It’s always hashtag season in our news media, due in no small part to the precedent set by our President on Twitter. Some of these hashtags serve to curate weddings or fun trends; however, more and more people of all genders are speaking up and sharing their personal stories of discrimination, harassment, victimization, and exclusion. #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #NotOneMore are just a few of the trending hashtags we’ve seen over the past year, strong indicators that the time is ripe for action to promote gender equity. In addition, many news outlets and organizations that have deemed 2018 “The Year of the Woman” due to the rising tide of women standing up against gender inequity across all sectors and vying for places in elected office and leadership. So what does all of this have to do with a recent council resolution to affirm a United Nations Convention that is nearly forty years old?
The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW, is a very detailed platform that puts forward a host of mileposts to strive toward in order to ensure that all women and girls do have access to the same rights, responsibilities, and opportunities as men and boys. 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. In addition, CEDAW 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. CEDAW also requires that nations take appropriate measures against all forms of trafficking in women and exploitation of women.
The time was right to introduce this resolution of support for CEDAW based upon the tenor of the conversation nationally and locally around issues of discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual harassment, and sexual violence, which are just a few of the aspects of CEDAW. In addition, local organizations including League of Women Voters, American Association of University Women, and Feminist Action Collective took up the chorus of support for CEDAW over the past several months. It is time for meaningful action on the issue of gender inequity, and a Duluth City Council resolution of support is a good place for our city to begin.
CEDAW should have been ratified many years ago. It is time for the United States to join the 187 United Nations members that have ratified CEDAW since 1980. Momentum is growing as the “Cities for CEDAW” movement expands across the state of Minnesota and the United States more broadly. There are now six cities in Minnesota that have passed formal resolutions of support for CEDAW, as well as thirty other cities across the country that have acted in kind.
Let’s press our United States Senate to hear us and act by ratifying CEDAW. After 38 years, that formal commitment to ending gender discrimination would assure us all that we finally are being heard. Though CEDAW cannot cure the physical and emotional scars, lost promotions and wages, and a lack of representation in all forms of government and corporate leadership, it can set a path for a future that fully affirms the equity and humanity of all women and girls.