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Letter to Senator Kerry Supporting the Ratification of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

May 10, 2012

Dear Senator Kerry: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association’s (NEA), we would like to express our support for immediate ratification of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).   

The NEA Legislative Program, adopted by the more than 8,000 delegates to our annual Representative Assembly, calls for CEDAW ratification.  NEA Resolutions call for all nations “to respect and protect the basic human and civil rights of every individual” and state that “all persons, regardless of gender, must have equal opportunity for employment, promotion, compensation…and leadership.”  Ratification of CEDAW would advance these important goals.   

The United States will be strengthened as a global leader in furthering the rights of women if we ratify CEDAW.  CEDAW would strengthen efforts to ensure that women around the world are treated fairly and have the opportunity to reach their full potential.  It would provide the State Department an additional tool to help combat violence against women, give women greater opportunities for education, reform unfair inheritance and property rights, and strengthen women’s access to fair employment.   

In this age of global interdependency, the fate of our nation is more closely intertwined with that of the rest of the world than ever before.  Yet, too many women and girls need greater access to education.  Two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults are women, a proportion that has not changed over the past 20 years.  The United States can enhance our longstanding role as a global leader for women’s rights and human rights if we engage with the community of nations that has ratified CEDAW in determining how best to achieve progress for women and girls. 

While women in the United States enjoy opportunities and status that are not available to many women in other parts of the world, few would dispute that more progress is warranted.  One in four high school girls in this country drops out before graduation, and those girls have an average annual income that is $9,100 below even the low wages earned by boys who drop out.  In career and technical education, girls in this country are still conspicuously absent from classes that prepare students for higher-paying, traditionally male occupations, such as electricians and automotive technicians.  In higher education, women are only a small percentage of those studying and teaching physical and computer sciences and engineering.  CEDAW would provide a stimulus for greater focus on these issues, and for efforts to eliminate barriers and encourage girls and women to develop their interests in non-traditional areas. 

We urge the Senate to act on this critical item.   


Kim Anderson 
Director, Center for Advocacy 

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations