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Human Rights for Women and People with Disabilities

By Alexandra Mazzeo*

Yesterday, The Opportunity Agenda and the U.S. Human Rights Network hosted a telebriefing on two key human rights treaties and efforts toward U.S. ratification.

David Morrissey, Executive Director of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities shared developments surrounding the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This week we celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Morrissey commented that any past disabilities legislation has received bipartisan support. The Convention would be no exception. Morrissey stated that gaining rights for people with disabilities is part of the overall global movement for human rights. Ratifying the Convention could mark the beginning of an evolution in the understanding of human rights that includes rights for people with disabilities. Morrissey emphasized that is it the responsibility of everyone who believes in a fair society to get involved and give life to this treaty.

June Zeitlin, Director of the CEDAW Education Project at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, echoed Morrissey’s message opening with the much quoted phrase, “women’s rights are human rights.” Although it was signed in 1980, the US is one of only seven countries that have failed to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Over thirty years of implementation has produced numerous success stories of countries using CEDAW to advance the political and civil rights of women. Zeitlin believes that the U.S. must strengthen its voice of support for CEDAW if it wants to truly be a global leader in women’s rights. LCCR is leading a strong coalition of women’s rights and human rights organizations pushing for U.S. ratification of CEDAW.

Ejim Dike, Director of Human Rights at the Urban Justice Center, wrapped up the discussion with grassroots strategies for ratification. She reminded everyone that ratification of treaties is only one step to ensuring human rights for all. Only when women and people with disabilities experience equality in their daily lives will the task be accomplished.

*Alexandra Mazzeo is a rising sophomore at the Villanova University where she studies finance. She is a communications intern for NCRW and hopes to pursue a law degree after graduating in 2013.

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