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NHRIs showcase their work for women and girls in rural areas

Graphic: Dr Sima Samar speaks at the side event on the role of NHRIs

Three APF members have described the unique role of NHRIs to promote and protect the rights of women and girls at a special forum in New York.

Speaking at a special side event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York, representatives from three APF member institutions have described their work to monitor and advocate for the human rights of women and girls living in rural areas.

Organised by the APF and the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), and hosted by the Australian Permanent Mission, the keynote speakers at the side event on the role of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) included:

  • Dr Sima Samar, Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
  • Kate Jenkins, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, and June Oscar, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, with the Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit of the Philippines Commission on Human Rights.

While the situation of individual women and girls living in rural areas will vary significantly, the speakers noted that living in rural areas created additional barriers for all women and girls, such as poor access to public services and the widespread prevalence of negative attitudes and harmful practices.

They also highlighted the fact that, with limited decision making power and unequal access to land and resources, women in rural areas face greater challenges when dealing with the impact of climate change and natural disasters.

The speakers noted that NHRIs can and do play a vital role to address these issues, especially through their regional offices, by meeting with different communities of women, taking up their complaints, supporting them with information and resources, and advocating for their rights.


Girls in rural Philippines walk home from school

"With few exceptions, every gender and development indicator for which data are available reveals that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women, and that they disproportionately experience poverty, exclusion and the effects of climate change."

Read more in GANHRI's special report on women and girls living in rural areas


Watch our video update on the advocacy campaign by NHRIs to secure independent participation in the work of UN Commission on the Status of Women.


The 62nd Session of Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 62), which ran from 12-23 March 2018, focused on the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.

A special report produced by the GANHRI highlighted five areas where NHRIs, in partnership with others, can press for genuine change in the lives of women and girls living in rural areas:

  • Empowerment through participation in decision-making, to ensure that women and girls have a voice on matters that affect them and the agency to advocate for their rights
  • Countering violence and harmful practices against women and girls and improving access to justice and effective legal remedies
  • Ensuring accessibility, acceptability and affordability of public services, including health care, education, housing, sanitation, electricity and water supplies.
  • Advocating for income security and social protection, recognising the high degree of vulnerability that women face working in the informal sector.
  • Promoting rights to land and productive resources and combating discriminatory laws and practices at the national, community and family level.

The GANHRI report draws on data and case studies provided by 38 NHRIs, including responses from 13 NHRIs* in the Asia Pacific.

The side event, held on 16 March, provided a valuable opportunity for NHRIs to demonstrate the unique insights and independent data that they can bring to the discussion of women's and girls' rights at CSW sessions.

It was part of an ongoing campaign – led by the APF and GANHRI – to secure independent participation for NHRIs in the work of CSW.

This advocacy resulted in stand-alone paragraph in the Agreed Conclusions, adopted at the conclusion of CSW 62, that "encourages the [CSW] secretariat to continue its consideration of how to enhance the participation, including at the sixty-third session of the Commission, of national human rights institutions that are fully compliant with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (Paris Principles), where they exist, in compliance with the rules of procedure of the Economic and Social Council".

Date: 21 March 2018

* The participating APF members were Australia, Bangladesh, India, Jordan, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Bahrain and Qatar indicated that there were no rural areas in their respective countries.


Image credits

  1. Dr Sima Samar speaks at the side event on the role of NHRIs - APF/Joel Sheakoski
  2. Girls in rural Philippines walk home from school - Brian Evans, Flickr; http://bit.ly/2ubdT73