Black Women's Blueprint and the NYC4CEDAW Steering Committee Write to the NYC Charter Revision Commission
The United States is the only developed country that has not ratified the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is why cities all over the country are working for legislation to assure a rights-based approach to equality in our cities.
Our work as a black-women led organization and co-chair of the NYC4CEDAW Coalition has led to survivors to lead direct actions, draft bills, and survivors testifying at public hearings to ensure survivor voices are heard to end violence and discrimination against women. Our community organizing efforts around CEDAW, chaired by Afro-descendant human rights leader Sheila Katzman, with the City Council on an NYC draft bill to ratify NYC4CEDAW is a major accomplishment. We are honored to be partnering with the Commission for Gender Equity in fully incorporating CEDAW’s framework and principles into the New York City’s Charter and laws. Our work with other coalition members and organizations on the NYC4CEDAW Committee has resulted in a conversation on gender equity in the City Charter Revision process.
Within New York , we believe the 16 core articles of CEDAW provide a replicable yet consistent template of indicators through which city agencies can activate the proposed action plans, and analyze and report on racial and gender equity with ease, using a human rights framework. CEDAW recognizes that gender barriers are further affected by other overlapping forms of discrimination including on the basis of race, socioeconomic status, level of ability, etc. Nationally, the Cities for CEDAW campaign has called on this extraordinary legacy of labor in cities to achieve an unprecedented goal: the local passage of bills in every city across the country which adhere to, and uphold the legal obligations outlined in, the United Nations CEDAW.
CEDAW is the most complete international agreement on basic human rights for women. Although the United States played an important role in drafting the treaty, it is still one of six UN member nations yet to ratify CEDAW - alongside Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Palau, and Tonga - and the only developed country in the world that has not implemented it.
Tonight we urge you to take action with us and join us as the NYC Charter Revision Commission outlines the Issue Areas they will take on in the upcoming revision. Meet us at City Council at 6:00p.m. for this critical meeting.
Read our letter to the NYC Charter Revision Commission below:
Dear Charter Revision Commissioners,
We write to urge the New York City Charter Revision Commission to include ending gender discrimination through implementation of CEDAW principles in the Charter.
While New York City is ahead of the curve in some respects when it comes to gender equity, the status quo allows for clear patterns of inequity to persist. The implications of this persistent gender inequity permeate to every facet of living in New York City living: health, economics, safety, transportation, education.
Maternal mortality has been decreasing since 2001, however it is still higher than the United States as a whole, which is 2½ times that of other industrialized countries. When we break this down by race, the difference is even starker.
While women 25-34 years old are more likely than men to have college degrees, they still earn less than men. The disparities become even greater when the data is broken down racially. Gender inequities in women’s economy are not only financial, women experience loss of opportunity for promotion, learning, and potential. New York City loses $ 5.8 billion annually due to the wage gap.
Women’s safety is at risk in New York. There were 1,795 reports of rape in New York City in 2018, up from 2017, however the City’s Inspector General reported that NYPD’s Sex Crimes Division is severely understaffed, raising the question of its capacity to respond to increased reports and whether they take intimate partner and acquaintance rapes – the vast majority – as seriously as stranger rapes. Some of the consequences of sexual abuse are that survivors from under-resourced communities of color are especially at risk for being trafficked as prostitutes or coerced into gang activity; “sexual abuse is one of the primary predictors of entry” into the juvenile justice system; and the emotional trauma associated with rape on campus can lead student victims to have difficulty concentrating, have lower grades, be absent and withdraw from classes, change majors and drop out of school. Sexual abuse has consequences, not only for survivors, but for the entire community.
Transportation, the lifeblood of the city, is dangerous for women where they are harassed and vulnerable and may be forced to take alternative more expensive transport, if they can afford it, to protect themselves. According to a survey by the Rudin Center for Transportation at NYU, women are uncomfortable reporting attacks to police, feeling no action will be taken. A lack of safety results in disqualification from many jobs, such as janitorial, hospital shiftwork, entertainment and bartending and women are unable to fully participate in New York’s vibrant 24-hour economy.
The obstacles that girls face in school are largely societal and cultural. They act against girls from the time they enter kindergarten—instilling in very young girls a belief they are less innately talented than their male peers—and persist into their work lives. Educational institutions—with undoubtedly many well-intentioned educators—are themselves complicit in reinforcing the hurdles.
As such, implementing and operatizationlizing CEDAW principles in the charter would provide clear, enumerated, overarching principles of gender equity in City government.
To reiterate from previous testimony, CEDAW principles must account for the side of the gender spectrum that has historically been disempowered: women, girls, transgender and non-binary individuals. It is equally important that we promote these principles with an intersectional approach, considering how power structures across age, sexual orientation, genders, race, and employment status affect gender disparities.
How to operationalize CEDAW:
This process will be overseen by the Commission on Gender Equity (CGE);
Each city agency and office will incorporate a gender assessment into their operations based on CEDAW and publish a report on their findings at regular intervals (yearly?);
Assisted by Gender Equity Liaisons (GELs) who will liaise with CGE to facilitate the process and to arrange for training as needed;
Reports will be delivered to CGE who will compile them and make them available publicly;
Each agency will ensure their clientele (recipients, contractors, employees, etc.) are aware and informed how to access the agency report;
The public will be encouraged to evaluate assessments;
Statements from the public will be evaluated and incorporated into the CGE gender reports;
Community groups will be encouraged to hold community meetings to further solicit issues of gender;
New York City for CEDAW Act, as a community coalition, will assist in engaging organizations;
City agencies will be required to address any discovered shortcomings;
Each part of the process will be transparent with reports publicly announced and available.
We are requesting that the Commission, in its final report, consider the following:
(A) New York City reiterates its commitment to creating a city that is non-discriminatory in its
approach to gender by applying a human rights framework in its review of the five focus areas
of the city Charter Revision.
(B) New York City will implement policies by using a human rights framework to correct gender
(C) Gender is explicitly an inclusive term, especially referring to women, girls, transgender,
gender non-conforming and Sis Gender individuals.
(D) New York City recognizes that issues of gender discrimination are compounded by other
forms of discrimination.
(E) All agencies of New York City (along with all elements of New York City government and those
working and contracting with the City) shall use a gender lens to assess the impact of laws,
regulations and policies on the residents of New York City.
(F) New York City is obligated to address any gender discrimination discovered as a result of
(G) A gender assessment is based on the articles of CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women), an international human rights treaty ratified by 189 countries and representing an international consensus on gender discrimination (see
(H) All activities include, but are not limited to, the impact of NYC programs, services, budgets and
(I) Gender assessments shall be made available to the public for comments and additions.
(J) The public shall be involved in the search for solutions for problems of gender.
(K) There must be an oversight body with appropriate budget to accomplish this task.
The NYC4CEDAW Steering Committee