An Education Initiative on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women. The Convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women's equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life — including the right to vote and to stand for election — as well as education, health and employment. The Convention is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. It affirms women's rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children. States parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women.
U.S. ratification would give the United States far more leverage and credibility in the international community regarding women's rights issues than it has now, helping women and girls around the world. Despite differences in culture, religion, ethnicity and nationality, 185 governments have agreed to implement this treaty. U.S. absence from that list undermines the critical principle that women's rights are human rights; that they are universal across all cultures, nations and religions; and that they deserve guarantees through international standards.
President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, and United Nations Ambassador Rice have joined women's rights and human rights advocates in declaring CEDAW ratification to be a priority. Still, too many Americans have never heard of CEDAW and are unaware of the myriad ways it could affect their lives and the lives of women and men worldwide. The impending discussion surrounding ratification efforts for the treaty is certain to generate conflicting claims, media coverage, advertisements and analyses, creating confusion and misinformation among citizens and policymakers.
During the upcoming debate surrounding CEDAW ratification, a well-crafted, coordinated effort to educate at all levels is critical. LCCREF is embarking on a concerted campaign to provide accurate information to citizens, the media and decision-makers for responsible US engagement on this UN treaty and to facilitate informed discourse, which is essential to sound decision-making in a modern democracy. To that end, LCCREF will:
- create a clear strategy for providing accurate information for the upcoming debate to US Government officials, Senators, and others who will weigh all alternatives in the upcoming debate; conduct outreach to policymakers on political developments and possible courses of action; collaborate on a communications strategy and plan (led by the Communications Consortium Media Center);
- provide strong coordination and management to bring together the leadership, expertise, and outreach represented by various groups that are part of this effort and to develop and implement the overarching campaign;
- provide leadership to the CEDAW Working Group, LCCR member organizations, and other individuals and groups involved in this effort; identify other organizations and individuals who could join this effort and develop plans for outreach to them;
- advise on a research review (to be undertaken by the International Center for Research on Women) that will compile up to date information about the impact of CEDAW internationally and form the basis for advocacy materials; and
- advise on legal analysis (led by the National Women's Law Center) to review the provisions of CEDAW and the previous RUDs package in relation to current US and international laws and norms. This can help inform the USG and policymakers about the potential impact of the treaty.