of the land, and would effectively prohibit any form of discrimination against women. The letter was signed by Dr. Charlotte Abaka of Ghana and Justice Sylvia Cartwright of New Zealand.

(Full text of the Supreme Court letter as well as the Urgent Action Alert in CEDAW-In-Action/ July, 1999. Sources include the Sisterhood is Global Institute web: sigi@igc.apc.org

Human Rights Education in Jordan

As described in the manual Claiming Our Rights: A Manual for Women’s Human Rights Education in Muslim Societies, the idea of a human rights education project specifically designed for women in Muslim societies originated around the Sisterhood Is Global Institute (SIGI) in 1993 and was elaborated over several years. During those years, the geographical spread of SIGI’s activities grew wider as did its focus. Starting from the " need to develop models that could use indigenous ideas, concepts, myths and idioms to explain the rights contained in international documents", the ultimate goal is "(the empowerment of) grassroots women to articulate and demand their human rights through interactive communication at home and through the political process in the community and society. "

The SIGI program launched in Jordan in 1995 reflects the preparatory work and the concerns articulated in Beijing. In a collaborative relationship with Mizan, a human rights law group that provides legal aid and counseling for women as well as research on pertinent legal issues, SIGI/Jordan wants to serve as a resource center for information about human rights violations, networks, strategies, and advocacy. The resource library of reference books, magazines, newsletters, and statistical studies for use in advocacy is open to the public. SIGI/Jordan also commissions the production of participatory HRE tools (stories, songs, and videos.)

The Women's Human Rights Education Program in the Muslim World is aimed

at empowering women to evaluate and reinterpret their religious and cultural texts, myths, traditions, and folklore, in a manner which enables them to defend their basic human rights. It is also directed towards strengthening the capacity of women's rights organizations to promote and protect women's human rights in the target countries.

Workshops provide concrete guidelines , and promote dialogue among women. Themes relevant to their daily lives reflect the concerns articulated in Beijing:

* women's rights and responsibilities within the family

* women's rights to subsistence

* women's rights to autonomy in family-planning decisions

* women's rights to bodily integrity

* women's rights to education and learning

* women's rights to employment and fair compensation

* women's rights to privacy, religious beliefs, and free expression

* women's rights during times of conflict

* women's rights to political participation



Does your society’s set women’s rights apart from human rights? How is this segregation done: By law? by customs?

Is the segregation outspoken? is it a ‘fact of life’ that no one really talks about?

Does it affect all women? if not which women are most affected?

Describe particular examples of gender-segregation.

How do women respond to segregation?

Are there human rights which men enjoy as a matter of course while women have to make special effort to get them acknowledged?

Are there areas of life where women are expected to act through the intermediary of men? What are the obstacles to women’s autonomy?

What does the Constitution of your country say about women’s rights? How does reality match the Constitution?

Are you aware of any lawsuit(s) currently in process regarding women’s human rights? What is the issue? Which rights are affected?

Do lawyers generally know of CEDAW and other legal instruments dealing with women’s rights? If they wanted to find out about CEDAW, could they easily find the relevant texts?

If an ordinary person, for instance a friend or a relative, wanted to find the relevant documents could they easily find them? Are there legal clinics for women? Where are they? When are they open? What activities do they offer?


The Declaration of Human Rights From a Gender Perspective

One of the most exciting developments has been the drafting and diffusion by CLADEM – Latin American Organization doe the Defense of Women’s Human Rights, of a new Declaration of Human Rights from a Gender Perspective.

It has sometimes been said that human rights develop in a kind of ‘generational’ process, the first ‘generation’ of human rights being political and civil rights, the next ‘generation’ being economic and social rights - from ‘universal’ (gender-neutral in principle but male-dominated in fact) to ‘pluralistic, reflecting men as well as women’s experience. While the historical evolution of human rights can be read this way, there have been many questions about the fruitfulness of this concept of human rights, primarily because it is impossible to dissociate these various rights. Political and civil rights are indispensable for any successful claim to one’s economic rights. On the other hand, in the absence of economic and social rights, political and civil rights is little more than a mask. The CLADEM document, however, starts from the premise that until now the human rights system has derived most of its energy from the historic memory of the revolutionary era, specifically the French Revolution, in its achievements as well as in its shortcomings and betrayals.

Susana Chiarotti, The Coordinator of CLADEM, mentions that the initiative was inspired by the actions of the French women Olympe de Gouges, who in 1792 wrote and presented to the French National Assembly her Women’s and Citizens Declaration of Rights, for which she was later condemned to die on the guillotine in 1972:

(...) drums rolling during the French Revolution; long skirts of taffeta and cotton... women yearning for equality... joined together as a collective force and raised the flag of human rights... women struggling for women...In the Women´s Clubs, around 1792, in Paris, Etta Palm, Theroigne de Mericourt, Pauline Leon, Claire Lacombe, Olympe de Gouges, dared to demand equality of rights. However, these yearnings for equality were repressed. In November, 1793, a decree was promulgated prohibiting the existence of the Women´s Clubs. Olympe de Gouges paid for the initiative with her life. The rest were sent to prison or exiled.

What is it then that can move Latin American women to write a Declaration of Human Rights From a Gender Perspective? Could it be that they haven’t heard the trumpets announcing the end of the story?

(...) The catastrophic discourse that currently exists cannot prevent us from revising national and international laws that are applied and continue to be applied to us. For this reason, we have allowed ourselves to discuss theories, to revise legal texts, to examine the right to human vice versa, to construct a new model to un-learn and re-learn. This is the task that CLADEM has been working on for the past several years and of which this Declaration is an example.

How was this idea of writing a Declaration of Human Rights From a Gender Perspective born? In 1992, women from different organizations, assembled at the Latin American Preparatory Conference of the Vienna Conference on Human Rights, decided to rewrite the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights from a male-centered Spanish language to a female-centered Spanish language.

Considering the impact of this SIMPLE CHANGE OF PRONOUN in the Declaration of Human rights, someone then asked "Why not write our own Declaration of Human Rights?"(Susana Chiarotti communication to PDHRE)


Four years later, after intensive drafting, revising and feedback from all over the world , a preliminary text was presented to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. The Commission asked CLADEM to reduce their text to 1500 words, allowing it to be accepted as a NGO document, at the March 1998 session as a kind of 50th anniversary gift to the UDHR.

Declaration of Human Rights from a Gender Perspective:

A Contribution to the 50th Anniversary of the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION of Human Rights


In December 1998, the United Nations will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Knowing the great significance of this event, CLADEM (The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights), along with other regional and international organizations, has developed a proposal aimed for adoption by the Member States of the United Nations. The year 1998 is the occasion for States to renew their commitment to human rights and to incorporate perspectives regarding gender and ethnicity that have gained prominence since the adoption of the Universal Declaration fifty years ago. In the same way that the 1948 Declaration has constituted an ethical code for the second half of the Twentieth Century, we consider it necessary today, on the threshold of the new millennium, that States approve another document aimed at the international protection of human rights, in order to integrate advances in human rights thinking and experience since 1948, without invalidating in any way the achievements of the Universal Declaration.


CONSIDERING that the contemporary formulation of human rights emerged within a historical context in which the concept of the human being was by and large limited to that of a male, Western, white, adult, heterosexual and owner of assets,

CONCERNED that because of this limited conception of the human being, the rights of women, indigenous people, homosexuals and lesbians, children, the elderly, disabled people and other groups have been restricted,

CONVINCED that a holistic and inclusive concept of humanity is necessary for the full realization of human rights,

REAFFIRMING the indivisibility, universality and interdependence of human rights,

BELIEVING that, in the present context of mounting poverty, inequality and violence, it is crucial to strengthen and guarantee the full validity and interconnectedness of environmental, reproductive, economic, social and cultural rights,

STRESSING that the following Declaration in no way reduces the validity of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nor of any other international human rights instrument, and that it does not authorize activities contrary to the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of States,

WE THEREFORE SUBMIT TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AT ITS 53RD SESSION the present draft declaration for its consideration in the elaboration of a Declaration for the 21st century.




Article 1

1. All women and men are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

2. Every individual has the right to enjoy all human rights, with no distinction based on race, ethnicity, age, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, language, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, economic position, birth or any other condition.

Article 2

1. All human beings have the right to their own identity as individuals, as members of groups with which they identify, as members of a nation and as citizens of the world, with the degree of autonomy and self-determination in all these spheres necessary to preserve their dignity and sense of self-worth. This right to identity shall not be negatively affected by marriage.

2. Slavery, servitude, and the traffic of women, girls and boys in any form, including those which take place within family relationships, are prohibited.

Article 3

1. All human beings have the right to equal and equitable participation in labor, political and social organizations, as well as access to elective and non-elective public posts.

2. All States shall eliminate obstacles to the full and equal enjoyment of citizenship rights by women. In particular, women shall be able to acquire citizenship without discrimination and to exercise the same rights as men to participate in all spheres of public and political life of the nation.

Article 4

1. All human beings have the right to express ethnic-racial diversity free from prejudices based on cultural, linguistic, geographic, religious and racial discrimination.

2. All human beings have the right to protection against ethnocide and genocide.

Article 5

1. Indigenous Peoples have the right to autonomy and self-determination and to the maintenance of their traditional political, legal, educational, social and economic structures and ways of life.

2. Indigenous Peoples have the right to the maintenance of commercial and cultural relations and communications across national borders.

3. Indigenous Peoples have the individual and collective right to participate in the decision-making process of their local and national governments.

Article 6

People belonging to ethnic, racial, religious or linguistic minorities have the right to establish their own associations, to practice their own religion and use their own language.


Article 7

All persons have the right to a violence-free life and the enjoyment of peace in both the public and private spheres. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. All forms of violence against women constitute a violation of their human rights. Violence shall not be used to deny people their right to housing, in particular through forced evictions.

Article 8

1. Migrants, displaced persons or refugees, and persons disadvantaged because of gender, race, class, ethnic origin, age, convictions or any other condition, have the right to specific protective measures against violence.

2. All human beings have the right to live free from armed conflict.

3. Acts of a particularly egregious character perpetrated against women and children in situations of armed conflict, including murder, rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancies, constitute crimes against humanity.

Article 9

1. Every citizen has the right to a national budget aimed at sustainable human development and the promotion of peace by their governments, including measures towards the reduction of military expenditure, the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, the reduction of armaments to the strict needs of national security, and the reassignment of these funds towards development.

2. Women and representatives of disadvantaged groups have the right to participate in the process of decisio- making in the field of national security and in conflict resolution.


Article 10

All human beings have the right to autonomy and self-determination in the exercise of their sexuality, which includes the right to physical, sexual and emotional pleasure, the right to freedom in sexual orientation, the right to information and education on sexuality, and the right to sexual and reproductive health care for the maintenance of physical, mental and social well-being.

Article 11

1. Women and men have the right to decide on their reproductive life in a free and informed manner and to exercise the voluntary and safe control of their fertility, free from discrimination, coercion or violence, as well as the right to enjoy the highest levels of sexual and reproductive health.

2. Women have the right to reproductive autonomy, which includes access to safe and legal abortions.


Article 12

1. All human beings have the right to enjoy the benefits of sustainable human development, in accordance with the Declaration on the Right to Development.

2. Decisions regarding national priorities and allocation of resources shall reflect the nation’s commitment to the full realization of economic, social and cultural rights, including physical and mental health, education, freedom from poverty, adequate housing, food security, equal and equitable access to land, credit, technology, clean running water and energy.

Article 13

Every woman and man has the right and responsibility to raise and educate their children, to carry out housework and to provide for the needs of the family, including after separation or divorce.

Article 14

1. Everyone has the right to gainful employment; the free choice of work; protection against unemployment; safe, equitable and satisfactory working conditions; and an adequate standard of living.

2. Everyone has the right to enjoy the same opportunities and treatment in relation to: access to services of vocational training and employment; job security; remuneration for work of equal value; social security; and other social benefits, including rest and leisure.


Article 15

Trans generational responsibility, gender equality, solidarity, peace, respect for human rights and cooperation among States are the basis for the achievement of sustainable development and the conservation of the environment.

Article 16

1. All women and men have the right to a sustainable environment and level of development adequate for their well being and dignity.

2. All women and men have the right to access technologies sensitive to biological diversity, essential ecological processes and life conservation systems in industry, agriculture, fishing and pasturing.

Article 17

1. All persons have the right to participate actively in local, national and international environmental management and education.

2. The environmental policies shall aim to:

a) Provide consumers with suitable information, comprehensible to persons of all ages, linguistic origins, and degrees of literacy.

b) Promote the elimination of chemical products and pesticides, which are toxic and dangerous for the environment, reducing health risks that affect people both at home and at work, in urban and rural areas.

c) Foster the manufacturing of products that are sensitive to and respectful of the environment and that apply non-polluting technologies.

d) Support the recovery of eroded and deforested lands, of harmed hydrographic basins and of polluted water supply systems.

(Document No. E/CN.4/1998/NGO/3, Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations-- Geneva also online : www.pdhre.org/involved/declar.html )

Human Rights and Democracy

Depend on the fulfillment of the human rights of women

The need for an integrated approach to women’s rights was brought out upon the occasion of a worldwide process of review, the ‘Beijing+5 reviews’, by another member of CLADEM –the Peruvian Virginia Vargas– She looked at the issues of women’s rights as an integral part of all human rights, in the specific context of Peru. (Peru was then on the eve of hotly contested elections, in the last stages of the Fujimori government.)

Peru has a highly developed set of governmental mechanisms for the promotion of women. Its Women’s Ministry is supported and complemented by several specialized gender-related agencies and offices. These institutions are unquestionably a response to a solid tradition of women’s activism and an exceptionally active women’s movement in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The international climate of the 1980s and 90s, in turn, encouraged these institutional developments. But the fact remains that these agencies were initiated by governments that were in some respects quite repressive.

For all practical purposes, the ‘women’s institutions’ are very strong. They benefit from unquestionable support from the authorities. They are an integral part of the government. And yet, writing in 1999, Vargas felt that in the long run, for women’s rights to thrive requires that democracy as a whole, for men and women, be made secure in Peru:

Women’s human rights need the framework of a thriving democracy in which all citizens’ human rights, men’s as well as women’s, political, civil, economic and social rights would be served. Peru in the 1980s was the stage for intense mobilizations, street actions and solidarity movements, which brought into the open the linkages between the public and the private spheres. The 1990s brought a new and growing presence of women throughout the globe and provided the chance to create new networks, new knowledge. New spaces, new forms of action have enriched the political and cultural landscapes of the country.

In this new social environment, negotiations with public powers led to the creation of new institutions for the protection and promotion of women’s interests. There have been unquestionable advances by and for women in the country’s public-political spaces. This, is turn, has made their activities more effective, enlarged the spaces they occupy and made possible a diversification of strategies in defense of women’s human rights.

The institutional dimension has also made possible legal advances, the creation of electoral quotas and other mechanisms aimed at reducing the distance between women’s enormous capacity for public participation and their historic absence from the spaces where decisions are made. Within NGOs, new spaces of negotiation and cooperation have opened up, in which issues like reproductive rights and violence against women could be tackled. Coordinated and unified work made possible the advancement of women’s human rights. The very existence of an institutionalized feminine presence makes it possible to transform collective demands into democratic guarantees. The very concept of democracy is enriched by the presence of ‘alternative power’. There is a climate of permanent ‘democratic invention’.

At the same time, institutional fragility increases citizens’ insecurity in the face of all kinds of violence, especially violence against women. The ruling model of development is one that threatens ecological balance, destroying many economic activities that allowed women to support their families. Women’s role as traders is undermined by the advent of global markets. An economy that forces men to become migrant laborers is not an economy that encourages democratic participation. An economy that humiliates men encourages violence against women. An economy that does not guarantee the quality of life of all persons, and of women in particular, such an economy is ‘destructive of the environment’, no matter what appearances may be. An economic model that systematically transgresses against the welfare of all results in the devaluation of all social citizenship, as corrosive as currency devaluation.

Ultimately it is problematic to develop a whole system of institutions, spaces for negotiation and areas of coordination, while leaving untouched a political and cultural context of repressive authoritarianism, the permanent violation of political, economic and civil rights.

It is important that the ‘feminist’ vision clearly be seen in the context of a ‘transversal’ vision, cutting across boundaries of gender, ethnicity, geography, age and class, with an understanding that the long-term defense of women’s rights passes through the expansion of democracy, and the end of the multiple injustices in Peruvian society. Anything else inevitably would end up making women’s human rights hostages of undemocratic regimes, putting into question the very ‘right to have rights’.

The rights of women matter to both men and women. The defense of human rights opens us to other forms of solidarity and other sensibilities. The reform of the State, decentralization, the consolidation of democratic governance, the reform of education, the independence of judicial power, the reduction of military budgets, governmental accountability all these are connected to women’s human rights as much as reproductive and sexual rights or abortion. To endanger one is to endanger all of them.

(Translated and adapted from Virginia Vargas El feminismo peruano al fin del milenio in- C.M.P Flora Tristan Chacanera- revista de la Red Mujer Rural #25, 9/99 www.fempress.cl/210/revista/npe.html 


Women’s Human Rights

the Gateway to All Human Rights

In the following story we see the circle being closed. Not only are women’s rights being won, but in the process, whole communities, women, men and children become involved. It is made clear that, by advancing women’s rights, the rights of all are being promoted.

When the deputies of Senegal's Parliament voted to ban Female Genital Cutting (FGC) in December of 1998, their vote took place under the proud gaze of a group of women and men from the villages of Malicounda, Medina Cherif and Ker Simbara. The experience of these villages and the role played by these individuals had been important factors in creating a powerful wave of feeling about FGC throughout the country. In truth, these villagers were the 'parents' of that decision. Two of them in particular had walked from village to village in blistering heat, had talked to village assemblies, listened to the ‘excisors’ (the women who performed the ritual surgery), swayed community leaders, helped reassure them that the end of FGC did not have to make them the laughing stock of their neighbors, or traitors to their culture.

Arguably, the decision would have come sooner rather than later, given the state of legal opinion at this point. There was a wave of similar decisions throughout French-speaking West Africa: Togo's law had been passed in October 1998; in July the Ivory Coast's Minister of Family Affairs had initiated a law proposal; Benin and Burkina Faso were in the process of doing so. In Mali, there had been a very visible action by 13 women practitioners from the Mopti region. In a public event, they had voluntarily handed over their excision knives. In this powerfully symbolic ceremony, echoed by a governmental pledge to work to eradicate the practice these older women from the blacksmith caste had abandoned a substantial and respected livelihood in a venerable, traditional function. They had given up their main source of income with the somewhat tentative promise of an alternative career as traveling FGC and AIDS educators. Having once been the representatives of the adult world at the initiation of young women, they now hoped to become educators about the medical dangers of continuing the practice of genital cutting. But Malian society was not ready for them yet. Despite this public commitment, a year later, the subject of excision remained taboo in public discussion, and human rights organizations felt it unwise to 'push the issue' too hard with their constituencies.

However, something truly unique had happened in Senegal; it was a genuinely popular initiative, built up over several years, which successfully pushed the discussion of FGC into the open arena. At every step of the way, the men and women whose lives would be affected by the decision were fully involved in the initiative. Furthermore, these villagers’ struggle to stop FGC was an organic outgrowth of a program of human rights education conducted by TOSTAN, a Senegalese NGO for women's health education, based in Thies, an area of longstanding political, union and women’s activism.[ Thies was the scene of famous railroad strikes in 1905 and again in the 1940’s, as well as market-women’s demonstrations in the 20’s against taxation and against colonial rule. One of the earliest sections of the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme in French West-African colonies was founded there before WWI]

First health became perceived as a human right. And then women’s right to health became connected to all other human rights. Over the years, TOSTAN had developed a program that combined basic education in national languages with practical development issues, providing rural people with the resources to improve their standard of living while fostering increased confidence in their way of life. More than literacy, this program offered participants the tools to tackle such community issues as health, hygiene and the environment.

The use of national languages had been an important step, empowering women to speak up in their homes and communities, as well as facilitating intergenerational communication and solidarity. With a female illiteracy rate of 74.9 percent in 1990, rural women were a prime target for TOSTAN’s participatory approach growing out of concrete, relevant experiences from daily lives rather than from abstractions.

The classes became a women’s leadership training grounds. Yet men are not excluded: nearly one-third of the participants are male, and the story of Ker Simbara illustrates how critical their contribution is in alleviating the burdens that women (and the community) bear.

Problem-solving skills originally applied to health problems were transferred to financial and material management skills, management of human resources and small businesses. The methodology also was used to reach out-of-school children with curricula that covered reading, writing, math, problem solving, health and hygiene, nutrition, family management, children's rights, history, geography, education for peace, leadership skills and group dynamics. By the mid-1990’s it was felt that many of the problems to be dealt with were in fact symptoms of a lack of general knowledge of human rights and responsibilities both on the women’s part and on the part of the entire community. It was decided from the start that in order for the program to thrive, it would need, not only to inform the village women of their rights and responsibilities through a process of active education, but also to help them appropriate these rights by using their own stories and experiences, then providing a nurturing space (the classroom) to work together on strategies to find solutions by using these human rights and thus help achieve changes rooted, both in the construct of universal, indivisible, interconnected human rights and in the social, cultural and economic environment in which the women live.

Social Transformation in the Villages

The basic education class provided the setting for creative approaches to domestic violence: class discussions led to a women’s delegation going to the offender's home accompanied by the Village Chief and the Imam (Muslim religious leader). There, they performed a street-theater skit : it showed that people, especially women and children, have a fundamental human and universal right to be protected from physical violence. Without directly accusing the man, the women, supported by respected male village leaders, made their point through theater.

The effectiveness of the tactic encouraged the women to perform the play in front of the entire community, followed by extensive community discussions. An early Childhood Development module built around the framework of universal children's rights led the community to re-think the practice of sending girls away for domestic work at very young ages. The plays and songs opened village-wide discussions and a special consciousness-raising day on the subject of human rights, hosted by village leaders and government officials, resulting in the curtailment of the practice.

And so, when finally the subject of Female Genital Cutting came up, it was already part of a comprehensive approach to human rights. Dealing with the women’s rights was part of dealing with all human rights, including health and sexuality. As a result of what is now widely known as the Pledge of Malicounda (spring 1997), the traditional spring ceremonies of girls’ initiations were not performed in Malicounda, for the first time in the community's history. By November 1997, a neighboring village, Ngerin Bambara became the first village in Senegal to completely prohibit the practice.

In the village of Ker Simbara, the inhabitants felt that they could not stop the practice without consulting their kin in a far-flung network of clansmen's villages. So for a period of eight weeks, two men who had taken part in the TOSTAN program (one a program- facilitator and the other a 66 year-old Imam, Demba Diawara) walked from village to village to discuss the negative effects of female circumcision with local people. The fact that Demba Diawara was an older man of religion was crucial. He himself had been one of the early students in the literacy classes, and knew how difficult it is to stop a tradition. The men returned convinced of the importance of what they had heard and what they were doing. They assisted the women of Malicounda, Ngerin and Ker Simbara in calling an inter-village conference in Diabougou.

In February 1998, three representatives of the village chiefs and two women representatives each from thirteen different villages met for two days to discuss the problem and formulated the Diabougou Declaration, a pledge by 8,000 villagers to cease henceforth genital circumcision of girls.

Word of this initiative next traveled to the Casamance region of southern Senegal, where a different lineage (the Pulaar lineage, who practiced genital circumcision on 88 percent of girls) banded together for a similar conference attended by representatives from 18 communities, by health workers and by the highly respected Imam of Medina Cherif, who assured the women that the Muslim religion does not require girls' circumcision and guarantees women's rights to health and human dignity. Many women spoke of the harm wrought by this practice. One lamented the death of her two girls following the operation; and a traditional "cutter" admitted that a girl had died in her village the year before. Other women spoke of problems at childbirth and of painful sexual relationships. Once again, the meeting ended with a proclamation renouncing the practice. Thirteen other Malicounda-area villages joined in February of 1998, and 15 more vowed to end FGC on June 1, 1998.

Meanwhile, the president of Senegal had put the issue on the front burner of the National Assembly’s legislative program, and on January 13, 1999, the National Assembly passed the law against FGC.

(Based on Molly Melching Reports from TOSTAN-Thies to PDHRE, 1997-99)

Closing the Circle: From WOMEN’S RIGHTS to a Human Rights City



Human Rights Cities are a historic initiative in which a whole community examines traditional beliefs, collective memory and aspirations as related to the Universal Declaration of human rights… --Guided by the commitment made and obligations undertaken by their governments - having ratified numerous human rights conventions- all its governing bodies and community institutions and groups, learn about human rights as related to their daily lives and concerns.. --to assure that all the laws, policies, resources and relationship in the community maintain the dignity and serve the well being of all its members.. –Moving to develop a sustainable Human Rights City.

One of these cities –seven to date all over the world- is Thies Senegal. TOSTAN a Local Senegalese organization, through its work on FGC which involves whole communities, women and men alike, moved to develop Thies as a Human Rights City including Human Rights Villages integrating human rights in all parts of daily life through human rights education for social transformation.

Early in 1998, ten villages in the Thies area had named themselves ‘Human Rights Villages’. This commitment came as the logical development of several years of holistic learning about human rights leading to community-sponsored efforts to abandon the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) and to the now famous Malicounda Pledge. Eventually more than 100 villages adopted the "Human Rights Villages" designation.

The following year, 1999, the city of Thies, with 250 000 inhabitants imitated it activities as a Human Rights City. The activities started in 11 neighborhoods –out of 57. In 2001, in its third year, the Thies Human Rights City has reached out to additional neighborhoods, bringing the total number of neighborhoods involved to 37. By 2002, the full population of Senegal’s second largest city will have ongoing activities to enforce social responsibility guided by the human rights framework.

The TOSTAN Human Rights training module proposed the creation of a Human Rights Committee in each neighborhood. Through the efforts all residents are mobilized several nights a week to learn their human rights and to work to respect and protect these rights in their daily lives. Among the first effects of the process was that in several villages women were able to claim their human right to land to obtain the allotment of parcels of land to grow crops of their choice. Numerous activities are undertaken in each of the neighborhoods to assess the immediate human rights needs of its members.

Facilitators in each neighborhood ask the participants to develop a collective vision for the community, challenging them to identify the role of community education in setting, objectives to reach that vision. They discuss each participant’s own responsibility, the need to respect human dignity and the need for sustainable development for the benefit of all.

The international instruments for Human Rights are being studied. Participants are also learning techniques for discussion and mediation. The average attendance at each neighborhood class has been about 50 residents who form the core of the group. Sometimes, as many as 100 people attend the meeting.

Asking communities to describe their goals for the future of their community (e.g. imagine your community in 5, 10, 15 years...) was often extremely moving. And many facilitators have been asked to repeat that session several times over the months.

The Human Rights Education phase was very successful, with high level of attendance, from 54 to 1430 participants per session and very diverse audiences. Participants gave thoughtful responses to question raised including the philosophy and moral concepts of Human Rights

When asked about the project’s impact in their neighborhood, the members of the Sampathe community testified with passion to the programs capacity to bring people to work together for a common goal. They described their neighborhood as one with 10 different active associations who had never worked together, and individuals who had never set foot in their neighbor’s home... Now, they claim, the entire neighborhood has met together for the first time, without regard to differences in age, sex, political beliefs etc. Community wide dialogue based on cooperation is taking placed and innovative solutions are being adopted.

Children between the ages of nine and eighteen, upon learning about education as a human right, realized that many of their friends did not go to school because they were not registered at birth. In response, they created small teams that went from house to house in the eleven neighborhoods, retrieved the necessary information and registered the 327 children. Next, a committee of these young activists went to the Mayor’s office to request that more schoolrooms be made available for these children.

Neighborhood members acting on the belief that work is a human right identified the extreme poverty of widows in their community and pooled funds to buy sewing machines and millet grinders for these women, together with training and small loans to open their own small businesses. Education and vocational centers have been opened for several hundred young women who had not attended school. Each center has a small store where cloth, food, and crafts made by these young women are sold (proceeds go to the maker of the item). As part of their learning about rights and responsibilities, each of the young women attending the "schools" has to pay 300 Saifa to become a "bone fide" student.

Men and women in several of the neighborhoods learning about health as a human right joined hands to clean up the mountains of garbage and established norms for garbage disposal and informed the community accordingly. They also called on the Mayor’s office to assume responsibility for garbage collection.

We thus have a clear demonstration of the fact that by paying attention to women’s human rights in an integrated framework, the whole spread of human rights is opened up to this community.

(Report by Abdoulaye Cisse Coordinator of the Human Rights City of Thies – UN Habitat II Conference, New York, June 8, 2001 - Human Rights Cities workshop facilitated by PDHRE)



As you read the stories of the CLADEM Declaration of Human Rights and the Human Rights City of Thies, can you visualize e your own community involved in this kind of process?

What would it take to start working with men at expanding the vision of the whole community using the insights developed by women?

What issues could you start working with? Who would your allies be?

What would it take to involve children and adolescents in your vision? What issues would be shared with them?


The Human Rights of the Girl-Child

The last ‘Area of Concern’ of the BPFA is devoted to the girl-child, whereas earlier instruments spoke of ‘child’, children’, ‘and young persons’. The girl-child is connected to the increasing attention to ‘culture’, ‘civil society’, i.e., the many ways in which discrimination is built into the very fibers of a person’s being from the very beginning of life. It seemed increasingly important not to remain at general statements about "full development of the human personality" as it says in the UDHR (article 26) or about the "special care and assistance" owed "motherhood and childhood" (UDHR art.25) , but to point out clearly the specific ways in which girl-children are discriminated against. If as, the UDHR’s article 26 says, education "shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship", attention must be paid to the ways in which children’s treatment breeds misunderstanding, intolerance, hatred among the sexes.


from the human rights instruments...

26.(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26)

10. (3) Special measures of protection and assistance should be taken on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions. Children and young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation. Their employment in work harmful to their morals or health or dangerous to life or likely to hamper their normal development should be punishable by law. States should also set age limits below which the paid employment of child labour should be prohibited and punishable by law.

(International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Part III, Article 10)

Discrimination in girls' access to education persists in many areas, owing to customary attitudes, early marriages and pregnancies, inadequate and gender-biased teaching and educational materials, sexual harassment and lack of adequate and physically and otherwise accessible schooling facilities. Girls undertake heavy domestic work at a very early age. Girls and young women are expected to manage both educational and domestic responsibilities, often resulting in poor scholastic performance and early drop-out from the educational system. This has long-lasting consequences for all aspects of women's lives.

(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 71)

Both the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantee children's rights and uphold the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of gender.

(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 216)

In many countries, available indicators show that the girl-child is discriminated against from the earliest stages of life, through her childhood and into adulthood.

(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 259)

Girls are often treated as inferior and are socialized to put themselves last, thus undermining their self-esteem. Discrimination and neglect in childhood can initiate a lifelong downward spiral of deprivation and exclusion from the social mainstream. Initiatives should be taken to prepare girls to participate actively, effectively and equally with boys at all levels of social, economic, political and cultural leadership.

(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 260)



The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA) makes a distinction between the human rights of women, and the human rights of the girl-child?

Why do you think this distinction is necessary?

Does your society make distinctions between ‘woman’ and ‘girl-child’? What are the criteria? Are they the same as those described in the BPFA?

Are girls and boys treated the same way in your community, your culture?

To what extent do the descriptions of the girl-child’s experience in the BPFA match your own experience?


The Girl-Child: Avoiding Vulnerability

Girls suffer many of the same discriminations as women: lack of adequate health care and nutrition, illiteracy and limited educational opportunity, a wide range of social discrimination, oppressive exploitation of their labour, sexual exploitation and abuse, and various forms of violence. The status of the girl-child and the conditions under which most of them live make them the most vulnerable of all human groups. The future of the girl-child is crucial to the possibilities for the achievement of gender justice and equality.

Her continued vulnerability would presage a hopeless future for the human family. Her unfolding as person of dignity and strength would promise a world in which all people might enjoy all human rights. Yet only in the past decade, largely due to UNICEF and child advocates, has the plight of the girl-child been a focus for international human rights concern. Her well-being must become a major priority for all economic and social planning. Attending to the promotion and protection of the human rights of the girl-child will contribute to reducing the vulnerability of all the Earth’s poor, oppressed and exploited.

The authors of the International Bill of Human Rights sought to give girls and women their own identities, but they were paddling against the powerful current of history.

That course has been shifting, and in the past 15 years the world has witnessed major breakthroughs. Two international instruments - the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child - have established an unprecedented legal basis for the rights of girls and women.

However, discrimination still deprives many girls of even their most basic right: the right to live. Those that do live face a host of other obstacles. Girls in developing countries receive less food and poorer health care than boys. Yet the girl-child also shoulders a heavier share of household duties and is expected to help care for her siblings.

In some parts of the world, girls are subjected to harmful traditional practices (such as those addressed in the chapter on health). They marry sooner than boys, and the strain of early childbirth shortens their life expectancies and hinders opportunities for education or employment. In many societies, girls must have a dowry to be married and are thus viewed by their families as economic liabilities. It is not surprising, then, that cultural proverbs from all over the world stress the joy of giving birth to a boy versus the misfortune of having a girl - a value judgment that is passed on from one generation to the next.

Despite the nearly universal ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, children and adolescents remain invisible to policy makers and human rights issues are often discussed in ways which exclude children and adolescents.

In many countries available indicators show that the girl-child is discriminated against from the earliest stages of life, through her childhood and into adulthood. The reasons for the discrepancy include, among other things:

• Harmful attitudes and practices, such as female genital mutilation,

• Son preference that results in female infanticide and prenatal sex selection

• Early marriage, including child marriage,

• Violence against women,

• Sexual exploitation,

• Sexual abuse,

• Discrimination against girls in food allocation,

• Discrimination in other practices related to health and well-being.

Girls are often socialized to put themselves last, thus undermining their self-esteem. Discrimination and neglect in childhood can initiate a lifelong downward spiral of deprivation and exclusion from the social mainstream. Initiatives should be taken to prepare girls to participate actively, effectively and equally with boys at all levels of social, economic, political and cultural leadership.

The BPFA also points out that adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable, physically, socially and psychologically. They are often exploited and socialized to (be) self-effacing. They may receive conflicting and confusing messages on their evolving sexuality, their gender roles and may be subject to abuse and exploitation. Many are considered adults at the onset of puberty, or even before, and may face early marriage, premature pregnancy, removal from school and coercion into commercial sex work. The adolescent girl often falls between the cracks of her family's understanding, her community's support and her government's policies and programmes.

Among the determining factors, which accentuate the vulnerable situation of adolescent girls, beyond the tradition ally low status accorded to girls and women from birth, we find the following:

• The slow pace of dissemination and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;

• Poverty in the high proportion of female-headed households and poor access to basic services;

• Lack of social policies which recognise the situation of adolescent girls and the girl-child in general;

• Urbanization, the social impact of globalisation and structural adjustment policies.

The rights of adolescent girls should be seen as an integral part of human rights and girls be enabled to develop fully and contribute to all spheres of life. They need to be given the skills and knowledge, which contribute to their self-esteem in order to become more self-reliant and be active participants in society.

Some groups of adolescent girls require special protection. They include:

• Girls with disabilities, further exacerbated as they become adolescent and often neglected in favor of younger siblings;

• Girls in armed conflict, including combatants and refugees;

• Girls orphaned through AIDS, maternal mortality or conflict;

• Daughters of migrant women-workers s subject to sexual abuse due to their mothers’ absence

• Sexually abused girls including victims of incest, rape, forced prostitution and sexual harassment;

• Girls suffering from the aftereffects of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) or suffering from fistula, subsequently ostracized, and devalued for their inability to be wives or mothers;

• Girls obliged to bear children at young age who are more likely to suffer from maternal morbidity or mortality as well as a curtailment of other opportunities;

• Girls affected by the dowry or 'bride price' systems;

• Girls abducted by men, including soldiers, for marriage or sexual exploitation;

• Girls used as subjects of child pornography which may cause them lasting damage;

• Girls working under hazardous and exploitative conditions;

migrant girls.

(Excerpted from Pramila Patten, The Girl-Child, 1999 unpublished. report to PDHRE)



When we talk of a person being ‘vulnerable’, we mean that they have one or more weak points which makes it harder for them to fight off physical or psychological assaults from the external world or from other people.

Review the conditions of girls in your community/your country: what are the points that leave them vulnerable? What kinds of hurts are they exposed to? How do these interfere with their full development?

Are these the vulnerabilities and obstacles noted by Pramila Patten? if they are different, list them with their possible causes.


Why Pay Attention to GIRL- Child?

In theory, the combined effects of the International Bill of Rights, CEDAW and the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be sufficient to ensure the human rights of girls and adolescents. In practice, evidence shows that in three important areas: health, nutrition and education, girls are chronically at a disadvantage. In any case, all violations of children’s human rights affect not only their own futures, but also the future of their societies, sometimes for several generations.

Looking at things from a strictly economic point of view, a report published by the World Bank in 1995 pointed out the high yields of investing in girls’ education. These included increased participation by women in the higher income producing modern sectors of the economy; higher use of reliable family planning; lower maternal mortality as well as lower infant and child mortality; higher immunization rates and improved sanitation practices.

The report also pointed out that mothers’ education is a predictor of children’s educational opportunity, and especially of girls’ educational opportunities: a mother with even a few years of education is more likely to appreciate the value of sending her own children to school. Research in some countries indicated that each additional year of formal education completed by a mother raises her children’s educational attainment by an additional one-third to one-half year.

At first reading, it might seem like a simple cause and effect relationship. However, the report also pointed out the economic factors that worked against girls’ education. Thus, where poverty is endemic and opportunities for income generation limited, demand for girls’ education remains low, because children’s contributions in household tasks (water collection, food preparation, childcare etc.) are more valuable to the survival of the family than several years of schooling in societies with high unemployment rates, restrictive labor laws, discriminatory wage structures etc. The report also made clear the importance of factors like students’ feeling that their education is relevant to their life, the quality of teaching practices, the adequacy of the schools’ physical infrastructure, the existence of a supportive governmental strategy for education.

What this indicated to the careful reader was that apparently simple goals like "promote girls’ education" are inseparable from the promotion of all adults human rights.

Similar conclusions could be drawn regarding other aspects of girl-children’s oppression

Poverty and the Fate of the Girl-Child

In many communities, the fate of the girl-child is determined at an age when she is powerless to alter the decisions being made about her life. Even the right to life continues to be denied to girls in many areas that practice female infanticide. The dowry system deeply rooted in the culture and customs of many Indian communities has been getting harsher and more exploitative as the young women’s in-laws use the dowry system as a way to supplement stressed family finances in otherwise failing economies. In African dowry systems, it is the bride’s own parents who rely on her marriage to supplement the family’s budget. In both cases, the girl-child is treated as a transient guest in her own home and pressured to marry too young.

Extreme poverty is one condition of the prevalence of child labor. Children employed under inhuman working conditions may be bonded by their own parents for the advance of a badly needed loan. The challenge then is to relieve the little girl from bonded labor contracts without jeopardizing the survival of their families. This could mean alternative access to credit for fathers and mothers, allowing children to be relieved from bonded labor contract by extending credit to their parents. Provision of production credit to poor women strengthens adult employment and keeps at bay hunger and starvation. This, in turn, eases the pressure on children to earn for their families. At the same time, action may be taken against employers who abuse the children who work under them. Night schools for working children established by the union provide basic education along with a much needed nutritious meal in the evenings.

(Drawn from miscellaneous reports to the newswire ISP, by the Kenyan journalist Judith Achieng)

Catalysts in the Process of Change

A report from the Commission on the Status of Women that is reproduced further down mentions the need to involve maximum cooperation between and among governmental and non governmental bodies, NGOs and voluntary associations working simultaneously at various levels. One example of such collaboration is provided by the Help! Girl-Child Education Project (HGCEP) in Nepal, where the children themselves are involved as important part of the network in situations of geographical isolation.

HGCEP was designed by the Institute for Women, Children and Empowerment to protect and promote the girl-child’s right to education, training and skill development. In Nepal, there are 3.8 million girls under the age of 16 , only 22% of whom are literate. Many parents are ignorant of the benefits of education. Deep-rooted cultural and religious practices, stereotyped notions, unemployment, poverty, the male dominance in Nepalese society have greatly impeded girl’s education. Interventions of HGCEP include: general awareness raising, launching various campaigns on the girl-children’s issues at the national and international levels, and creating a national and international network in order to effect the locally based monitoring system. HGCEP works with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which has a network of 35 countries.

HGCEP grants scholarships to girls from very traditional societies and from areas prone to trafficking and prostitution. Scholarships are awarded for the duration of the girl-child’s schooling with the effect that they complete their education. The hope is that the scholarship will provide incentive for parents in the region to send their daughters to school.

The Institute for Women, Children and Empowerment has created a Child Network, which facilitates and mobilizes children in all 75 districts of Nepal to strengthen child to child networking. The main objective and activity of this network is to bring together children and victims of violations from different situations and conditions for sharing their stories and for understanding of their rights and interests under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other related child legislation in Nepal. The network also works towards their effective participation in all activities at home, schools, and the communities affecting their lives. At present, the largest majority of children in Nepal live in the rural areas, and they lack access to information about the rights of the child and the benefits that they equally deserve to share. The child to child network will help to establish children’s own network in villages, schools, and communities as well as at municipality and district levels to demand for the best realizations of their rights.

(Help! Girl-Child Education Project [HGCEP] c/o IWCE Putalisadak, Kathmandu, Nepal.)

In the following case, we hear of a woman who struggled personally to educate herself. With the help of supportive parents, she claimed her rights and grew up to be an activist for gender equality. With the help of an NGO she is working to create what she calls an "army of literate girls".


Pakistan’s New Army: Girls in School.

As a teenager, Zohra caused her family to be virtually ostracized by their neighbors in their village, Sachedino Shaikh, in the Sindh region of southern Pakistan. Her sin? She was a student.

Braving a distance of 10 kilometers on foot with her younger brothers to the nearest high school, Zohra was the only girl among 500 students. Because of the social system in which boys and girls are allowed only minimal contact, she could not even have a male friend.

But Zohra was determined to become a doctor. Her dream was to start a clinic in her hometown that would prevent the many annual deaths caused by snakebites and epidemics.

"I felt lonely in my school as I was not allowed to play games with my class peers," Zohra recalled. "But I was determined to face the challenge."

Zohra never made it to medical school. But now aged 22 and -- to her parents' dismay -- still unmarried, she is curing another of her village's problems. She is teaching in a primary school for girls recently opened by a local non governmental organization. Here, in a two-room concrete building, 30 girls learn how to read and write. Zohra is confident the school will be upgraded to a high school.

The school's goal is to lower Pakistan's staggering illiteracy rate for women. According to official figures, Pakistan's overall literacy rate last year was 38.9 percent. Half of all men are literate compared to only 27 percent of women. In the villages, literacy figures are even lower. In the rural region of Sindh, less than one percent of all girls can read and write.

Many non governmental organizations working in the education sector believe that Pakistan’s problem of illiteracy is, if anything, understated. Declining economic conditions in Pakistan continue to encourage child labour. Rather than attending school, many children are sent to work to supplement the family income. Moreover, the government's definition of literacy is vague. For example, anyone who can read from the Koran is considered literate, although many do so from rote without understanding the meaning of the words.

Another cause of illiteracy is that many schools in villages are not segregated by sex. Indeed, over the past two years, cutbacks have prevented the government from opening new separate girls' schools. While girls are permitted to attend the predominantly boys' schools, many parents are loath to have their daughters study in a coed atmosphere. Therefore, they prefer to keep them at home.

Indeed, Zohra never would have gone to school without the full support of her broadminded father, Nawaz Shaikh. The turning point for Shaikh, a farmer, came through his contact with Alfalah Welfare Trust, a non governmental organization of doctors, businessmen and philanthropists based in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi. Years later, this very same organization would fund the new girls' primary school where Zohra now teaches.

Shaikh, who worked as volunteer in the Trust, learned firsthand the benefits of education while visiting the houses of Alfalah Welfare Trust members in Karachi. A particular influence was the Badar Siddiqui, the Trust's chief and a social worker, which convinced Shaikh that education, for both men and women, was critical.

But it wasn't easy. Shaikh's neighbors said his actions brought dishonor upon the entire village. He broke many local taboos, including a centuries-old tradition.

"As our forefathers did not send girls [to school], so why should we?" one woman said.

Others complained they needed their children to work. "We do not have enough to eat... how can we send our children to school?" said another mother. Girls help both their fathers in the fields and their mothers in the kitchen.

Others were fearful that their daughters -- who are engaged at an early age, sometimes even from birth -- would, if educated, be unacceptable to future in-laws who themselves are illiterate.

"My relatives socially boycotted our family and disconnected relations with us," Shaikh said. "But I did not pay any heed to these things, because I knew that I was not doing anything wrong."

Zohra made the best of her high school education. With good grades, she was accepted to an intermediate college located 100 kilometers away from her village. Since the family could hardly manage to bear boarding expenses, she simply commuted daily.

"I used to cover the distance by bus. I was leaving home before dawn and returning by dusk," Zohra said.

This continued for a year until Zohra's excellent academic performance convinced the college principal and teachers that she could forgo her theory classes and attend practicals only on specific days in a week. A former teacher, who herself had a bachelors degree in science, began tutoring her at home for the science examination Zohra needed to enter medical school.

Though Zohra passed the examination, she did not do well enough to gain admission to medical school. It was a great setback for the 18-year-old who for days simply could not face the reality that her life-long dream had been shattered. But she found a new mission upon learning that Alfalah Welfare Trust established a primary school for girls right in her own village.

As the school is in one of Pakistan's remotest areas, trained female teachers from other parts refused to join it. Zohra could be employed as a teacher despite having no formal training. She also enrolled in the teachers' training program at Allama Iqbal Open University.

Zohra is now producing an army of literate girls from her village and nearby villages. But it is still an uphill battle to allow daughters to get higher education. It takes more than schools to change century-old thoughts and customs.

(Shujauddin Qureshi Pakistan’s New Army: Girls in School. in Win Magazine,Women’s International http://www.winmagazine.org/issues/issue5/win5e.htm )


Media Skills for the Empowerment of Girls

Networking and various skills of communication and information are essential capacities to be cultivated in young women and girls, so that they can be full and equal participants in society. A vigorous response to this was mounted by the Kosovar women whose pioneering work with Radio 21 is described in the chapter on media. The following is an account of their program to empower and capacitate adolescents.

In 1995 the Centre for Training in Journalism and Conflict Resolution was established in Kosova. As of mid-1999, more than 80 girls participated in workshops on journalism and conflict resolution led by Kosovar eminent journalists. The centre trains girls in journalism, photojournalism, radio journalism, electronic mail (e-mail/internet) and in conflict prevention, management and resolution skills. Some of the girls also attended trainings in conflict resolution in Sweden - Farnebo school, in radio and TV journalism in Tirana, organized by PressNow, in Budapest sponsored by the Olaf Palme Institute in Zurich in advocacy and civil society building sponsored by STAR project of Delphi International, Center for Civil Society.

The training programs aim to prepare the girls to work toward changing society through media. Many of the trainees are now engaged in Kosovar media, some of them are still continuing to write for the Centre’s monthly magazine Eritrea.

Girls Are Strong, Courageous And Resilient

We know that women are able to confront and survive hardships, sustain their families, hold their communities together. These qualities are not born of age but of circumstance. Inspiring the expression of these qualities in girls is one way in which women are seeing them through crises and developing the strength of their future womanhood. Here is one example:

Cegrane [Macedonia] is a small village in the valley, where mostly Albanians live...Cegrane camp means a thousand and thousands of yellowish white tents...There are a lot of children. UNICEF organized tents for school. Elementary schools have 5 shifts from 8 a.m. for two hours. In the tents they have boards and benches. Famous actors from Pristina children theatre Dodona played a performance on the rocky ground in May. 4,500 children were watching, applauding and jumping.

The Women’s group, Motrat Qiriazi from Pristina, in 1994, started with its work to support girls in rural area Has on Kosovo. In May, 1999 they continued to work in Cegrane. Feminists from Pristina and their friends from England, Sweden and other countries organized a big tent for women only. A group for girls, a group for women, daily meetings of local coordinators, training in film and amateur photography, and English lessons are held here. Two times a week here in the tent hairdressers are doing their job. Ten feminists work there every day...

In the women’s tent, after half an hour, there wasn’t any space left, everything was full, the places around, on the floor, 120 girls from different parts of Kosovo. The tent full of girls, a lot of them cut their hair recently, lot of them have been coming to these workshops more than a few weeks, some of them are here for the first time, incredible energy, no space left. Igballa Rogova, feminist from Pristina, who coordinates the group activity raises the energy: Let’s shout: Vajzat= jan forta = The girls are strong, once, another time, louder. What a joy! Were we empowered as girls together with our friends to express through our own voices? Then, talks, exchanging information, debates on male violence and some unpleasant situation that can occur in the camp. Then a role-play is going on. How to defend ourselves from an intrusive man? But this time a man role performed feminist Nazlie Bala from the Pristina Women’s Group Elena. She was so convincing and so likable that in fact everything ended in laughter and screaming, because every one liked her way of intrusion. The girls are laughing. It is so hot in the tent. Then they start singing. A song of Drenica and Kosovo is a favorite one. At the end there is tape player (with batteries). Dancing is beginning while Albanian folk music is playing. In the middle of the day, in the middle of the tent, with no space to move, girls without addresses, whose parents were forced to throw their identity cards into plastic bags when in May they were deported to the border, with Serbian police as an escort, girls who are longing for their homes, girls who were hungry and threatened for days, girls exhausted from being displaced from their lives, like many other girls from Croatia or Bosnia or Palestine, here they are, they survived and they are dancing.

(Autonomous Women’s Center Against Sexual Violence, Belgrade Circulated by Women in Black at weekly vigil, New York, June 30, 1999.)

Palestinian girls learn political skills

Lobbying with Young Women is a pilot project initiated by WATC, a Palestinian women’s NGO for women’s advocacy and legal training, and co-sponsored by the DIAKONIA Institute. The project is expected to prepare future women leaders that would carry the message of women’s rights in the process of building a civic democratic society in Palestine.

Preparations... included identifying criteria for the selection of the young women to participate in the program. WATC approached its member organizations as well as different political groups represented in WATC, to nominate candidates. As a major component of the project, intensive training was conducted to change the traditional attitudes about women’s role in the society. It also aimed to strengthen knowledge about human rights, leadership and communication skills. Qualified trainers were selected to conduct the courses.

The West Bank was divided into five main areas: Jerusalem; the North; the Central Region; the South; and Jericho. Jericho was added as a fifth area in response to the demand of women activists in the town who approached WATC to be part of the target group. The women were trained on Gender Awareness, Lobbying Skills, Communication Skills and Leadership Skills. Currently, WATC is undertaking a general evaluation of the training courses conducted involving the young women in the evaluation process.

(Palestinian Women’s WATC Newsletter, Winter 1997-1998, p. 6.)



!. Observing the facts.

Within your study group have each person choose one aspect of the situation.

Based on your own experience and observations describe the present situation of girls in your society, in respect to health, nutrition, education, self-image, access to decision-making .

Are there grave violations of girls’ human rights? of what kind are they?

2. Identify weak points.

What kinds of programs now exist in your country and/or community specifically addressed to the girlchild?

Do they deal adequately with the weak points you have identified?

How might they be improved?

3. Interview persons active in NGOs that deal with girls’ situations.

What do they do? what are the biggest problems they encounter? what resources do they have?

Prepare a report to bring back to your group.

4. Identify some girls and women in your community who have overcome substantial obstacles to become educated, productive citizens or to tackle particular injustices when they were young women. Interview them. Write their stories into booklets.

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