On May 4, 2010 I sat in a packed room of women (and a few men) coming together to raise awareness of women and girls efforts in the reconstruction of Haiti after the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake and its aftershocks. While Haiti has subsided from the headlines of most mainstream media, this assembly of women, which included women from all parts of the African Diaspora, proves Haiti is still on our minds and in our hearts. But the major recurring question of the evening was, now what? What does this room, packed to capacity, full of progressively minded individuals do when we leave here? The forum, with its panel and audience sought to answer that.
Like many other Americans, I was unfamiliar with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) until recently. CEDAW (also known as the Women’s Treaty) is an international agreement on basic human rights for women. So how had this escaped my attention? Is it because the US has supported human rights for decades so there is little talk of this particular treaty? No. Is it because it is a new treaty that we have just not heard of yet? No. CEDAW was introduced to the UN back during the Carter Administration and our Senate has been sitting on it ever since! Is it because we have achieved equal rights for women as a nation and help all other nations reach that same goal? Certainly not.
Jane Roberts, the woman behind 34 million friends of UNFPA, gave a special interview on Chicago Public Radio for International Women's Day. "Gender inequality is the moral scourge of the age," said Roberts. Due to gendercide, sex-selective abortion, and other human rights atrocities, there are 100 million missing girls in the world. To listen to the interview, click here. As Roberts said, "when the world takes care of women, women take care of the world." I think that's something we can all get behind!
This Saturday I trudged through the snow to attend the 35th Scholar and Feminist Conference put on by the Barnard Center for Research on Women. Quite appropriately, considering the recent weather, we were discussing feminism and climate change. Commenting on the nearly 36 inches of snow dumped on New York City, Janet Jakobsen, director of BCRW, asked in her welcoming remarks, “Is this a once in a century event or a sign of global climate change?”
As reports filter in from Haiti in the aftermath of Wednesday's catastrophic earthquake, it is difficult to process the sheer immensity of this tragedy. My thoughts go to the tens of thousands of grieving and displaced who are struggling with unimaginable loss. I am also thinking about the hundreds, maybe thousands of colleagues, advocates and humanitarian workers who have sacrificed their lives while trying to rebuild a nation ravaged by hurricane, poverty and continuing mismanagement. The UN mission in Port au Prince is still missing more than 100 staff members and countless schools, clinics and businesses have been destroyed.
I won't go into the long and turbulent history of Haiti's past: revolt against slavery, independence, colonialism, dictatorship, fragile democracy and the US's troubling role in this tested nation's myriad challenges.
Yesterday, three fabulous NCRW interns* and I journeyed down to the concrete maze that is the United Nations to participate in a commemorative event celebrating CEDAW’s 30th birthday. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, often referred to as the international bill of women’s human rights, was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979. The Convention defines discrimination as