In this contribution to UNRISD's thinkpiece series on 'Let's Talk about Women's Rights: 20 Years after the Beijing Platform for Action', Andrea Cornwall and Jenny Edwards draw on findings from the Pathways programme to highlight the importance of women's organising in holding states to account:
Despite the gains made on women’s rights since the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, we still have a long way to go in terms of enjoying a gender-equal world. We also need to be vigilant against sliding back on progress already made. This article recognises the crucial role women’s organising plays in holding states to account on obligations made under international agreements. Drawing on examples from Brazil and Egypt from the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment programme, the article demonstrates the contribution of women’s organising to: mobilising around injustice, harnessing the power of ratified agreements to bring about change in legislation, working on the design of progressive laws, and then ensuring the laws are effectively implemented. In order to be truly successful, however, women’s organising needs to be matched by responsive, effective government. It is only when citizen voice works in unison with the state that commitments made on women’s rights can be comprehensively achieved.