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Global Advancement of Women’s Rights

August 03, 2022

Professor Rangita de Silva de Alwis will serve on the UN Committee tasked with implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Senior Adjunct Professor of Global Leadership and Associate Dean of International Affairs Rangita de Silva de Alwis was recently elected to serve as one of the UN’s top leaders in the worldwide fight against gender-based discrimination. During the 2023-2026 term, de Silva de Alwis will serve on the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The Committee is tasked with implementing and monitoring the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) – a landmark treaty whereby 189 of the 193 UN Member States have pledged to both eradicate discrimination against women in every form and ensure women’s advancement “in order that they can exercise and enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms in the same way as men.”

An internationally recognized voice for women’s human rights, de Silva de Alwis has advocated for the advancement of women’s human rights around the world through her diplomacy, public service, and widely publicized scholarship. In addition to teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, de Silva de Alwis directs the Global Institute for Human Rights and leads the Advancing Inclusive Leadership program.

A diverse range of esteemed women’s human rights advocates from around the world offered resounding support for de Silva de Alwis’s election:

An Ally to Every Region

Zainab Hawa Bangura Zainab Hawa Bangura

Zainab Hawa Bangura of Sierra Leone, Under Secretary General and the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON):

“Prof. Rangita de Silva de Alwis deserves to be on the CEDAW Committee more than anybody else I know because of her commitment to gender empowerment and gender equity. She brings a voice to all the various challenges faced by women during conflict, at the workplace, and at home. She gives women a face and a voice. I will always be supportive of the great work she will continue to do. It has been a great joy, honor, and pleasure to walk with her on this journey.”

Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka Phumzile Mlambo NgcukaPhumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, Former UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women (Former Vice President of South Africa):

“Rangita is a formidable women’s human rights lawyer with extensive knowledge of the CEDAW and anti-discrimination globally. Her work speaks to policymakers, scholars, activists, and women in different parts of the world.”

Dr. Sandie Okoro Dr. Sandie OkoroDr. Sandie Okoro, General Counsel and Senior Vice President of the World Bank:

“I extend my fullest support for Rangita’s candidacy for the CEDAW Committee. Rangita is a truly phenomenal champion for human rights and wonderful advocate for women’s rights. I have enjoyed partnering with Rangita on access to justice, women’s empowerment and women’s economic and social advancements. Her work on the CEDAW Committee will truly advance all of these issues. I really cannot recommend anyone more highly.” 

A Voice from Asia, and a Voice for Global Human Rights

Hon. Naheed Farid Hon. Naheed FaridHon. Naheed Farid, Member of Parliament and Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, Women, and Civil Society:

“Afghanistan women have an unfinished agenda jeopardized by the Taliban. In this struggle Professor Rangita de Silva de Alwis instrumentalizes our movement though her expertise on the CEDAW. Her dedication to Women’s Rights in Afghanistan is extraordinary and exemplary. Now more than ever, we need Rangita on the CEDAW Committee to ensure that our rights are not rolled back.”

Radhika Coomaraswamy Radhika Coomaraswamy

Radhika Coomaraswamy, Former Under Secretary General and the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict and the first UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women:

“Rangita’s deep analysis and comprehensive knowledge of CEDAW makes her an ideal candidate. In addition, the brilliance of her scholarship, her energy, and enthusiasm will bring a new dynamism to CEDAW’s work.”

Hina Jilani Hina JilaniHina Jilani, Member of the Elders, UN Secretary General’s former Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders:

“I have always admired, not just Rangita’s commitment to women’s rights in general, but also the energy with which she pursues the goals of CEDAW. I look forward to seeing her as part of the CEDAW Committee. Rangita will be an invaluable addition to the committee!”

An Established Changemaker

Roza Otunbayeva Roza OtunbayevaRoza Otunbayeva, Former President of the Kyrgyz Republic:

“I am pleased to submit my personal recommendation for Rangita de Silva de Alwis in support of her candidature for membership at CEDAW. Rangita is a brilliant expert on the CEDAW and the WPS agenda. She has extraordinary knowledge of gender equality legal frameworks around the world. Her appointment to the CEDAW Committee will help advance gender equality and women’s leadership in different parts of the world.”

Akiko Ito Akiko ItoAkiko Ito, Chief, Programme on Disability Secretariat for the Conference of State parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

“Rangita is a great source and flowing river of inspiration as well as an extraordinary role model whose many years of dedication to the disadvantaged are guided by her unwavering commitment to justice, courage and honor. She stands with the furthest left behind – women with disabilities and those who struggle with multiple disadvantages—and amplifies their voices for equality and justice.”

A Candidate Who Can Merge Technical Expertise of the CEDAW With Ground Reality

Melanne Verveer Melanne VerveerAmbassador Melanne Verveer, Head of Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security and the first U.S. Global Ambassador for Women’s Issues:

“Rangita de Silva is exceptionally qualified for this role – exceptionally knowledgeable about CEDAW and deeply committed to its full implementation everywhere. I can’t imagine a better candidate for the CEDAW Committee.”

Irina Bokova Irina BokovaIrina Bokova, Former Director General of UNESCO (2009-2017) and Former Minister of Bulgaria:

“Rangita is an extraordinary champion of the CEDAW dedicating her entire professional life to working with governments and multilaterals on accountability and compliance under its various articles, including child marriage, honor crimes, acid attacks, Women, Peace and Security, and substantive equality. And she has done that with passion, conviction and knowledge, for which she enjoys the well deserved recognition of the United Nations.”

Martha Minow Dean Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University, Dean of Harvard Law School (2009-2017), and one of the leading legal and human rights scholars of the 21st century:

“I know of no one with more expertise, tenacity, and devotion when it comes to advancing women’s rights and realizing the promise of CEDAW; Rangita would be a stellar contributor to the efforts to protect against gender-based violence and to make human rights meaningful regardless of an individual’s gender.”

Harold Hongju Koh Harold Hongju KohDean Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law and former Dean of Yale Law School; Legal Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State (2009-2013); Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (1998-2001):

“My very warmest congratulations to Rangita. She has been a relentless advocate for realizing the full promise of the CEDAW. Her service on the Committee will advance the Convention’s goals and the aspirations of all humans to finally end all forms of discrimination against women.”

A Resonant Leader and Educator at Penn Carey Law

Dean Ted Ruger Dean Ted RugerDean of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law Ted Ruger:

“Rangita de Silva de Alwis’s election to CEDAW signifies an important victory and harbinger of optimism for women around the world, as her trailblazing scholarship and indefatigable advocacy render her a bold leader in the crucial fight against gender-based discrimination. Penn Carey Law is extraordinarily proud of her accomplishments, and we look forward to continuing to support her work toward global gender equity.”

Eduarda Lague L’21, former Research Assistant and student in Professor de Silva de Alwis’s Women, Law, and Leadership course:

Eduarda Lague L?21 Eduarda Lague L’21“I cannot think of a better person to be on the convention. She hase made a huge impact on me and my learning. I am thankful for a professor with whom we were able to learn and grow intellectually and challenge international norms. I hope I have the opportunity to work again with her. I am thankful for all she does and I will always cherish our classes and time together.”

Blanche Helbling L?21 Blanche Helbling L’21Blanche Helbling L’21, former student in Professor de Silva de Alwis’s International Women’s Human Rights course:

As a student in Professor de Silva de Alwis’s classes, not only do you have the privilege of learning from her extensive knowledge about the laws and nuances of women’s human rights, but you also have the honor of feeling the passion with which she approaches the immense task of advancing gender equity. To be in her presence is to be empowered and inspired, and her election to the CEDAW Committee is wonderful news for women everywhere.”

Chayla Sherrod L'23 Chayla Sherrod L'23Chayla S. Sherrod L’23, Editor-in-Chief, Vol. 171 of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review and student in Professor de Silva de Alwis’s Women, Law, and Leadership course

“All I can say is WOW! She is a trailblazer and an inspiration. We thank her for shedding light on the CEDAW and the struggle for women’s rights around the world in the classroom. I greatly appreciate her contributions to my academic and personal success.”

Learn more about the Law School’s commitment to global human rights.