Background. Advancing women's rights: the work of the secretariat. Key gender and human rights issues for action in the POA. Conclusion.
1. The Gender Section of the Social Transformation Programmes Division (STPD), Commonwealth Secretariat, assists Commonwealth Ministers Responsible for Women's Affairs to advance gender equality through the realisation of women's rights and the promotion of gender justice. A new Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2005-2015 was agreed at the 7th Women's Affairs Ministers Meeting (7WAMM) in Fiji Islands in May-June 2004. It positions the Commonwealth at the centre of global agenda setting on gender equality, as the only intergovernmental organisation to have developed a new Plan of Action (PoA) at the end of the Beijing+10 decade.
2. The 2005-2015 Plan of Action identifies four critical areas for Commonwealth action over the next ten years:
* gender, democracy, peace and conflict;
* gender, human rights and law;
* gender, poverty eradication and economic empowerment;
* gender and HIV/AIDS.
3. The Secretariat works to realise women's rights and gender equality in these four action areas by:
* providing policy and technical advice to Ministries of Women's Affairs and other key sector ministries, to strengthen institutional capacity for gender mainstreaming;
* playing a strong advocacy role for policy change and reform;
* holding capacity-building workshops for policy makers and practitioners to develop effective approaches to addressing critical gender issues; and
* documenting and sharing Commonwealth best practices in the four critical areas. Through more effective participation by key partners, gender issues are recognised and advanced in democratic processes and political decision making, constitutional and legal reforms, national budgets, multilateral and national trade policies and programmes, HIV/AIDS policies and strategies, and in social programmes for education and health.
4. A special meeting of Women's Affairs Ministers in New York in February 2005 sent messages to the UN Beijing +10 Review and to the forthcoming 2005 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta. In presenting their message to CHOGM, Ministers Responsible for Women's Affairs, reiterated the Denarau Statement issued at the Fiji meeting, which noted the progress made by member countries in the development of national action plans on gender. The Denarau Statement further noted the actions taken by member countries in advancing de jure equality through the institutionalisation of constitutional or legislative
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