From the Global to the Local: CEDAW Activism in the United States
By Tara Yarlagadda, Field Associate
On March 14, just a few blocks from the United Nations, nearly 100 women’s rights advocates and NGO representatives gathered to attend a panel discussion called “From the Global to the Local: CEDAW Activism in the United States.”
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an important women’s rights treaty ratified by 187 nations around the world. The United States is shamefully one of only six countries – along with Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Palau and Tonga – that has not ratified CEDAW.
With CEDAW ratification stalled in the U.S. Senate, advocacy efforts around CEDAW have shifted to the local level. As part of the Cities for CEDAW campaign, public officials and activists in cities, counties, and states across the United States are working to adopt the principles of CEDAW locally to address remaining barriers to equality for women and girls in their municipalities. Nearly 20 cities have passed ordinances or resolutions adopting or providing support for the principles of CEDAW, and more than two dozen other NGO coalitions in additional cities have expressed interest in organizing to adopt the principles of CEDAW.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, and the Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN) co-hosted the March 14 panel. Co-sponsors included the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, City of Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women, and the International Sociological Association. The session served as a parallel event to the 60th session of the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women, which brought together thousands of government officials, NGO, and women’s rights leaders and advocates across the globe to discuss topics such as gender inequity and violence against women.
Panelists included representatives from the City of Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women, Louisville CEDAW Coalition, Cincinnati for CEDAW Coalition, and the Oregon CEDAW Coalition. June Zeitlin, director of human rights policy at The Leadership Conference Education Fund and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, moderated the session.
Chair of the United Nation’s CEDAW Committee, Yoko Hayashi, opened the panel with remarks on how CEDAW has been used to advance women’s rights and gender equality and the importance of the United States ratifying the treaty. She also spoke to the importance of the current campaign to mobilize women to secure gender equality at the local level. Her remarks were followed by a series of presentations by the panelists on the efforts surrounding CEDAW adoption in their city or state, representing the breadth of work and wide diversity in the Cities for CEDAW campaign. Highlights of the panel included an update on CEDAW in the city of Los Angeles, following Mayor Eric Garcetti’s executive directive on Women’s Equality Day in August 2015 calling on all city departments to implement CEDAW, which the city adopted in 2004.
The overwhelming interest in the Cities for CEDAW campaign is a testament to the power of a growing movement that has already resulted in positive changes for women and girls in San Francisco and other cities, and demonstrates the potential to do so in countless other cities, counties, and states across the nation.
For more information about the Cities for CEDAW campaign, visit citiesforcedaw.org.