By Kristen Hecht, Program Director, B.A. Rudolph Foundation
On April 1, 2017, the Annapolis Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority convened a community forum on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW), an international treaty often referred to as the international bill of rights for women.
Representatives of Delta Sigma Theta introduced the program , provided background information on CEDAW, highlighted certain myths vs. facts of CEDAW, and stressed the point that the United States is one of only seven countries in the world that have not yet ratified CEDAW, including Iran and Sudan.
Following introductory remarks, keynote speaker U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) discussed the importance of recognizing women’s rights, emphasizing, “How a country treats its women is a prime determinant of its success.” As Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin explained the roles that the U.S. Senate and Foreign Relations Committee play in ratifying CEDAW. Ratification of the treaty requires support of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate, or 67 votes. And while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in July 2002 to recommend ratification of CEDAW, the Treaty has never come before the full Senate for a vote. Senator Cardin also discussed his previous and continued support of equal payment and advancement of his women, including his sponsorship of S.J. Res 5 - a joint resolution that would remove the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Following Senator Cardin’s remarks, the forum was comprised of three panels on issues that affect women disproportionately: human trafficking, employment discrimination, and education discrimination.
On the topic of human trafficking, Dr. Renee G. Murrell, Victim Specialist of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Baltimore Division, discussed services and support that the FBI provides to victims of crimes and methods it uses to combat human trafficking.
On the employment panel, Claudia J. Postell, Esq., Deputy Associate Commissioner of the Office of Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity, Betty Smith, Founder and CEO of SBK2 Leadership Consulting, LLC, and Kristen Hecht, Program Director of the B.A. Rudolph Foundation highlighted current challenges facing women in the workplace, norms and stereotypes that perpetuate inequalities, and legal protections that are in place at the national level. Kristen Hecht discussed ways that CEDAW can be implemented at the local level despite it not being ratified nationally. In particular, she mentioned the Cities for CEDAW initiative, its effective implementation in San Francisco and other cities across the country, and the work that United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) is doing to adopt CEDAW in DC.
On the topic of education discrimination, Aaron Dorsey, Senior Program/Policy Analyst at the National Education Association highlighted inequalities that exist in educational opportunity, particularly when demographics of underrepresented people are taken into consideration. These inequalities perpetuate a “school to prison pipeline,” which can be combatted when schools and educators engage the community to meet academic, emotional, and social needs of all students.