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Category: Women's Rights Treaty (CEDAW)

The Gender Pay Gap: How We Can Escape the Double-Standard

1967 - "Commission begins consideration for Economic Rights for Women"

At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year, President Obama really showed what he was made of. With jokes on everything from his rollout to the Chris Christie bridge closure debacle, he showed that he can take criticism and laugh about it. Obama also took a stab at the gender pay gap and the prospect of Hilary Clinton becoming president, saying that, “as the first female president, we could pay her 30 percent less. That's a savings this country could use." While a funny remark that elicits laughs, what people need to realize is that it is actually not far from the truth.

In a recent study it was found that women earn on average 77 cents to every dollar that men earn in the same profession. In a supposed democratic and equal-opportunity country, this is absurd. To try and fight this President Obama recently issued two executive orders that allow employees to discuss their pay and require employers to report pay data based on gender and race, hoping to increase transparency in the workplace and close the ridiculous pay gaps that exists.

It's Time to Act: Visit our Indiegogo Campaign

People underestimate the negative effects that not ratifying treaties can have on our lives. It can limit the rights of women or people with disabilities. Non-ratification also limits the influence that the US has in international decision-making. By not being part of the Law of the Sea treaty, the US loses opportunities to have a voice in decisions that govern the world’s oceans; this is a major issue for the US as the country with one of the largest coast lines.

Shouldn’t we embrace women’s rights and rights of the disabled? How can we end conflicts like the Syrian war without an arms trade agreement? The opposition wholeheartedly contests all treaties, while most proponents will advocate only for one. That needs to end. We CAN fight back, but we need to do it together, through broad support for treaty ratification.

The War on International Law is gaining traction, and we need to work harder to stop it. recently launched a project on Indiegogo, a crowd funding site, to raise money for our campaign. We need to bring attention to the Arms Trade Treaty, the Women’s Equality Treaty (CEDAW), the Disability Treaty, the Law of the Sea Treaty, and many others. The US has not ratified any of these crucial agreements, which has significant negative consequences for the US role in the world and for US citizens.

Our goals are simple: expose the opposition, identify the costs of this negative policy, and build a robust network of support that crosses traditional issue silos inside and outside the Beltway to reengage the US in adopting international law. We need your support in order to make this campaign a success.

Why do we need a Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women?

Patrick Stewart, Activist on violence against women

When in his Nobel Peace Prize address (1974), Sean MacBride (1904-1988) cited torture along with the development and acceptance of indiscriminate nuclear weapons, the use of chemical weapons, and political assassination as signs of a "near total collapse of public and private morality in practically every sector of human relationship", he stressed his central theme: the necessity of nongovernmental actions to ensure survival.

Although MacBride had served as the Irish Foreign Minister from 1948 to 1951 and played an important role in the creation of the Council of Europe, it was as a non-governmental organization leader that he made his full mark: as an early chair of the Amnesty International Executive Committee (1961-1974), as Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists (1963-1970) and as chair of the International Peace Bureau. It was in his efforts to highlight the wide use of torture that we started to work together in Geneva. He denounced torture techniques "that make the medieval thumb screw and rack look like children's toys".

He was particularly critical of torture and violence against women. He had been largely raised by his mother, the actress and Irish nationalist Maud Gonne. His father, John MacBride was hanged by the British for his participation in the 1916 Easter uprising when Sean was 12. Violence against women was doubly unjust: because it was violence and because women were to be respected.

The Power of Identity

Kofi Annan said that "gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance." There are many ways that investing in women's empowerment can help end poverty. For example Women tend to invest more of their wages into their families than men. However, I'm going to focus on one aspect of women's equality and development: birth registration.

My host mother, Madame Sanokho took me on a trip to deliver books to a small Senegalese village about two hours from Kaolack-the second largest city in Senegal -- where I was living. On the way she told me about the problems that girls face with achieving an education. I learned that one of their biggest challenges was not having a birth certificate because without a birth certificate children can't attend secondary school. In Senegal birth certificates cost about $25 to obtain and most families live on about a $1.25 per day so birth certificates are financially unfeasible. When we arrived at the village I met 32 girls in their final year of primary school and I asked them if they planned to go to secondary school. They all said no because they didn't have a birth certificate. People in this situation are often referred to as unregistered.

I couldn't believe that the amount of money I might spend with friends going out to dinner on a Friday night is what was standing between these girls and a more vibrant future. Birth certificates grant children access to education, health care, an identity card which allows them to work legally. Moreover, a birth certificate provides them the ability to cross borders in times of conflict and return at a later date.

Speaking Out Against Violence Against Women

The recent death sentences handed down to four men convicted of the gang-rape of a young woman in India have thrown the issue of violence against women into sharp relief. The Indian government estimates that a woman is raped every 22 minutes in India. It appears that more Indian women are coming forward to report sexual assaults after the verdict in this case. While that is promising, the issue remains. After riots in Uttar Pradesh in September, there were 5 complaints of gang rape and 2 of sexual assault.

Violence against women, not just in India but throughout the world, is an issue of highest importance. In fact, it is an epidemic. And that's not hyperbole or editorializing. According to the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), “violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions.” An unbelievable 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner or stranger. And even more shocking, more women are killed or disabled by gender-based violence than cancer.

The U.S. and the Global Gender Gap

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's signing of the Equal Pay Act. This "milestone" legislation was designed to eliminate the gender-based wage gap in the United States workforce, yet today the average woman is still making only 77 cents to every dollar made by the average man. Yesterday's holiday presents an opportunity to cite a few facts about gender equality in the U.S. and around the world.

The Global Gender Gap Report for 2012 ranks the U.S. as 22nd in the world for gender equality. Although 22nd doesn't sound that bad, a closer look at the statistics shows that this ranking is certainly not satisfactory. Consider, for example, the fact that Iceland — the country ranked first — is more than two times further ahead of the U.S. in terms of gender equality than the U.S. is ahead of China. In other words, Iceland has a gender equality index that is 17% greater than that of the U.S., whereas the U.S. has an index only 7% greater than that of China.

An even more illustrative example can be made by including in the comparison the gender equality index of Iran. Iceland is about as far ahead of the U.S. in terms of gender equality as the U.S. is ahead of Iran. To put that into perspective, I would like to draw attention to the fact that Iran has in place many discriminatory laws, such as those legitimizing honor killings, compulsory veiling, women's rights and duties in marriage, and the minimum age for marriage (8 years and 9 months for girls), among others.

A New Role Model and a Promising Outlook

Photo credit: The London Evening Post

As of 10 a.m. yesterday, I have a new idol: María Corina Machado, member of the Venezuelan parliament. I attended her presentation on the current political situation in Venezuela, held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. I was struck by the bravery and composure that she showed in the face of an increasingly repressive regime. María Corina is an opponent of Venezuela's President Maduro, who narrowly won the April 14th elections by a margin of 1.5 percent in the wake of President Chavez's death.

At the talk, I learned that María Corina was one of the victims of the April 30th assault at the Venezuelan parliament against opposition members. This assault left Corina badly hurt and in need of surgery.

Despite this assault and other threats made by Maduro and his supporters, María Corina is still fighting for democracy in her beloved Venezuela. In fact, Corina is here in D.C. on a diplomatic mission to appeal to the United States Congress. She would like to see Congress stand up for institutions and democracy and not ignore the tense political situation in Venezuela.

María Corina's experience drew my attention to two issues. First is the persistent need to end violence against women. I cannot imagine how violated I would feel if I were assaulted for standing up for what I believe in-either as a woman or as a human being. For me, any regime that promotes violence against women loses all sense of legitimacy.

Six nominees for UN Women

A guest blog post by Tony Fleming as posted on the Global Memo:

Yesterday was the deadline for nominations for Executive Director of UN Women. The candidates will succeed the organization's first head, Michele Bachelet, who resigned suddenly in March to return home and stand for election to Chile's presidency.

At least six candidates are rumored to be under consideration.

Mothers around the World

I decided I will start off this gushy, loving article on Mother's Day with a depressing statistic (sorry): around the world, every two minutes a woman dies from preventable causes related to pregnancy. The real kicker? These deaths are 100% preventable.

There are several factors that play into this astonishing statistic. In some parts of the world, maternal health simply is not a priority. In Save the Children's mother index, you can see which countries are the best and worst places to be a mother. Can you guess how the United States ranks? The US came in 30th. 30th place. Wow.

The report explains that several factors are at play when it comes to a mother's health, including economic status, education level, and women's political status (to name a few). The Democratic Republic of Congo came in last place - the worst place to be a mother. Cultural practices play a role as well. For example, women who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) are twice as likely to die during childbirth and are more likely to give birth to a stillborn child than other women.

Not only is a mother dying every two minutes a tragedy for all the families and children affected, but it is a world-wide human rights abuse. The fact that 80% of all maternal deaths are preventable shows extreme global neglect for mothers. Women and girls are marginalized globally, so it is not a surprise that maternal healthcare is low on the list of priorities. Yet in recent years, there has been improvement. From 1990-2010 maternal mortality was reduced by nearly 50%. But as a global community, we need to continue to put the health and well being of mothers in the forefront.

Project Mimosa

Today is my favorite holiday. I learned about it in Italian class. In Italian, the holiday is called, La Festa della Donna, in English we call it International Women's Day. La Festa della Donna is my favorite holiday because in Italy, women are given mimosa flowers, a mimosa cake and are told to take the day off. It's like the Italian Valentine's Day for every woman.

In honor of La Festa della Donna I am taking the United Nation's International Women's Day theme of A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence against Wome.

Project Mimosa is my own personal  motto to create awareness of women's issues. This is the year for ending violence against women. The United States Congress recently passed the Violence Against Women Act and  with the same commitment to ending violence against women, the US Senate  should ratify the Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Here are my reasons why: