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President's Message: Acting Locally, Working Globally (Sue Irvine)
CEDAW - What is it and why should you care? (JoAnn Maruoka)
Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (HCALG) (Grace Furukawa)
Eight groups file suit to end secret meetings
Increased public awareness for public funding... (Laure Dillon)
Welfare for Politicians OR Restoring Power to Voters? (Jean Aoki)
Local Reports - Honolulu (Jackie Parnell)
Local Reports - Maui (Joshua Cooper)
Local Reports - Kauai (Carol Bain)
Local Reports - Hawaii (Marianna Scheffer)

CEDAW - What is it and why should you care?

Recently, Josh Cooper, Co-Chair of the Maui Members-at-Large Unit, shared a flyer announcing a public forum on CEDAW on November 12, 2005 in Annandale, VA presented by the League of Women Voters Education Fund. That raised my awareness of the status of this important matter. Now, I want to do the same for you. The following information is from these sources: the LWV Ed Fund flyer, and the websites of the national League, United Nations Women's Watch, Women's Treaty, and the National Organization for Women (NOW).

What is it? CEDAW stands for the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The first international treaty to address the fundamental rights of women, it was adopted by the United Nations in 1979. CEDAW defines what discrimination against women is and how to end it. It requires regular progress re ports from ratifying countries but it does not impose any changes in existing laws or require new laws of countries ratifying the treaty. It lays out models for achieving equality but contains no enforcement authority.

Here's why I care! and I believe you will too. The Treaty for the Rights of Women is the most comprehensive international agreement on the basic human rights of women. CEDAW is an important tool for all those who seek to end abuses of women and girls, such as those committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Because of the CEDAW Treaty, millions of girls who were previously denied access are now receiving primary education ; measures have been taken against sex slavery, domestic violence and trafficking of women; women's health care services have improved, saving lives during pregnancy and childbirth; and millions of women have secured loans or the right to own or inherit property. According to the League Ed Fund's flyer, of the 192 UN member countries, 180 have ratified CEDAW. Those which have not are Brunei Darussalam, Cook Islands, Iran, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Oman, Palau, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, and the UNITED STATES.

Status in the U.S. The U.S. strongly supported and played an active role in the process that led to the creation of CEDAW. President Carter signed the treaty in 1980 and sent it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for advice and consent. It was not until 1994 – 14 years later –that the Committee sent the CEDAW to the Senate for ratification, but the Senate did NOT consider it. (Two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favor of ratification.) CEDAW was returned to the Foreign Relations Committee. In 2002, it was sent back to the Senate. Again, the Senate did not vote on it. The Foreign Relations Committee is currently holding CEDAW in abeyance.

Action needed. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) serves as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must act to bring the International Treaty for the Rights of Women before the full Senate for a vote on ratification. As Women's Treaty states, "The Treaty for the Rights of Women improves the lives of women and girls around the world – the United States has a moral obligation to ratify it." If you agree, you, too, can take action. On the Women's Treaty web-site (www.womenstreaty.org ), under "U.S. Senate Update," there is the list of all Senators on the Committee, with their phone, fax and email information. On that same website under "Take Action Now," there is a suggested message and contact information to reach President Bush and Secretary of State Rice to ask them to actively support treaty ratification.

JoAnn Maruoka
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