“You just made history!” Louisville passes resolution supporting women, girls
Pictured with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer are: From left to right, Michael Aldridge (ACLU); Teena Halbig (President KY Division UNA-USA); Tina Ward-Pugh (Metro Louisville Councilwoman); Mary Sue Barnett (Chair, Louisville CEDAW Coalition, and Director, Women’s Center at Louisville Seminary); Sariena Sampson (JCPS Educator); Victoria Markell (League of Women Voters)
Louisville, KY—Louisville, Kentucky, has taken the lead nationally and approved a resolution that will use the principles of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women as a framework for local policy aimed at ending discrimination and other forms of violence against women and girls. Only one other city in the nation has done so: San Francisco.
Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, who introduced the resolution, said “Local leaders have acted on what we know is true—that we have not achieved equality in Louisville Metro Government or our larger community.” Louisville is a Compassionate City and this resolution is seen as consistent with that designation.
The resolution, which is the first step toward making Louisville a Cities for CEDAW city, was approved Thursday, November 6, by a 20–3–3 vote. The resolution states that Louisville Metro Government is committed to eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, to promoting the health and safety of women and girls, and to affording them equal academic, economic and business opportunities in Louisville, Kentucky.
Marilyn Fowler, with the Women’s Intercultural Network, congratulated the Louisville Coalition for CEDAW, saying “You just made history!” The Women’s Intercultural Network and San Francisco’s Department on the Status of Women launched the Cities for CEDAW campaign at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2014.
Cities for CEDAW promotes the adoption of CEDAW principles in cities large and small as a framework for improving the status of women and girls. Supported at the June 2014 US Conference of Mayors, Cities for CEDAW focuses on the adoption of an ordinance in each community that fulfills three requirements—a gender analysis of city operations (workforce, programs, budget), an oversight body and funding to support the implementation of the principles of CEDAW.
Mary Sue Barnett, director of the Women’s Center at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and leader of the Louisville coalition, expressed deep gratitude to coalition members in Louisville and to supporters around the country “who were there in spirit.”
Coalition members include :
- American Jewish Committee
- Center for Women and Families
- Church Women United USA
- League of Women Voters
- Louisville Girls Leadership
- Louisville Human Relations Commission
- National Association of Women Business Owners
- Presbyterian Women in the PC(USA), Inc.
- Social Responsibility Committee, Epiphany Catholic Church
- United Nations Association, KY Division
- Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church
- Zonta International • and others
CEDAW is the only international human rights treaty to focus exclusively on the rights of women.
It assumes the equality of men and women in legal systems, and calls for abolishing all discriminatory laws and adopting appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women
- calls for protection of women against discrimination and violence;
- mandates the elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises; and
- aims to ensure women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life, education, health and employment.
Implementation of CEDAW principles at the local level improves the status of women/girls in many areas:
- employment and compensation policies
- enforcement of assault and domestic violence laws
- childcare policies and services
- partnerships with nonprofit organizations that provide direct services to women
- and much more
U.S. Census Shows that the Gender Gap Isn’t Getting Any Smaller
The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) recently published its analysis of the U.S. Census poverty data, and the results are bleak.
The NWLC publishes its analysis of U.S. Census data because, while the data is useful in and of itself, applying it to women’s issues makes it more usable for advocates, policy makers, and ordinary women. Another benefit of the NWLC’s analysis is that it compares growth, advancement, and amelioration. Comparing data and indicators year-by-year enables us to gauge whether certain legislation is effective and whether more needs to be done in one area as opposed to another.
According to the NWLC’s analysis of the Census Bureau data, the areas showing no or negative improvement are those of poverty among women and the gender wage gap. For example, the 2013 poverty rate among women was 14.5%, the same as the year before. This rate is also the highest it has been in over two decades. Meanwhile, the men’s poverty rate was 11%, also the same as it was in 2012. This rate, however, is still lower than the women’s all-time low rate of 11.5%, indicating that there is a persistent gap in terms of men’s and women’s poverty.
In terms of the wage gap, there is a perpetual difference not only between the wages women are paid compared to those of men, but also the wages that women of different races are paid compared to their white, male counterparts. Whereas white women are paid 78 cents to every dollar white males make, Hispanic women are paid 56 cents for every dollar their white, male counterparts make. This shows not only a wage gap driven by sexism, but one driven by racism. Clearly, there has not been enough change in the wage gap between men and women.
We have reason to be optimistic that strong gender equality ordinances, such as those promoted by Cities for CEDAW, will help to push these discouraging numbers in the right direction. By empowering communities to fight women’s poverty and the wage gap on the municipal level, Cities for CEDAW should empower communities to make the policy changes necessary to lift more women out of poverty.
Toni Pragov is a senior majoring in International Economics and French at Suffolk University. She works at the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights and plans on attending law school in the fall with a focus on international human rights. Her ultimate career goal is to make a difference working for the United Nations.
The U.S. Economy Needs CEDAW
The United States of America is considered a leading nation in the world on many levels. So it is beyond belief that a fundamental human right such as gender equality for women has not yet been established in our country!
This sad reality is underscored by the fact that in 1979 The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), also known as the “international women’s bill of rights.” Thirty-five years later almost all countries (187 out of 193) have ratified the convention, leaving only six who have not (the United States, Sudan, Somalia, Iran and the two small Pacific Island nations Palau and Tonga).
Women in the USA will never reach their full potential to advance economically, politically and socially unless genuine equality is finally achieved.
CEDAW is a practical blueprint to achieve progress for women and girls, both locally and nationally. The American public strongly supports the principles and values of equality, fairness, education and basic human rights. Further, it is clear that women are key drivers of any economy. They deserve equal access on all levels to fully implement their inherent skills and talents which ultimately are critical components of the economic development and health of the country.
The CEDAW treaty has been voted on favorably twice on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but the treaty has never been brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Our organization, Enterprising and Professional Women USA (EPW-USA), wholeheartedly support the ratification of CEDAW by the United States Senate. We believe that the Cities for CEDAW campaign is an important step on the road to US ratification.
The time is now for women of the United States of America to demand an end to gender disparities. Gender equality is a basic human right which we deserve… no more and no less!
Elizabeth “Liz” Benham is the president of Enterprising and Professional Women USA (EPW-USA), an affiliate of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (IFBPW), and also a past president of the International Federation elected in 2008 and in 2013. Liz was a fun skydiver for many years and an enthusiastic international skydiving judge, having participated in world championships in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Canada and the USA. She lives in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Freedom from Violence: a Fundamental Human Right
Two decades after VAWA’s enactment, violence against women remains a serious problem in the U.S. Domestic violence and sexual assault are two of the most prevalent forms; there are approximately 237,800 sexual assault victims every year, and one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
Over the years, some of VAWA’s protections have been watered down, like the ability of survivors to sue individual abusers in federal court—which was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2000. But today there is a renewed federal effort by Vice President Biden to increase accountability. This includes a Vice Presidential Summit bringing together the Department of Justice, legal scholars, and state and local prosecutors to restore the right to sue. However, even if restored, an accountability gap will remain. Indeed, many advocates are pushing for greater accountability for institutions that play a role in perpetuating gender-based violence, including law enforcement agencies, which have engaged in gender-biased policing, including mishandling reported cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, and harboring officers who engaged in acts of gender-based violence.
And ultimately eliminating violence against women requires more than an ability to sue abusers; it requires a comprehensive approach, focused on preventing violence and eradicating its root causes (such as discrimination, social biases, and a lack of adequate institutional responses). This is one of the reasons that advocates and governments alike are looking to human rights principles to address such violence.
In a notable step, President Obama issued a proclamation on the anniversary of VAWA “reaffirm[ing] the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse.” The proclamation echoes initiatives from localities across the country. As of today, twelve jurisdictions have passed local resolutions recognizing freedom from domestic violence and/or violence against women as a fundamental human right, including Albany, Austin, Texas, Baltimore, Boston and Miami-Dade County. Most of these resolutions cite to international human rights law and to the landmark decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the case of Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States. They further highlight that government has a responsibility to secure the right to be free from domestic violence, and some direct local officials to incorporate human rights principles into governmental policy and practice. While non-binding, the resolutions demonstrate support for a new, rights-based approach to the problem of gender-based violence.
What exactly does a human rights approach entail? Human rights principles focus on governmental responsibility to proactively take steps to prevent acts of gender-based violence committed by both private and governmental actors. Moreover, they require that gender-based violence, which disproportionately impacts women and sexual minorities, receive the same treatment and resources as other serious crimes of violence. Effective responses to violations that do occur are also an essential piece of the puzzle. Further, the human rights framework prioritizes survivor dignity and empowerment, which are so often missing for victims of crimes like domestic violence and sexual assault. The core elements of international human rights law that provide a roadmap for evaluating existing policies and identifying sustainable solutions are detailed in the recent report, Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault in the United States: A Human Rights Based Approach & Practice Guide.
These principles are reflected in local efforts to integrate human rights into law. Indeed, Cities for CEDAW goes further than the aspirational commitments made at the federal and local levels, calling on cities to pass ordinances to implement the international human rights treaty on women’s rights to address gender inequity in a number of arenas, including employment, and could benefit domestic violence survivors by allowing them to use their paid sick leave when dealing with stalking or domestic violence.
The momentum around fulfilling the right to be free from violence at the federal, state, and local levels is inspiring. A more comprehensive, prevention-based approach to law and policy that puts women’s equality at the fore is sorely needed. It’s up to women and men in our communities to signal their commitment to human rights, and to call on our elected officials to do the same.
JoAnn Kamuf Ward is a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute and Associate Director for the Human Rights in the U.S. Project. Ms. Ward focuses on promoting the use of a human rights framework to address inequality and social injustice domestically. Her work includes developing strategies to strengthen federal and local mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing human rights as a member of the Human Rights at Home Campaign, as well as assisting with the Institute’s treaty implementation initiative and the Bringing Human Rights Home Lawyers’ Network.
Erin Foley Smith is a Project Attorney with the Human Rights in the U.S. Project at the Human Rights Institute. She focuses on how U.S. advocates can use human rights norms and frameworks to advance domestic social justice advocacy on a range of issues, including juvenile life without parole, access to justice, and immigration.
Women’s Rights and World Peace: Reflecting on Sept. 21
One of the principal aims of the United Nations (and the United Nations Association) is sustaining international peace and security. The International Day of Peace (IDP) takes place on September 21 each year. The International Day of Peace recognizes that people everywhere generally desire to eradicate war, and in particular to avert a worldwide nuclear catastrophe. Life without war is a prerequisite to human well-being, development and progress, as well as implementation of rights and freedoms under the UN Charter. Preserving civilization and human survival is each UN member state’s sacred duty manifest through international and national level measures. Since women tend to suffer disproportionately during and after war, campaigns for peace are particularly helpful to women.
Last month I gave a keynote speech for Church Women United , which is promoting the Cities for CEDAW campaign to hold U.S. municipal governments accountable to international standards of non-discrimination. Cities for CEDAW is a national campaign that aims to mobilize 100 U.S. towns and cities to implement CEDAW at the local level by the end of 2015.
As a UN treaty, CEDAW also reinforces and supports the mission and spirit of the UN’s Declaration on the Right of People to Peace. Last year I gave a speech at the first annual International Day of Peace event regarding women and the UN. This year I am speaking again at the IDP event in San Francisco, but this time I am focusing on Cities for CEDAW.
San Francisco was the first U.S. city to adopt CEDAW and I am thrilled to be a Bay Area peer leader promoting the Cities for CEDAW campaign. I encourage you to join the effort to get nationwide mayoral support of CEDAW via municipal ordinances, ultimately pushing the Senate to ratify CEDAW, all in less than 16 months.
We don’t always remember to say so, but we do this work not only for women; we also do it for peace.
Bronwyn Galloway has been a Board Member with the United Nations Association San Francisco for five years as well as a Legal Administrator for 20 years. She has a JD in Public Interest Law (emphasis in International Women’s Human Rights) from John F Kennedy University and an MA in Speech & Communication Studies (emphasis in Women’s Studies) from San Francisco State University. She has lobbied on Capitol Hill and attended the annual Commission on the Status of Women conference at the UN Headquarters in New York. Bronwyn lives in San Francisco, California.
A Universal Human Right to Spiritual Connection
Theologians for CEDAW is a consciousness-raising process in the Women’s Center at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary this academic year. Seminary students here are doing Feminist Theology with the UN human rights treaty for girls and women in their hands and on their lips. In our opening gathering earlier this month, we listened to an excerpt from Joyce Rupp’s book, The Star In My Heart.
This book was born on a sunny day as I sat among the myriad colors and fragrances of my friends’ rose garden. I was watching over their two year-old, Elizabeth Ann, who was delightfully playing among the flowers, talking to them, laughing and splashing the roses with her little watering can. It was there that I became keenly aware of Sophia’s presence. I looked at the beautiful child at play, and I remembered how Sophia (Wisdom) speaks of herself in Proverbs: “I was at God’s side . . . delighting God day after day, ever at play in God’s presence, at play everywhere in God’s world.” Proverbs 8:30-31
Each woman present sat in silence holding the image of Elizabeth Ann and Joyce in the sanctum of her imagination. The silence was calm, gentle, reassuring and promising. After a few minutes of stillness, we acknowledged in group dialogue that this is an image of a girl child and a woman experiencing safety and well-being on this earth as the apple of Divine Wisdom’s Eye. One can easily imagine the opening words of CEDAW written as a backdrop to their contentment in the rose garden: “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights… [E]veryone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, including distinction based on sex.”
During the eight-month Theologians for CEDAW process, we will explore Feminist Theology through poetry, memoir and academic writings. We will highlight Sallie McFague’s metaphors of God as Mother, God as Lover and God as Friend in her book Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age. We will give ourselves space together to speak our insights and to feel our own minds and hearts broadening. We will also come together once a month on the seminary campus at the Louisville CEDAW Coalition meetings where a group of local attorneys, politicians, religious leaders, scholars, students and non-profits gather toward making Louisville a CEDAW city.
Doing Feminist Theology is like approaching grand cathedral doors that unexpectedly fling open into an expanding universe of wholeness where Divine essence and female humanity are in a dynamic healing process of reintegration. Misogyny in patriarchal religions and in cultures all over the world does violence to the wholeness of females as both women of the earth and as women of the Holy. Doing Feminist Theology heals this division. Doers of this theology imagine and put into practice the marvelous reality of girls and women flourishing in the world as beings who flow from the Sacred. It is a wisdom movement of our day.
Those committed to the Theologians for CEDAW process will educate the seminary campus this academic year about the treaty and its implications for theology and ministry in the world today. We will hold formal and informal dialogue sessions with seminary students, faculty and staff. We will also plan an interfaith prayer service for February 28, 2015 in Caldwell Chapel on campus. Faith leaders from the wider Louisville community will be invited to attend and to make statements in support of girls’ and women’s human rights. The prayer service will be a celebration of the broad network of solidarity and justice created in Louisville by CEDAW and will include a send-off blessing to the United Nations 59th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meetings.
The Theologians for CEDAW are eager to be in New York City during the CSW meetings. We want to feel the energy of being in the midst of women from around the world who know the treaty as a living document compelling them forward for ever-greater accomplishments in women’s rights. We are also eager to interact with our sisters from the U.S. who are making the Cities for CEDAW Movement come alive. This is precisely the arena of expanding consciousness and female flourishing that awaits us beyond the cathedral doors. To be involved is to be active participants in the Wisdom movement of our day.
Rev. Mary Sue Barnett is Director of the Women’s Center at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and Chair of the Louisville CEDAW Coalition. She is an ordained Catholic Woman Priest and serves as Pastor of Christ Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community.
A Montana mother explains why CEDAW matters to mainstream women everywhere.
Montana is my home state. Whitefish — named by the Flathead Indians that first loved this land — is my home town.
Now the fastest growing “city” in Montana, Whitefish has seen vast changes. As I’m known to say, perhaps soon the deer will be wearing stylized bike uniforms and safety helmets too.
I returned home in 2005, following the death of my husband. Watching my four children grow into adults, while attending the same schools I walked through, and swimming in the same lakes I learned to swim in, has given me great healing.
CEDAW, or the promise that we will end discrimination against women, and actually ratify a human rights treaty for women – finally — in our country, and in our lifetime, has given me equal measure of healing.
Following my Women Studies degree in 1995, I felt no real or distinct discrimination, or ‘glass ceiling.’ I was told “you can be anything you want to be!” For the most part, with hard work, and faith in the opportunities won by women before me, I believed it was merely a matter of education, eradication of negative gendered thought, and diligence.
Then I became a mother. Choices were stark. The ‘glass ceiling’ became real, and very personal. I could either work full-time, which I was well-trained to do with an MS degree; and pay someone else to care for my children, or, I could stay home full-time and nurture my children. Paternity leave or flexible work was not a term being discussed in my husband’s profession.
I chose to stay home; very thankful for my husband’s salary. When the children seemed ready for quarter-to-half-time care, I combined care outside of our home with taking them to work with me — using a sling to nurse — and worked as a grant writer and ultimately the co-founder of a Community Family Center. After my husband’s death, my “work-family-balance” turned to survival, and at many points: poverty.
Through it all, I grew as a mother, as a professional, and—most ardently—as an activist.
I believe CEDAW connects the issues of economic (in)security, community stability and women’s rights, and must be the foundation on which the future is built. It is the blueprint. The mainframe. The structure. Without it, our homes, our workplaces, our towns, and our cities, are built on shifting sand. Without it, our vision for equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all — men, women, and children — is a myth.
I urge each one of us to become active. To tell our story. To be brave. To dig deeper. To refuse to compromise in our efforts to mend the social fabric and lay the foundation on which all else is built.
If we work and speak together – we will make history in cities and towns across the country by improving the lives of millions. When the U.S. senate finally does ratify an international human rights treaty for women, it will be a demonstration of government by the people for a people who are ready and able to change the trajectory of U.S. history.
Brittany MacLean is a mother of four children, Executive Director of US Women Connect, co-founder of the Juneau Family Community Center in Alaska, and a past Senate candidate for the Montana Legislature. In her capacity as Executive Director of US Women Connect, she is one of the principal organizers of the Civil Society wing of the Cities for CEDAW campaign.
It’s Pronounced “see-daw” and it’s Coming to Your Town
Yesterday CNN published a piece called “5 Things Women Couldn’t do in the 1960’s“, which makes it seem almost quaint that women in that era were denied things like an Ivy League education, their own credit cards, and the birth control pill. What the article doesn’t mention is that extreme forms of gender inequality persist in the United States today.
Whether it’s shocking rates of gender-based violence, lower pay for equal work, or being forced out of the workplace due to pregnancy or family caregiving, women have a long way to go.
The UN treaty known as CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, pronounced “see-daw”) is a promising method for pursuing gender equality in cities and towns across America. A new campaign, 100 Cities for CEDAW, is working to support at least 100 cities and towns across the country to implement CEDAW in local ordinances by the end of 2015.
These CEDAW city ordinances would provide the structure, language, and funding for gender audits and proven programs to promote equality for women and girls, driven by each unique local jurisdiction. While the United States has yet to ratify CEDAW, US towns and cities don’t need to wait for the federal government to take action to protect and empower women and girls.
Local implementation of CEDAW will help address longstanding inequalities that plague women and hold back families and communities. We can look to Minnesota for examples of what a CEDAW ordinance might accomplish. On August 1, 2014, Minnesota’s Women’s Economic Security Act went into effect. (http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/08/04/minnesota-passed-massive-economic-security-law-women/). The Act provides a host of benefits including raising the minimum wage, allowing people to use their paid sick leave when dealing with stalking or domestic violence, and requiring big employers seeking large state contracts to have an “equal pay certificate” proving they don’t short-change women on payday.
This past June, the US Mayors’ Convention endorsed the 100 Cities for CEDAW campaign, and 8 cities have already signed on.
There is no magic wand that will grant equality to women. CEDAW will not do away with discrimination and prejudice in one fell swoop. Still, CEDAW is a powerful tool to improve equality in towns and cities across the nation. And, while we’ve come a long way since the 1960s, women still need all the tools we can get.
For more information about 100 Cities for CEDAW, or to join with others in your community or organization to achieve equality and gender justice, please see http://www.citiesforcedaw.org.
Amy Agigian, PhD, is Founding Director of the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights (CWHHR) at Suffolk University in Boston, where she is also Associate Professor of Sociology. Educated at the University of California and Brandeis University in Women’s Studies and Sociology, her work centers on gender, reproductive and social justice. She is proud that the CWHHR is a Principal organizer of the Civil Society wing of the Cities for CEDAW campaign.
Call to Action: Senator Boxer Holds Senate Hearing on CEDAW and VAW
U.S. CALL to ACTION: Senator Boxer is holding a Senate hearing on Tuesday, June 24 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Please see the attached document (Joint NGO Statement for June 24 SFRC Hearing) to see how your NGO can engage in her efforts!
Senator Boxer will address VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) as a critical issue to approve this year and the importance of CEDAW as the tool to end violence against women. Where CEDAW has /is being implemented, it has had a major impact on violence against women and trafficking.
This hearing won’t do it in a day, but if the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will pick up on this and hold major hearings on CEDAW and then recommend passage/ratification to the Senate, it will get it in front of the U.S. public.
This is where we come in – if Cities for CEDAW can build a movement on the ground in support from 100 US mayors the Senate will be encouraged to ratify.
Cities for CEDAW is building a U.S. Campaign for U.S. Mayors’ commitment to implementing CEDAW in their cities. You can help us in this effort by getting your NGO or group involved!
Go Senator Boxer!