CEDAW Committee Preparing General Recommendation on Indigenous Women

Indigenous women’s groups are eagerly anticipating a release of a General Recommendation on Indigenous Women and Girls from the Committee of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (or CEDAW). Indigenous women’s groups and their allies including several Channel grantee partners (the International Indigenous Women’s Forum or FIMI, JASS, and WHRI) have been waging an advocacy campaign for several years for a General Recommendation (GR) on Indigenous women and girls. The Committee has already released a Draft General Recommendation in late 2021. This forthcoming Recommendation represents a groundbreaking achievement of collaborative advocacy and should create many ripples of impact.  Channel is proud to have supported work on this General Recommendation starting in 2015. 

The Programme of Work for the 82nd Session of the CEDAW Committee in June of 2022 indicates that a “Briefing for States parties on draft general recommendation of the rights of indigenous women and girls” is scheduled for Tuesday 28 June at 10:00 am to 12:00 pm Geneva time. The briefing will explain the content of the general recommendation to States. OHCHR has not indicated whether or not NGOs will be given an opportunity to intervene in the briefing; however, it is a public briefing and will be webcast on UN WebTV.

General Recommendations serve a purpose: the CEDAW Committee makes recommendations on any issue affecting women to which it believes the States parties should devote more attention. As of December 2021, the Committee has adopted 38 general recommendations. As WHRI puts it, “One of the methods available to the CEDAW Committee to more fully define and articulate the rights enshrined in the Convention is the issuance of General Recommendations, authoritative interpretations of the Convention that are developed in consultation and adopted by the Committee.” 

Comments on the Draft General Recommendation (which include statements from several Channel partners including FIMI, Ipas, IWRAW AP, WEI, and WHRI) can be found on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 

In advance of the official GR release, there have been concerted efforts by Indigenous women’s groups to strategize about how best to ensure that the General Recommendation translates into something concrete that Indigenous women and girls in all their diversity around the world can use for their activism and advocacy efforts.   

  • FIMI has created a website to pull together resources about what CEDAW can mean for Indigenous women and girls.   
  • The Women’s Human Rights Institute (WHRI) has a history online which details the way a broad alliance of organizations together embarked on a process to campaign for the CEDAW Committee to adopt a General Recommendation on Indigenous Women. Initially known as the Indigenous Women’s Alliance for CEDAW, this coalition grew out of the synergy between the existing work of the collaborating organizations and the collective knowledge-building undertaken together to explore the ways in which CEDAW and women’s human rights tools and standards could be mobilized to better support the struggles of Indigenous women.  
  • MADRE has also created a website with background info and the opportunity to take action.