Women’s rights INGO shaming and the government respect for women’s rights


How effective are women’s rights international non-governmental organizations (WROs) in improving government respect for women’s rights? In this paper, we argue that WROs can be powerful actors in advancing women’s status, especially when they adopt a specific advocacy strategy: “naming and shaming” of governments or non-governmental agents. We assert that a targeted “naming and shaming” publicity strategy is necessary to exert pressure on the government to enforce women’s internationally recognized rights. Using a new dataset on the advocacy activities of over 1,595 WROs, we test the implications of our argument in a global statistical model from 1991 to 2005. The results indicate that WRO shaming is likely to improve women’s economic and social rights while having no discernible impact on women’s political rights. We also find that the mere presence of WROs is unlikely to have a significant impact on women’s rights. One major implication of the findings is that any significant improvement in respect for women’s rights partly requires a strong voice in advocacy. The findings also suggest that governments that face pressure from advocacy groups are more inclined to promote and enforce only the rights that do not threaten their own political power and status, such as women’s social and economic rights.

Publication Title

Review of International Organizations