Wednesday, January 4, 2017

UN Women's CEDAW for Youth Helps Young People to Explore Women's Rights

Just before Christmas, UN Women launched its new youth-friendly version of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, also known as CEDAW for short (pronounced "see-daw"). CEDAW protects core human rights for women and girls and was signed by the UN General Assembly in 1989. This treaty is recognized by international law as a binding agreement and you can read the treaty in full here. CEDAW has been signed by 191 countries, as highlighted in blue below:
Light blue indicates countries that have signed but not ratified the treaty (only the US and Palau), dark blue indicates countries that have signed and ratified the treaty, orange indicates countries that have not signed the treaty

According to UN Women: 
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international legal instrument that requires countries to eliminate discrimination against women and girls in all areas and promotes women’s and girls’ equal rights.
CEDAW is often described as the international bill of rights for women, and is one of the key international agreements that guides the work of UN Women in achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. CEDAW for Youth is a youth-friendly version of CEDAW, that was authored by a young woman and young man. 
This resource explains why CEDAW is important to youth, describes CEDAW’s impact in advancing gender equality and human rights for women and girls around the world, and summarizes the articles of CEDAW, including the specific forms of discrimination that must be ended and how CEDAW is implemented and monitored.

Using the Youth-Friendly Report

The youth-friendly CEDAW resource is available here and is a great overview of CEDAW. I recommend it for a troop meeting where young people can read it and learn about their rights under international law. After reviewing the youth summary as a group, some activities you can do:

  • In small groups, different groups can have a different article that they are meant to "market." How would you explain and promote this right on TV, radio, or in print? Create a full-page ad or TV/radio sketch as a group, and present it to the rest of your troop.
  • Have a reflection moment where girls can write down thoughts about international standards for rights for girls. How does it make them feel that 191 countries have signed the treaty? Why is it important to have a treaty? How did this exercise help them to realize their own rights? This exercise can also be an opportunity to use the creative arts, such as poetry: ask girls to translate their thoughts/feelings/reflections into a freeform poem. At the end, girls who volunteer to can present their poem to the troop (do not pressure girls to perform their poems, as they can be deeply personal in nature; if no one volunteers, perhaps a troop leader can volunteer to go first). 
  • Pretend that your troop has been asked to draft an "alternative report" to the CEDAW committee on the status of girls rights in your community and country. What are some of the issues you would want to discuss? What are some things that your country is doing well and what are some areas of improvement? What kind of evidence would you use, or how would you strategize to find the evidence you need to prove your point?
  • For US Girl Scouts: The United States has not ratified the treaty, meaning that it is not subject to review by the CEDAW treaty body. Do you think the US should? Why do you think the US has still not ratified the treaty? What do you think is the value of being subject to review? If you think ratifying the treaty is a good idea, what would you do to advocate for ratification? Create an advocacy action plan/strategy, such as talking to local representatives, create an ad campaign, write a report that you can publish online, write op-eds for your local paper, etc. As a troop pick at least one idea and do it!
UNICEF also has a youth-friendly CEDAW document which I highly recommend as well. You can check it out here to decide what works best for the age level of your troop.

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