Who is the lead organization for the campaign?
The lead organization is the New York City for CEDAW steering committee.
New York City for CEDAW was formed in 2014 after the NGO Forum for CSW58 in New York. Sheila Dallas Katzman was named chair. While the task force felt strongly that CEDAW legislation should be passed in New York City, it soon became apparent that the constituencies of these NGOs were mostly international with limited local representation in New York City communities. As a result, it was necessary for the organization to seek further alliances beyond the United Nations.
The present structure is led by a Steering Committee of nine active members representing nine civil society organizations. Future plans are for day-to-day operations to be led by three lead organizations that have strong reach into New York neighborhoods and that understand the political and personal dynamics of the City Council. Other organizations within the city will also have important roles in supplementing responsibilities of the lead organizations. Black Women’s Blueprint is the first lead and we are presently in negotiation with the two others.
What are your achievements and plan of action?
Thus far, a Resolution has been drafted by a coalition organization, the New York County Lawyers (NYCLA) and currently being reviewed by the NYCLA Board of Directors.
NYC4CEDAW has been building bridges with key City Council Members and with the Mayor’s office. NYC4CEDAW has been instrumental in building the relationship between the Mayoral administration and NGOCSW/NY. This has resulted in the City signing a Memorandum of Understanding for Safe Cities with UN Women. We have had meetings with senior officials in the Mayor’s office.
After a long period of marginalization, the City’s Commission on Status of Women has become reinvigorated with the establishment of the Commission on Gender Equity with the First Lady as Honorary Chair and the Mayor’s Counsel as the Co-Chair. It also includes key members of the Mayor’s administration as Commissioners. City Council Members Laurie Cumbo, Chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues, and Julissa Ferreras, Chair of the Committee on Finance, have agreed to sponsor the legislation in the City Council. We have also reached out to the offices of the five Borough Presidents to assist us in public outreach and education in city neighborhoods.
The climate is right for a Women’s Bill of Rights based on the principles of CEDAW.
The major strategy of NYC4CEDAW is a grassroots focus. The goal is not only to pass legislation but to also successfully and sustainably implement it and to establish an oversight body that actively seeks the involvement of members of the public. When strong public participation has been lacking, there have been innumerable examples when a newly elected mayor has sidelined or even disbanded the initiatives of his predecessor. There are also examples when a mayor’s goal has been to consider legislation only as a part of their record for reelection and not necessarily with concerns for sustainable implementation. The public needs to understand this legislation as a solution to gender issues. The public must feel that they have input in the way the legislation is written and that they also, most importantly, must believe that the structures developed will have a place for their input and involvement.
Who are your strategic partners within the city government and/or council? in civil society, stakeholders, businesses etc.?
Community Organizations: Women’s City Club of NY, the International Association of Women in Radio and Television-USA, United Nations Association-USA, Amnesty International/New York, Zonta International, PowHer New York, New York County Lawyers Association and the Women’s City Club of New York.
Advising Organizations: The Human Rights Institute at Columbia University Law School, US Human Rights Network, Amnesty International/New York, Planned Parenthood, and Ellen Chesler of the Roosevelt Institute.
City Government: The City Council Office of the Committee on Women’s Issues, The Public Advocates Office, The Borough Presidents and the Mayor’s Office.
…and still actively building alliances.
Who is responsible for CEDAW implementation in the city?
The implementing organization in the city has not yet been determined although interest in implementation has been expressed by various City agencies including in the Office of the Mayor.
New York City government is divided into four branches: the Executive (Mayor); the Public Advocate; the Legislative (City Council) and the Comptroller (financial). The City Council would have an important role in budgeting and in oversight, but they do not have the capacity, as outlined in the City Charter, to administer. The Comptroller, while having an important financial role, is not the office for administration. Within the Executive, there is both the Human Rights Commission and the new Gender Commission. There have been questions raised over whether either of these Commissions has the ability to actively maintain a gender perspective on all the activities of City Government. There is also the question of the political will to follow through on gender issues when they may conflict with other political goals the Mayor is pursuing. The role of the Public Advocate, according to the City Charter, is to provide outside oversight of the roles of the City Council and the Government and to represent issues from the public to the other branches of government. This role would seem complimentary of the role we are seeking for this legislation. However, the downside of the Public Advocate is that the office is not well-budgeted and does not presently have the institutional capacity to administer this law. Another option is to use humanitarian organizations to implement the law outside of government.
A consensus has not yet been reached as to the implementing organization.
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