The CEDAW Assessment Tool, developed by the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in 2002, is a mechanism for assessing countries’ de jure and de facto compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The tool is designed to uncover the legal obstacles that frustrate the achievement of greater gender equality. It examines state laws in comparison to CEDAW-protected women’s rights. It also measures how well those rights are protected in practice. A major focus of the CEDAW Assessment Tool is on “real life” impediments to equality, many of which are not necessarily the product of poor or non-existent legislation.
The reports based on the CEDAW Assessment Tool serve multiple purposes. First, they generate a wealth of information on the status of women’s rights in a country. Second, they help design and prioritize reforms and programs aimed at advancing women’s rights. Third, they serve as a springboard for initiatives leading to improved governmental compliance with CEDAW. Lastly, they facilitate important capacity-building efforts among local stakeholders and the broader women’s rights community.
ABA ROLI piloted the CEDAW Assessment Tool in 2002 in Armenia, where it informed our local partners’ capacity-building efforts. ABA ROLI has also implemented the tool in Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Serbia. In addition, ABA ROLI has successfully leveraged the CEDAW Assessment Tool process to encourage the submission of shadow reports by local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. ABA ROLI assisted NGOs in preparing shadow reports in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. The results of the CEDAW assessments have also served as the basis for a constructive dialogue between civil society and government officials on concrete steps NGOs and governments can take to increase compliance with CEDAW and to improve the quality of women’s lives.