Hopes for a greener future and an end to discrimination | International Women's Day 2021

An equal and inclusive future without discrimination

What are you most proud of in your work & why?

I’m proud of my work on the Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities both being part of the development of the Convention during the negotiations and now as Vice Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities the implementation of monitoring. The convention provides the normative legal standards to address discrimination and inequality, and these standards need to be integral addressing the inequality experienced by people with disability. It challenges the way we think and respond to disability and provides a roadmap for transformation so people with disability can participate in the community on an equal basis with others.

Thinking about the future in the light of the impacts the pandemic, what do you hope for? And what do you fear for?

The pandemic exposed the heightened vulnerability of groups within our society due to existing inequality and discrimination. These groups were the people who bore the brunt of the pandemic’s impact. My hope for the future is that international human rights law frames our recovery measures by adopting a human rights approach. A human rights approach is critical to response and recovery efforts not only in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to ensure that states take action now to build equitable, sustainable and resilient societies that have the mechanisms to prevent and respond rapidly to future public health emergencies and to ensure that no one is left behind.

I fear the rise of authoritarian states and the rise of nationalism, but mainly I fear the rise of systems that are intolerant to difference. It has been the intolerance of difference that devalued and demeaned those with impairments that has left people with disability institutionalised, isolated and excluded.

Advocating for gender justice and greener futures

What are you most proud of in your work & why?

A consistent theme of my work has been producing research and policy analysis that enables women’s rights activists to advocate for change on topics such as violence against women, discriminatory laws and women’s economic and social rights. I am proud of this because I strongly believe that women’s rights organisations and movements play the most critical role in driving change towards gender equality. In fact, the research supports this! A large-scale quantitative study based on data from over four decades in 70 countries found that autonomous women’s movements are the single most significant factor in influencing progressive policy on violence against women. Their influence even surpasses that of having more women in the legislature, progressive political parties in power or improvements in national wealth.

Thinking about the future in the light of the impacts the pandemic, what do you hope for? And what do you fear for?

I am hopeful that the recovery from COVID-19 will set the world onto a more sustainable path that delivers social justice and gender equality at the same time. Globally women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic in terms of lost livelihoods and increased care burdens, but too often the gender impacts of major policy decisions are neglected. For example, as we see increasing infrastructure investments, ‘green jobs’, or incentives or bailouts for impacted industries, the question of who benefits and who loses from these initiatives is critical. We know that investments in care services, much like physical infrastructure, can deliver multiple dividends by building human capabilities across generations, enabling women’s labour force participation and creating decent work opportunities. I would like to see a focus on policies and investments that are both ‘green’ and ‘gender just’ at the same time.