CEDAW FORUM: Strengthening Our Global Voice

By June Zeitlin*

Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights. This is the mantra of CEDAW, the most comprehensive women’s human rights treaty that the US has yet to ratify. The reasons to ratify CEDAW here in the U.S. are clear. Not only will ratification strengthen our global voice to stand up for women and girls around the world, but ratification of CEDAW would also benefit women here in the United States.

You may be asking the question, why now? Do we really think—given the increased polarization and partisan tensions--that we can get two-thirds of the Senate (67 Senators) to ratify CEDAW? I don’t dispute that it is a challenge, but we absolutely believe it is possible. Here are two reasons why:

First of all, there is a much broader and deeper understanding among policymakers and the American public about the violence and discrimination that women experience in many countries around the world. Exposure to this information has led to greater public understanding of women’s circumstances in the developing world and greater interest and support for the US to address these problems.

Second, we are well-positioned with the strongest political support for CEDAW that we have ever had. President Obama is a strong supporter of CEDAW, and Vice-President Biden and Secretary Clinton have been long time champions. As Secretary Clinton recently stated, ““[W]e are determined [to ratify CEDAW], because we believe it is past time to take this important step for women in our country and in all countries.”

All that being said, what can you do? The most important thing you can do is be a messenger for CEDAW—talk about it with your friends, family and especially your elected officials--so they understand its reach and the importance of US ratification. Reach out directly to policy makers to help them understand what is at stake with CEDAW ratification and why it is important for the US to ratify this treaty now. With your action, ratification can be a reality.

*June Zeitlin has been a leader on women’s issues for more than thirty years with extensive public policy experience at the United Nations, the Ford Foundation, running a non-governmental organization, and in government at the federal and local levels. June currently serves as the Director of the CEDAW Education Project at The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (The Education Fund).


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