The UNA-NCA blog will provide a space for more personal pieces on events and issues written by committee leaders, volunteers, and staff. The views in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of UNA-NCA.
Human Rights Awards Reception – Spotlight! on Karen Mulhauser
UNA-NCA’s Human Rights Awards Reception takes place Thursday, December 6, and today we are pleased to introduce you to Ms. Karen Mulhauser our Perdita Huston Human Rights honoree.
“We have to do things differently...We cannot put short term interests ahead of the overwhelming imperative of doing what is necessary to allow life to continue of Earth.”
Karen Mulhauser established Mulhauser and Associates in 1988 as a small, progressive, management and public affairs consulting firm. She works in partnership with clients to assess their needs, and to design and/or implement programs to meet these needs. In addition to consulting commitments, she has served on over 35 nonprofit boards and has organized electoral activities during every election cycle since the 1970s. Always with a sense of humor, she drolly asks “is it Friday yet?” in emails to colleagues on a Wednesday.
Ms. Mulhauser started Consulting Women in 1990 and continues to manage its website and the active, professional listserv of 1,000 DC area self-employed women. She helped start the Women’s Information Network (WIN) in 1989 and is the Immediate Past Chair of its Advisory Council. WIN started around Karen’s dining room table to make Washington, DC not only more welcoming in general for young, pro-choice, Democratic women, but to serve as a community where women can help other women. Each year, WIN gives out the Karen Mulhauser Award to the DC area woman who did the most to help young women.
This and Ms. Mulhauser’s other endeavors are all part of the human rights movement that gained momentum 70 years ago with the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One of the document’s chief proponents, Eleanor Roosevelt, believed that “nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.’” Ms. Mulhauser has embodied this spirit, sharing both Eleanor Roosevelt’s and Perdita Huston’s conviction for those ideals.
UNA-NCA:“What do you think some of the most remarkable achievements have been since the establishment of the UDHR and what are some challenges or dangers that you have seen arise that must be tackled?
KM: “While there have been great gender equity advances globally and in the U.S. in the 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, there is so much more to accomplish globally and in the U.S.” “Perdita Huston was certainly not one to say, ‘It can’t be done.’ She was a journalist, a women’s activist and a human rights leader. I first knew her when Perdita worked at International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and I was running the National Abortion Rights Action League. She then consulted with UNDP, UNIFEM, UNFPA and UNICEF. I visited her in Mali in 1999 when she was the Peace Corps Director and I was with her when she died two years later. Throughout her life she was dedicated to the rights of women and helped advance gender equity.”
UNA-NCA:You have been a pioneer for gender equity over the course of your career and seen some of the most notable advancements in gender equity, including the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women – CEDAW, the passing of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. What are some other notable events that you celebrate looking back over the 70 years since UDHR was adopted and continue to be inspired by today?
KM: “Before 1949, there had not been any women elected (not appointed) to the U.S. Senate, and the first woman U.S. Ambassador was not appointed until 1953. Today, we see that at least 123 women will be in the next Congress (still far from parity!) and there are almost 60 U.S. women ambassadors to other countries. Women are running and getting elected at increasing numbers.”In 1998 she organized a conference, ‘Educating Girls: A Development Imperative’, to discuss how girls should have the same access to educations as boys.
UNA-NCA:The organization you founded, WIN, is all about women empowering and lifting up other women. Can you share a little about your thoughts on what has sometimes been referred to as “women’s issues?”
KM: “Empowering Girls is not only central to any effort to advance women and girls - it is also essential to the economic advancement of communities. Increasingly we hear that discussions of economic empowerment include recognition that girls should have the same access to education as do boys; that girls should be protected from sexual assault; that early marriage and pregnancy interrupts a girl’s opportunities and a woman’s place in society, and families’ and communities’ opportunities from having economic security. In the past 70 years, this has become increasingly obvious.”
UNA-NCA:What do you think should be done in response?
KM: In the 1990’s , I organized a conference funded by USAID that brought together many countries to discuss this topic. There have been some advances, but so much more is needed to empower girls and women. As Michelle Obama said in the film, We Will Rise, about the global girls’ education initiative that she started, “We can’t afford to waste that talent.”
UNA-NCA: Even as we celebrate the past 70 years since the UDHR, it is time to look ahead to the next 70. What are your hopes for those years and what does it look like to you to hand global and local leadership over to the rising youth, poised to inherit whatever we have made of this earth?
KM: “After reading the United Nations’ recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, I finally realized what I want to do when I grow up. I want to do what I can to save the planet. All else is mute if we do not have a planet that is habitable for humans. We may not have 70 years if we do not find a way to change U.S. policies and work with other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
UNA-NCA:It’s encouraging for young professionals especially to see that there is lots of room to grow and decide what you want to do when you grow up. Do you think that this hope of yours is possible, though?
KM: “‘Limiting warming to 1.5° C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,’ said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group III. But this [just] means we have to do things differently...We cannot put short term interests ahead of the overwhelming imperative of doing what is necessary to allow life to continue on Earth.”