An app for women's rights

The FDFA is launching a new version of the W'sHR app on 8 March 2021 in New York. The app facilitates negotiations and helps improve the efficiency of multilateral processes.

View of New York.

The FDFA is launching an improved W'sHR app in New York on International Women's Day. © FDFA

Joyce from Uganda is passionate about human rights. She works for an organisation that protects access to women's property in her country. A lack of resources, corruption and difficulty accessing legal documents make this a challenging task. When attending meetings as part of her work on a major study on the impact of corruption on the everyday life of women which aims to obtain funding support from the United Nations, she needs access to reliable, official information.

So she uses the Women's Human Rights (W'sHR) app on her mobile phone. She enters the keyword 'property'. On this topic, the main texts of international law on access to property and control over land ownership can easily be viewed. During her meetings with members of the community or other contacts, this provides her with a common basis for discussion based on facts.

Enormous database

At the initiative of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the W'sHR app was developed with support from the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Bern.

A vast database (in English), the app contains 147 pre-defined keywords and over 650 documents related to women's rights. 'COVID-19', 'forced marriage', 'violence' and 'drinking water': for each search term, the user can view a definition, relevant paragraphs of international and regional conventions and UN resolutions as well as declarations and other documents related to the keyword entered. The information can be easily accessed free of charge from a smartphone (Play Store and App Store) or via a website. The 2021 version contains more content and improved features.

In an address prepared for the app's launch in New York, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis underlines the huge potential of digital tools to strengthen women's rights. He also points out that the protection of women's rights is a key element of Switzerland's foreign policy.

Video: Address of Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis

Switzerland – a bridgebuilder at multilateral level

"This unique app is the only one that provides a comprehensive collection of international normative documents on women's rights and equality," explains Fabrice Burri of the FDFA Equal Opportunities and Global Gender Issues section.

"It was primarily created to facilitate negotiations at the UN," he continues. "The idea was suggested during an annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). But it can be used for various other purposes too – research, diplomacy, media, education, advocacy work and development programmes."

Digital tool for women's rights

While the protection of women's rights is internationally recognised, human rights violations against women and girls are still being carried out on a widespread basis. "Negotiations on the drafting of multilateral texts on women's rights are sometimes complex. It isn't always easy to navigate through the vast number of conventions, resolutions and texts of international law and to access the relevant sections quickly," points out Burri.

"That's why it's vitally important that Switzerland is able to provide all nations with the best possible digital tool to enable reference to common norms adopted and make available the most recent texts and resolutions negotiated. This tool also strengthens Switzerland's position on these issues." The FDFA expert believes the app provides a means of protecting the norms achieved at multilateral level on gender equality and women's rights.

With the launch of its W'sHR app, Switzerland is focusing on strengthening women's rights and adapting legal norms to political and social realities. The app is highly impressive and has already been downloaded tens of thousands of times.

Women's rights and digitalisation – Switzerland's priorities

Logo of the W'sHR app
Logo of the W'sHR app © FDFA

Protecting women's rights is one of the priorities of Swiss foreign policy. Switzerland has been committed to this issue for a long time.

At multilateral level, Switzerland is involved in various UN bodies that regularly adopt resolutions on women's rights – the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) – and it is also a candidate to join the Security Council. It has adopted various international programmes, conventions, resolutions and declarations on women's rights and is committed to implementing them.

Respecting human rights is one of the priorities of Switzerland's Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23. Harnessing the potential of digitalisation in the interests of people and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is a key element of Switzerland's Digital Foreign Policy Strategy 2021–24.

The W'sHR app is an additional digital tool for use in the interests of human rights.

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