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Women's Human Rights

  • Intensive two-day course (19 - 20 May 2016)

This unique and original two day course examines the international human rights law framework that guarantees the rights of women and critically evaluates its potential to challenge core obstacles undermining the effective protection of women’s rights in the world today.

The international human rights system has adopted both general human rights standards and specific human rights norms to eliminate discrimination against women and to guarantee their substantive rights. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (the Women’s Convention), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is widely referred to as an international bill of rights for women. The Women’s Convention – and the UN Committee responsible for its interpretation and implementation – arguably interpret the normative international human rights framework more creatively than any other international human rights treaty or body. And yet entrenched discrimination against women persists worldwide, with women suffering human rights violations on the grounds of their gender on a daily basis. So what has the Women’s Convention achieved to date and what role does it have to play in challenging the multiple obstacles that prevent millions of women across the globe from accessing and enjoying their basic rights? This short course will examine these fundamental questions and consider what value the international human rights framework has for securing women’s rights at the domestic level. 

Course components

  • The international human rights framework for guaranteeing women's rights
  • Economic and social rights of women: access to education, health and reproductive choices 
  • Violence against women: rape, sexual violence and intimate partner violence
  • Protection of displaced women: asylum, immigration and anti-trafficking
  • Women's rights in practice: working with marginalised women
  • Political participation of women at local, national and international levels

Why take this course?

  • Provides an overview of international human rights law, including general human rights standards to eliminate discrimination against women
  • Explains the specific framework for the protection of women's rights in international law through a series of seminars and case studies
  • Examines from a human rights perspective how to challenge obstacles undermining women's enjoyment of basic human rights
  • Addresses substantive issues of women's rights today
  • Provides access to leading human rights practitioners and academics


The course is convened and led by Jane Gordon, with specialist sessions taught by other expert practitioners. In 2016 these include:

  • Professor Farida Banda - holds two law degrees from the University of Zimbabwe where she won the University book prize for graduating in the top three. She was awarded a Beit Fellowship to Oxford University and a Livingstone Scholarship to Cambridge. She took the Beit and went to Oxford where she was elected President of the graduates of her College and completed her doctorate on access to justice for women within three years.  Thereafter, she worked for the Law Commission of England and Wales before being awarded a Leverhulme Special Research Fellowship which enabled her to return to Oxford as a post-doctoral research fellow.

    Fareda joined SOAS in 1996. She has convened and taught English Family law, Human rights of women and Law and Society since then. She has also contributed to various courses including Alternative Dispute Resolution, Law and Development, Law and Development in Africa and Legal Systems of Asia and Africa.  She has supervised PhD theses on topics including children’s rights, sexual violence against women, post-conflict reconstruction and gender. She writes on women’s rights, family law, and, more recently, religion. Fareda has been an active member of the School’s Equality Committee, first in her capacity as the union equality officer and more recently as the representative of the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences. In 2004 she was a member of the AUT (now UCU) National Equality Committee.   She has also sat on Academic Board, the School Scholarship Committee and the Faculty Promotions Committee. In addition to being the Deputy Exam officer for undergraduates, she has assisted with both undergraduate and post graduate admissions at the departmental level.

  • Professor Christine Chinkin - founding director of the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security, emeritus professor of International Law and world-renowned expert in women's rights. 

  • Kathryn Cronin - barrister at Garden Court Chambers with an extensive and varied immigration, asylum and family law practice. She has considerable experience in areas where family or childcare cases involve issues on immigration status, and immigration cases where there are family and childcare law and practice considerations. She is known for her representation of vulnerable clients, in particular asylum and human rights cases involving women and children, and has represented many persons trafficked for sexual or domestic labour purposes.

  • Alison Gordon MA (Oxon) MA (Stanford) MBA OBE - served for 10 years in the British Foreign Office, working in the Middle East, South America and South Asia. She was awarded a Queen’s honour (OBE) for her work in Iraq in 2006-07. Before the FCO, she worked in a range of operational roles in technology and media, including Strategy Analyst at Guardian Online, Online Producer at the BBC, Head of Research at Aztec Internet Consulting and Operations Director at Syzygy Digital Agency. She has spent the last 2 years in Asia and the US, completing an MBA at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology and Columbia University. She was awarded the HKUST Outstanding Leadership Award in 2013 after designing and launching a post-graduate course Social Entrepreneurship & Venture Philanthropy.  

  • Jane Gordon - independent human rights barrister with over 15 years’ experience working in human rights law, policy and practice at the domestic, regional and international levels. An accredited gender and sexual violence expert, Jane served as gender advisor/sexual and gender based violence investigator with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria in 2013/2014. Jane is a Visiting Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and co-founder and Legal Director of  Sisters for Change.

Fees and administration

  1. Standard individual rate: £990 Register here
  2. Concessionary rate for voluntary sector organisations & students: £740 Register here
  3. The Centre is able to offer up to five subsidised places, at £495, in support of those who would otherwise be unable to take the course. Apply (MS word doc)   

Subsidised places for those who would otherwise be unable to attend: Applications for subsidised places will be competitively assessed together after the deadline of Noon, Thursday 14 April 2016, and places will be awarded on the basis of merit and financial need.   

Please note: We are still accepting applications for subsidised spaces beyond the original April deadline until further notice.

Priority will be given to those working in non-governmental or voluntary sector organisations who are able to demonstrate a clear benefit to that organisation beyond their personal education and professional development.                         

Please note that if your application for a subsidised place is not successful you will not be guaranteed a full-price place on the course. Standard places are booked on a first-come first-served basis.           

Further queries

While we welcome participants from overseas, the Centre is regrettably not able to provide any additional assistance, financial or practical, in the securing of travel to, or accommodation in, London.

Frequently asked questions about the course