Saturday, May 14, 2011

Do You Know CEDAW? You Should.

The word “CEDAW” may not ring a bell even for committed women’s rights supporters in the United States. But the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is a landmark international women’s rights agreement that almost every country in the world has ratified in the 30-plus years since its introduction. The only countries that have not are Iran, Somalia, Sudan, three small Pacific Islands—and the U.S. This Wednesday, the International Human Rights Committee of the ABA Section of International Law is offering a valuable opportunity to all who want to learn more about the convention, its impact internationally, and its prospects here at home.

What does CEDAW mean for ratifying countries? Countries that ratify CEDAW affirm that women’s rights are human rights and commit themselves to ending discrimination against women and girls. CEDAW provides a practical blueprint for these efforts and has had a real impact on women and girls around the world. Guided by CEDAW, policymakers and advocates internationally have taken important steps toward stopping sex trafficking and domestic violence, expanding girls’ educational opportunities, providing access to maternal health care, and ensuring women’s right to vote.

Empowerment of women also leads to more prosperous, stable, peaceful societies. Institutions such as the World Bank and the World Economic Forum recognize that empowering women is one of the most effective paths for international development and for building stable communities. Improving the lives of women and girls worldwide thus is of great importance not only for those individuals, but also for global prosperity and our national security.

The United States should have a seat at the table when the international community discusses how best to continue to promote progress for women and girls. Ratification also would create an important opportunity for continuing our own national conversation about how best to overcome persistent barriers women still face here at home. By ratifying CEDAW, the U.S. would continue a proud tradition of advancing human rights and strengthen our role as a global leader in standing up for the rights of women and girls. The National Women’s Law Center, as a co-chair of the CEDAW Task Force of the Leadership Conference of Civil Rights, is working to ensure that we join the international community in ratifying CEDAW and affirming our commitment to women’s empowerment.

To learn more about CEDAW, about the National Women’s Law Center’s efforts in support of ratification, and about the impact of CEDAW internationally, register for “However Long the Night”: Global Perspectives on the Impact of CEDAW, a free teleconference being held this Wednesday, sponsored by the International Human Rights Committee of the ABA Section of International Law. Or, if you are in Washington, D.C., register to attend in person. It’s time for all of us to understand CEDAW’s promise.

Emily J. Martin
Vice President and General Counsel, National Women’s Law Center

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