“The bottom line is that most people don’t think about gender that much. When we go through these analyses, it is a consciousness and awareness building. People see that women and girls have different needs than men and boys,” says Ann Lehman, Senior Policy Analyst at the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women. I had never considered working on women’s rights before I began interning with the Iowa United Nations Association. Women in the United States are treated with more equality than many places around the world, allowing room for improvement to easily and quietly slip into hiding. The analyses Lehman is discussing concern San Francisco adopting the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
In 1998, San Francisco became the first municipality to pass CEDAW (http://www.imow.org). Several women’s organizations worked with government officials to adopt CEDAW. 1998 to 2008 consisted of reviewing government activities’ effects on all genders. City departments collected data on budget resourcing, staffing, and services. Training occurred that helped government employees see the data collected in a human rights perspective. The city departments that took part were now aware of gender inequality, and acted on that awareness. The results are to be admired: flexible work schedules were implemented citywide that allowed women (and men) with family responsibilities to work for the city, heavier sentences on domestic abusers were implemented, and streetlights were increased in poorly lit areas to decrease violence against women. Women now hold more leadership positions; women lead the fire department, port authority, and police department.
The lives of women were improved in San Francisco because the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women is seen as the successful human rights treaty that it is. The whole of the United States has room for improvement in the human rights field. Support gender equality. Ask your Senators to do the same by ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Photo by Leigh Gray. Used with permission.