Women's Rights General information

What Are Women’s Rights? 

The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1945, enshrined the rights of all people, regardless of gender, race, religion, or national origin. Freedom from violence and discrimination, the right to work and own property, and freedom of opinion and expression, among other basic human rights, have been championed by the international community for decades following the founding of the United Nations. 

However, despite the intentions of the UDHR, women have historically (and continue to have) had their rights violated on systemic levels. 

Inspired by women’s and feminist social movements taking place globally in the 1960s and 1970s, the UN sought to establish multilateral frameworks that would address the needs of women and girls. One of the most critical documents that expanded the rights of women is the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), referred to as the international bill of rights for women, which requires governments around the world to work to end gender discrimination, ensure adequate access to education and employment, and affirms women’s rights to health services, and more. 

Sixteen years after the adoption of CEDAW, the UN held its Fourth World Conference on Women, in 1995, in Beijing, China. The conference concluded with the drafting of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which served as a rallying cry for women and girls all over the world, to demand that gender equality be embedded in all levels of society. 

Since CEDAW and Beijing, significant progress has been made to support the rights of women and girls globally. The 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have set specific targets to increase gender equality and women’s empowerment, including targets on eliminating violence against women and girls, ending female genital mutilation, and expanding women’s economic opportunities. 

Women’s Rights are Being Violated 

Despite significant progress in advancing gender equality and women’s rights, across the globe, women and girls still face gender inequality and harassment in work and education, lack access to healthcare, and are disproportionately at risk of domestic and sexual violence. These abuses are further compounded when women belong to minority racial, national, or religious groups. 

  • According to the World Health Organization:, an estimated 1 in 3 (over 730 million) women globally have been subjected to physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. And worldwide, 27% of women between the ages of 15-49 report having been subjected to some form of physical or sexual violence
  • Globally, less than 40% of women who experience gender-based violence do not seek help of any sort. (UN Women)
  • Not a single country in the world has achieved gender equality
  • In 2022, according to UN Women, an estimated 388 million women and girls were living in extreme poverty, compared to 372 million men and boys, proving the disproportionate impact that poverty has on women and girls.  
  • UNESCO reports that 129 million girls are out of school, 
  • Women shoulder the burden of unpaid childcare, in 2020, school and daycare closures resulted in an estimated 512 billion hours of unpaid childcare for women globally, (which translated to 57,000 decades of unpaid work). (UNESCO)
  • At the current rate of progress, it may take another 286 years to remove discriminatory laws and close prevailing gaps in legal protections for women and girls. (UN Women) 
  • By the end of 2021, 44 million women and girls were forced to flee their homes due to climate change, war, conflict, or other human rights violations. (UN Women) 
  • Women just 42% of judicial positions globally, and makeup only 16% of police and security forces. (UN Women)