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Joint Statement: International Women's Day

Observance of International Women's Day - 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council

Speaker: Paola Salwan Daher, Center for Reproductive Rights

Thank you, Mme. President,

I deliver this statement on behalf of 17 organizations.

International Women’s Day was established at the beginning of the 20th century as a strategy to promote equal rights. Since then, women human rights defenders, feminist groups and organizations and women’s rights activists have strived to uphold this legacy and lead the struggle for gender equality and against gender-based discrimination, patriarchal values and systemic patterns of oppression.

Women and girls human rights defenders are building transnational solidarity networks articulated around demands for economic and social justice, bodily autonomy, equal rights within families and against violence and intersectional discrimination.

International human rights mechanisms have a key role to play in reflecting and amplifying the demands coming from feminist and women’s rights movements. The respect, protection and fulfilment of the human rights of women and girls, which includes the full realization of women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), is at the heart of gender equality, and without which it cannot be achieved.

Treaty Monitoring Bodies and Special Procedures alike, informed by the work of women’s rights and feminists groups and individuals, have repeatedly recognized that women experience  intersectional discrimination and that States have an obligation to address the particular needs of marginalized groups of women and girls such as adolescents, women living with HIV, women living in poverty, minority women, rural women, migrant and refugee women, women from LBTIQ communities and women with disabilities.

States have an obligation to address underlying structural factors which negate their autonomy in decision-making regarding their own lives, health and bodies, to ensure that their agency and right to substantive equality are respected in all aspects of their lives.

Accountability is central to the realization of human rights and is a core demand of women human rights defenders.  Accountability includes ensuring participation, transparency, empowerment, sustainability, and non-discrimination as well as meaningful and effective remedies to victims and survivors of violations, including of women human rights defenders (WHRDs), including young women.

As 19th century feminist activist Emma Goldman famously stated, ‘This is not my revolution if I can’t dance to it’.

Contemporary social movements have demonstrated the incredible power of feminist mobilization:  as we commemorate International Women’s Day, let us celebrate the creativity, resilience, sense of strategy, solidarity and political savviness of women human rights defenders throughout the world, and commit to ensuring a meaningful place at the table, and in the streets, for all women in all of our diversity.

Thank you, Mme. President,

1. Center for Reproductive Rights

2. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

3. International Service for Human Rights

4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

5. Defend Defenders

6. Rutgers

7. Plan International

8. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

9. Human Rights Watch

10. Sexual Rights Initiative

11. Akahata

12. Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Center for Women (ARROW)

13. Federation for Women and Family Planning

14. Action Canada

15. International Planned Parenthood Federation

16. Choice for Youth and Sexuality

17. Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Health

18. International Commission of Jurists

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