How national parliaments advance gender equality by overseeing the implementation of CEDAW

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In most countries, national parliaments are responsible for the ratification of all international treaties, for the latter to take effect. The Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is no exception. CEDAW was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly and it has been ratified by 187 countries. Commonly described as an international bill of rights for women, it consists of a preamble and 30 articles, which defines what constitutes discrimination against women and what are the steps that should be taken in countries to end such discrimination. 
 
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is responsible for overseeing the progress for women in the States parties which ratified the Convention. A State party is a country that ratified or acceded to the Convention and thereby accepted a legal obligation to counteract discrimination against women. The Committee is responsible for monitoring the implementation of national measures to fulfill the commitments to the Convention, and urges States parties to recognize the importance of involving its parliament in the reporting process.
 
Overseeing the implementation of CEDAW
Parliaments have a central role in ensuring the principles enunciated in the Convention are respected through its three main functions: 
 
- Legislative function
The implementation of the Convention includes the incorporation of the principle of non-discrimination against women in national legislation, including in the Constitution of the State party. State Parties must condemn discrimination against women, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt, whenever appropriate, temporary special measures, such as reserved seats in parliament, as well as party and legislative quotas to accelerate de facto equality between women and men. Appropriate policies and mechanisms promoting equality between sexes must also be established.  
 
- Oversight function
The budgetary functions and the monitoring of governmental action are vital for a better implementation of laws relating to gender equality.  As a gateway for the allocation of public resources, the budget process determines the quality of public policy. Gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) integrates a gender perspective into the budget process. It may therefore serve to monitor the implementation of a government's commitment to gender equality.
 
Through the approval of gender responsive budgets and regular oversight, parliaments can assess the impact of governmental action with respect to the condition of women.  
 
The AGORA portal will launch at the end of the year the "SDG 16, parliaments and budgets" course with a dedicated module on gender responsive budgeting. 
 
- Representative function
By representing their constitutents, members of parliament can be key players in raising awareness of the Convention and its Protocol to the population at large, and to women in particular. Cross-party women’s parliamentary caucuses, for instance, may create space for women members of parliament to collaborate and promote issues of concern to women withing the parliament. Read more at the AGORA portal’s area of expertise on Parliamentary Women’s Caucuses
 
The role of Pro PALOP-TL SAI: strengthening the skills of members of parliament on gender responsive budgeting 
Members of parliament can take active measures to ensure that national laws, policies, actions, programmes and budget reflect the principles and obligations in the Convention. 
Recognizing the importance of strengthening the skills of MPs, parliamentary staff, civil society organizations, among other key actors to analyse national budgets from a gender perspective, the Pro PALOP-TL SAI project counts with the support of budget experts who conduct workshops in all Portuguese speaking African countries, commonly known as PALOP (Angola, Cabo Verde, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe) and Timor-Leste. 
 
The Pro PALOP-TL SAI project, based upon a gender responsive budgeting and planning framework developed by UNDP, designed a standardised approach and methodology on gender responsive budgeting which is used across the project countries and adapted to the social, political and economic realities of each country. This ground-breaking methodology allows not only the training of women caucuses, MPS and parliamentary staff, but also the achievement of success stories in the implementation of gender indicators in state budgets. 
 
Find out more about the work of Pro PALOP-TL SAI project
Keep consulting the AGORA portal for parliamentary development for more news on the activities conducted by Prop PALOP-TL SAI project in PALOP and Timor-Leste.