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cities for cedaw - us campaign

NGOs and civil society leaders are joining forces to promote groundbreaking global-to-local campaign.

Since CEDAW now meets in Geneva, ICJWs UN team in Geneva attended this event.

On 12 December, 2015, the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY (NGO CSW/NY), one of three women’s committees of CoNGO that advocates for women’s rights and gender equality, released their report presented to the CEDAW Committee on the groundbreaking “Cities for CEDAW” campaign. 

The document notes that the NGO CSW/NY led a delegation of nine U.S. NGO leaders to brief CEDAW experts during the committee’s last session. This unique campaign aims to drive U.S. support of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by encouraging cities — with an initial goal of 100 — to adopt the treaty as a city ordinance. 

The U.S. remains one of seven countries that have not yet ratified CEDAW, alongside Iran, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and two small Pacific Island nations. 

According to Soon-Young Yoon, NGO CSW/NY focal point for the campaign, “The concept is simple. If we can build the 17 Sustainable Development Goals on the foundation of women’s human rights in cities, we can change the future of the world. 

The influence of a global-to-local campaign can’t be underestimated.” About 20 CEDAW experts and a number of civil society leaders attended the briefing. Representatives from Kansas City, Louisville and San Francisco exchanged views with CEDAW experts on the considerable progress made during the U.S. campaign. 

Dr. Emile Murase, Executive Director of the San Francisco Department on The Status of Women, explained that considerable progress has been made since San Francisco adopted CEDAW as a city ordinance in 1998. She cited that the rates of violence against women and girls has steadily decreased, and hiring in key sectors like Public Works and fire department have become more gender balanced. Other cities, are following San Francisco’s lead: Berkeley and Los Angeles, along with the State of Hawaii, have likewise already implemented CEDAW, and Kansas City and Louisville, are in the process of doing the same. 

Miami-Dade County in Florida became the first county to pass a countywide ordinance on CEDAW and there are now statewide coalitions working in Oregon and North Carolina. On a national level, Marilyn Fowler of Women’s Intercultural Network, a peer co-leader in the “Cities for CEDAW” campaign, explained the high demand for information and training throughout the US. 

The NGO delegation’s briefing was met with praise and support for future momentum. During the interactive dialogue, Yoko Hayashi, CEDAW expert from Japan and Chair of the CEDAW Committee, along with other experts, expressed strong support for the “Cities for CEDAW” campaign. Pramila Patten, CEDAW expert from Mauritius, noted, “This is an historic meeting you are having with the CEDAW Committee,” and Nicole Ameline, CEDAW expert from France asked, “How can we extend this initiative?” Patricia Schultz from Switzerland echoed these sentiments when she said, “Congratulations on the coalitions….Your campaign seems to be a model.” Ideas were exchanged on how to make the US campaign successful internationally.

The NGO delegation invited committee members to join events on “Cities for CEDAW” that are planned for the NGO CSW Forum, which will be held in parallel with the UN Commission on the Status of Women meeting in New York (14 to 24 March) next year. .

SUBMITTED BY MADELINE BRECHER, ICJW REPRESENTATIVE UN NY