Approximately two weeks ago, I attended a brown-baglunch discussion hosted by the Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues on “Gender Equality: United Nations and US Federal Support”. At the event, I felt I was in the midst of change makers and leaders. The attendees were from various organizations including Gender Action, Amnesty International, Council of Women Leaders, and Empowered Women International. They ranged in age and experience, from interns to retired advocates. Sitting amidst a group of strong ladiesprepared to stir change; these women had the qualities and skills of leaders and I was fortunate to see it in practice and be a part of it. They were clear in their points, passionate, unwilling to back down, pushy, and were personal.
The event was framed around the United Nation’s organizational role in gender equality, a topic close and dear to all women, and US federal support for global gender equality. The discussions were very lively and made me think of how far the world had come in treating women with theequal respect, manner, and demeanor as men. I’ve decided the answer is not far enough, by any means! Why? Well let’s consider the United States. CEDAW, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. CEDAW guarantees gender equality and is also an effort to form a stronger women’s agency at the United Nations. In its 31st year, the United States still has not ratified CEDAW.
There is no argument that women in the U.S. are far better off in terms of rights and everything the constitutionpromises; however, the U.S. is now lagging behind many developing and third-world countries in meeting international law standards set by CEDAW. Signing on to CEDAW would show the world that U.S. is devoted to ending inequity, discrimination, and violence against women globally and to enhancing the status of women everywhere. The status quo may leave people (especially men, most of whom still set national policy) happy – but it is not good enough. In the past,there have been several various social and women’s movements. Some, very small and other large, but all have resulted in some form of change, at a local, community, state, or federal level. We must continue the efforts of our past leaders, stir controversy, and address the needs of women everywhere.
As I find myself on the tips of developing the skills to become a leader, I have many women leaders to look up to and learn from. A great advocate for CEDAW, Susan Rice, Americanforeign policy advisor and United States Ambassador to the United Nations, has been very involved in making sure CEDAW is a priority to the government. Again, amidst the leaders at the brown bag lunch, I felt compelled to move my careeras a leader along in the right direction. In 1994 and 2002, CEDAW was considered in the Senate Foreign Committee, and received a bipartisan vote, but never reached the floor. I encourage everyone to do whatever they can, littleor large, to enhance the opportunities for other women to lead, and in the process lead others. Start a movement, call your representative, educate them, tell you friends, or simply tell women they can!