by Helynna Brooke, President of The Red Web Foundation.

As a member of the Red Web Foundation, I attended the 61st United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) Forum in New York City March 12th to March 24th . The focus this year was “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work.” Nearly 6,000 women and a few men from around the world participated in UN activities, workshops, and panel presentations with the goal of learning and sharing strategies for achieving equality by 2030.

I was really pleased that at every panel, workshop or presentation, mention of girls was specifically included. If equality in work is to happen for women, girls need to have access to education and freedom from early marriage. There were also a number of panels focused on access to clean water and menstrual hygiene so that girls can attend school.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly and has been ratified by 187 countries (out of 193). The United States joins five other member states, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Palou and Tongo that have NOT ratified the convention. CEDAW is an international bill of rights for women and defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

Marilyn Fowler, Executive Director of Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN), has led the way in the United States to have cities create ordinances to implement CEDAW since the United States refuses to ratify it. San Francisco was the first city in the nation to create such an ordinance. The movement is entitled: Cities for CEDAW. As I listened to stories from women in countries around the world that are working on the implementation of CEDAW, I realized that we still have much work to do in San Francisco as well as getting more cities in the US to create ordinances. True implementation of CEDAW in San Francisco requires both a review of and actual parity of girls’ and boys’ services across all departments. We continually struggle for equal funding of programs for girls and boys. Attending the NGO CSW61 Forum sparked the realization that we have the force of law behind us in San Francisco to compel the city to evaluate the equality of services and fund them equally for girls and boys.

For more about the activities and presentations at the NGO CSW61 Forum, you can access the information-packed website: https://www.ngocsw.org .