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At the Crossroads: Women's Rights After 2015

Global policy frameworks may feel a long way from the realities of women's lives. Yet these frameworks lay out fundamental rights and freedoms, and are an important tool for women's rights organisations to advocate for improvements in the lives of women.

Twenty years ago decision-makers and feminist activists from across the globe converged in Beijing and developed the most visionary and comprehensive commitment to women's rights that the world had ever seen. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action - an historical agreement between 189 governments, including the UK, to advance women's rights and empowerment across the globe -saw women's rights widely recognised as human rights, and outlined specific commitments to improve the status of women and achieve gender equality.

Two decades later, and the vision and determination of women's rights activists remain, yet it is tinged with more than a little frustration. Whilst international organisations and governments have increasingly put women and girls on the agenda, real advances in the realisation of women's rights have been halting and sporadic at best. Whilst there are many victories to celebrate - more women in decision-making, more protection under the law from violence and harmful traditional practices within some countries - these have been hard won, and often hotly contested. Essentially, more often than not advances in women's rights have been pockets of good practice in a world which still thrives on unequal power relations between women and men.

2015 is a crucial year for women's rights. Next week we mark the twentieth anniversary of the seminal Beijing Platform for Action at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women - the global intergovernmental body which negotiates international commitments on women's rights and gender equality. Furthermore, global discussions on the Post-2015 development framework (the follow up to the Millennium Development Goals) will culminate in autumn in a new development framework that will dictate funding priorities for years to come. And in October there is a 15-year Global Review of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 - the first to recognise women's right to full and equal participation in peacebuilding - involving peacebuilders and women's rights activists working in conflict-affected countries across the world. Womankind Worldwide has launched a report At the crossroads: Women's rights after 2015 laying out recommendations from women's rights organisations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, for the international community to re-commit and act upon women's rights.

Global policy frameworks may feel a long way from the realities of women's lives. Yet these frameworks lay out fundamental rights and freedoms, and are an important tool for women's rights organisations to advocate for improvements in the lives of women.

For the frameworks to make a real difference, they need political commitment, funding and full implementation. Violence against women and girls is a key case in point. It is widely recognised as one of the most persistent and pervasive abuses of human rights. 35% of women experience at least one form of violence in their lifetime, and 30% of women over the age of 15 have experienced violence from a husband or intimate partner. Despite comprehensive commitments in the Beijing Platform for Action, the Millennium Development Goals failed to include violence against women and girls, now seen as a major omission. This must be rectified this year - and the Post -2015 development framework must contain a clear commitment to the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.

Whilst we know that international frameworks are not the silver bullet to end violence against women and girls, they are an important part of the picture. They lay the ground work for stronger national legislation and delivery of holistic and multi-sectoral services - including health services, police and justice systems, education and livelihood support - which are needed to tackle violence and allow women to live their lives in freedom from fear.

As well as governments and progressive policy makers, there is another key group who play a vital role in turning international frameworks into real change in the lives of women. Women's rights organisations and movements are the champions of the change we need to see. They work from the most local to the most global levels, delivering vital services, raising awareness of women's rights and holding decision makers to account. They are innovative, visionary and driven by the demands and needs of women.

Significantly, a ground-breaking, large-scale study across 70 countries found that the mobilisation of women's rights organisations and movements is more important for combating violence against women and girls than the wealth of nations, progressive political parties, or the number of women politicians.

At Womankind Worldwide, we stand with women's rights organisations across the world, who in 2015 are calling on the international community to take concrete action. We urge those decision makers at international negotiations to prioritise and invest in preventing all forms of violence against women and girls, from intimate partner violence to sexual violence used in conflict settings. We call for women to be systematically and comprehensively included in decision-making at all levels, from local councils to the halls of the United Nations. And we are calling for more women to be at the tables of peace negotiations.

Justice for women demands political action, and this is the year to act.

You can take action by donating to Womankind Worldwide's Stop Violence Against Women and Girls Appeal. From 6 March-5 June, the UK government will match all donations made by UK residents pound for pound meaning more support for women's rights organisations working to end violence against women and girls.

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