More than 1,500 student groups across the country will campaign this week for Congress to support the Treaty for the Rights of Women.
The campaign is part of Amnesty International USA’s (AIUSA) National Week of Student Action (NWSA). Amnesty International is a global, non-governmental organization of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights.
NWSA, now in its ninth year, is a week of heightened advocacy that focuses on a specific human rights topic of its student members’ choosing.
“We are an organization that believes students in the United States still can bring about change, and that they can bring about change in the lives of women,” said Njambi Good, AIUSA’s national student and youth program manager and an event organizer.
She explained that NWSA is less about its members organizing huge rallies, but more about students handing out fliers in the cafeteria.
The Treaty for the Rights of Women is often described as the international “Bill of Rights” for women. Including a preamble and 30 articles, it defines discrimination and sets up an agenda for national action to end discrimination.
The United Kingdom, Germany, China and 179 other countries have ratified the treaty. Although former President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty as he was leaving office and the Clinton administration recommended its ratification, the U.S. Senate has yet to do so.
“It’s an embarrassment that this treaty has been around for 26 years and the United States is the only democracy in the world that has not ratified it,” said Sarah Albert, public policy director for the Working Group on Ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, an organization working with AIUSA.
“So many other countries look to the U.S. as a leader in human rights, and we have not passed it,” she said.
Nichole Garrard, a junior political science major at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, organized her school’s plans for NWSA after learning about the organization on the Internet. After becoming an individual member of Amnesty International, she signed up for NWSA on behalf of Red Rocks Community College.
In addition to commissioning 50 students to send hand-written letters to Congress, Garrard hopes to get 250 signatures on a petition urging Colorado state senators to support the Treaty’s ratification. She also planned for an informational booth to be set up on campus, a showing of the film “Born into Brothels” and a speech by a member of the faculty throughout the week. At least two other student organizations, 15 students and four professors collaborated with Garrard on the project.
Although transferring at the end of the summer, Garrard hopes this tradition of the NWSA will continue at Red Rocks.
“A lot of people are involved in planning these events, and after I leave I hope they will continue it, maybe start an Amnesty chapter,” Garrard said.
CU-Boulder, Denver University, Metropolitan State College, Fort Collins High School and Fossil Ridge High School have notified AIUSA of their participation as well.
Mary Swanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Road to US Ratification
* 1975: The First UN World Conference on Women in Mexico City calls for a Women’s Convention to promote equal rights for women worldwide.
* December 18, 1979: United Nations approves the Treaty for the Rights of Women (formally known as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women-or CEDAW).
* July 17, 1980: President Jimmy Carter signs the Treaty as he is leaving office. The Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations decline to seek ratification.
* 1990: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on the Treaty.
* 1993: Sixty-eight senators write to President Bill Clinton requesting treaty ratification.
* 1993: The United States commits itself at the U.N. World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria, to ratification of the Treaty for the Rights of Women, among others.
* 1994: The Clinton administration recommends ratification with four reservations, three understandings, and two declarations on issues including private conduct, combat assignments, comparable worth, paid maternity leave, federal-state implementation, freedom of speech, and health care financing.
* September 1994: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes 13-5 with one abstention to recommend treaty passage by the full Senate. But several senators put a “hold” on it for the duration of the 103rd Congress.
* August 1995: At the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, the United States makes treaty ratification a primary commitment to be achieved before 2000.
* 1998: San Francisco, Calif. approves a local ordinance implementing treaty principles. Similar actions occur in Iowa.
* March 16, 1999: The CEDAW Committee approves an Optional Protocol that provides a process for complaints of treaty violations that lets women appeal directly to the United Nations.
* 1999: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and nine other senators call for a new hearing and treaty ratification but are rebuffed by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
* May 2000: The House International Relations Committee holds an informational hearing on the Treaty: A total of 168 nations have ratified it, and 62 have ratified the Optional Protocol.
* May 2002: Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has announced his intention of scheduling a hearing on the Treaty for the Rights of Women (CEDAW) in summer 2002.
* June 13, 2002: Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, holds a hearing on the Treaty for the Rights of Women (CEDAW).
* July 30, 2002: The treaty was voted favorably out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 12 to 7.
* Fall 2002: The Senate adjourned in 2002 without time for a vote on ratification. The treaty reverted back to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under the leadership of new chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN).
* 2003: The Treaty stalled in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2003 under new chairman Lugar (R-IN).
* Fall 2004: A total of 179 nations have now ratified the treaty.
Information provided by the Working Group on Ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women