CEDAW stands for Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It is an international treaty that is established in 1970s by UN and ratified in many countries seeking for better status of Women and their rights. The United States is, unfortunately, one of six countries that have not ratified CEDAW. CEDAW was introduced by President Jimmy Carter and stayed in the Senate for over 30 years! To me, it was shocking to hear this because I have high expectations for the Untied States. If CEDAW is not ratified in the United States, they lose a sense of credibility internationally when they work for human rights. It is contradictory to even discuss women's rights in other countries when women in the United States are in need of CEDAW. So this is why human rights activists all over the country decided to gather in DC on the opening day of Congress and urge the senators for their support on the ratification of CEDAW. This year is more positive than ever since we have the largest number of congresswomen in the house (98 women!).
(More info at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/)
The trip started around 5pm on Tuesday afternoon. Beth picked me up from Chapel Hill and we drove to DC. We stayed at her daughter's place for a night, and started a busy day 8am in the morning. DC was, for sure, COLD. The city did not have any mercy on a North Carolinian-ish South Korean! At the morning orientation, Marzieh joined us and other human rights activists. There were about 40 of us at the orientation and I was just too excited that all of us were there for one goal; ratify CEDAW.
What I took away from this DC trip was lobbying experience. There were thousands of lobbyists in the office buildings and it must be because the opening day of the Congress is the best day to lobby; borrowing the words of Senator Hagan's staff member, "it is time of the year they set their priorities." There were loud passionate conversations going on every corner of the buildings and I was sure they knew each other for a long time until I saw what Beth was doing.
Beth was simply fearless. That is the best way to describe the way she led our team. She just kept sparking conversations with senators and chiefs of staff about CEDAW and handing out the packages of petitions and the information of CEDAW. Even in crowded receptions, she made her way through, grabbed the senators, and urged them for their support for CEDAW. Although I ended up getting a flu at the end of the trip, watching her power through for hours gave me a huge lesson on how to lobby.
When we finally came outside later that afternoon, we realized how fruitful we were that day. We talked with Senator Hagan's Office, Senator Burr's Office, Senator Baldwin, Senator Landrieu, Representative Ryan, Senator Casey's Chief of Staff, and other offices that we submitted the petitions and information for CEDAW. Not everyone was supportive of or heard of CEDAW; however, I believe what it matters is we sparked conversations about CEDAW. It will only gain more national and international attention throughout the year and hopefully our hard work pays off soon!
- Brian :)