How the Nation’s Capital is Trying to Lead on Women’s Equality

A month after we commemorated the 35th anniversary of its U.N. adoption, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – or CEDAW – celebrated local progress on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., when the United Nations Association of the USA and the U.S. National Committee for UN Women announced upcoming D.C. for CEDAW legislation.

June Zeitlin, director of human rights policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, speaks during Tuesday’s event in Washington, D.C.

Signed by President Carter 35 years ago this July, the U.S. Senate – which ratifies international human rights treaties – has never even held a floor vote on the women’s equality treaty, but several local governments have taken action and passed CEDAW resolutions. In 1998, San Francisco became the first city to adopt an ordinance reflecting the principles of CEDAW. Most recently, the city of Louisville, Ky., approved a resolution last November that will use CEDAW as a framework for all future policy aimed toward ending gender-based discrimination.

That’s exactly what D.C. is now trying to do and, thanks to the national grassroots efforts of Cities for CEDAW, it may happen sooner rather than later. The group is trying to get pledges from 100 U.S. mayors to commit to adopting a CEDAW-based measure by December 2015 (learn more about the Cities for CEDAW campaign here).

The most recent activity in the Senate directly related to CEDAW was a hearing last June on combatting violence and discrimination against women. But until the Senate actually votes – and ratifies – the treaty, the United States remains one of only seven countries that hasn’t taken that final step.

Watch Gavin Newsom (below), current lieutenant governor of California (and former mayor of San Francisco) talk about why he supported the city’s CEDAW ordinance as a member of the county board of supervisors: “The issue of gender equality has not been resolved.”

For more information about how to implement CEDAW in your city, visit or email [email protected].