City actions, including Cities for CEDAW
Government actors and advocates with experience using human rights in local governance have identified a number of factors that contribute to positive outcomes in efforts to advance gender equity through human rights. The following section highlights key considerations related to operationalizing CEDAW locally.
Legal Tools & Infrastructure
As described throughout this resource, resolutions, proclamations, ordinances, and executive directives all play a role in promoting and protecting women’s human rights across the country. In the jurisdictions taking steps to enshrine CEDAW into local law, the approaches vary according to the unique legal and political context, and the local institutional landscape.
A key factor that influences efforts to advance women’s human rights is the infrastructure in place for implementation. Examples of local CEDAW implementation illustrate that local Departments on the Status of Women, Commissions on the Status of Women, Human Rights Agencies, and Commission Auditors can all play key roles in advancing gender equity. Each of these entities can set gender equity goals, contribute to data collection and analysis, liaise with civil society, contribute to human rights trainings across a jurisdiction, and encourage and support the efforts of agencies and departments to conduct human rights audits of policies, procedures, and staffing.
Regardless of which entities are charged with implementing laws, policies, and procedures that advance gender equity, it is important to ensure that there is a clear individual or office with decision‐making authority designated to devote consistent attention and strategic direction to integrating CEDAW into local governance, and committed to doing so over the long‐term. The examples explored in this resource further underscore the importance of ensuring that there is an oversight body that has expertise with gender equity and human rights, the power to convene city agencies and departments, authority to request and collect data from across a jurisdiction, capacity to provide training and technical support, and sufficient resources. More intangible factors, such as existing partnerships and allies, as well as perceived legitimacy, should also be taken into account.
Several jurisdictions, including Eugene, Oregon, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Los Angeles, California, demonstrate how executive‐level engagement, including by the city manager and mayor, can help to ensure the integration of human rights into governance. Mayoral leadership can raise the profile of gender equity and catalyze progress due to the executive’s unique ability to set policy objectives and incentivize implementation.114 Executive leadership, in tandem with institutional capacity for oversight, is vital for long term success.
Transparency & Public Participation
In many of the jurisdictions mentioned above, local groups have played a key role in shaping CEDAW‐ based initiatives to respond to local needs. Indeed, the human rights framework calls on governments to prioritize transparency and work hand in hand with impacted communities to develop sustainable solutions to inequality. This includes fostering meaningful participation in planning, implementing, and evaluating policies, including by ensuring access to information and engaging marginalized groups in decision‐making.115 By empowering impacted communities to influence outcomes, and by engaging in genuine partnership with civil society, government agencies and officials can ensure that policies and programs reach their intended beneficiaries and that community voices are taken into account. Broad participation in policy development can also increase public support and awareness of particular initiatives.116
A clear way to foster transparency and participation is to make government documents, like gender analyses, widely available. To date, the cities implementing CEDAW have made their reports and gender analyses public, or have pledged to do so.117
Many of the jurisdictions using human rights in local law and policy have also created an explicit role for residents to participate in needs assessments and to shape law and policy solutions through taskforces, formal partnerships, and outreach.118 Periodic public hearings, dialogues, consultations, and community roundtables119 all offer additional opportunities for community members to contribute to discussions on what policies are most effective, and to identify areas where more work needs to be done. Local government representatives have emphasized that personal testimony on the real life impacts of gender inequity is a powerful way to illustrate the problems that these laws seek to address.
It is important to reach out to diverse community stakeholders and partners, including particularly vulnerable and marginalized populations (including youth, women with disabilities, and immigrant women). To maximize inclusion, governments should take into account potential barriers to effective engagement, such as language and literacy, geography, and physical accessibility. Indeed, CEDAW calls for an inclusive, intersectional approach to fostering equality, as discussed on p. 5.
The Role of the Private Sector
CEDAW addresses aspects of public and private life, including health, education, and employment. Accordingly, public sector engagement with the private sector is critical to ensuring gender equity at the city, county, and state level. Local governments have a variety of tools at their disposal to encourage, support, and collaborate with the private sector to strengthen gender equity.120
One area where public/private partnerships are essential to greater gender equity is employment, given that the majority of women in the United States work in the private sector. Recognizing the importance of private sector employment, the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women worked together with private entities to establish the Gender Equality Principles (GEPs), a set of standards to assist private companies in addressing gender equity and promoting effective practices.121 Comprised of seven principles to promote gender equitable workplaces, the GEPs address issues such as compensation, work‐life balance, and supply chain management. The GEPs have been adopted as the Women’s Empowerment Principles by the United Nations.122
Local governments can work with corporations, educational institutions, and other partners to raise awareness of equity and human rights initiatives, conduct research into best practices, and advance CEDAW principles in an array of sectors to expand the reach of gender equity laws and practices. These collaborations also offer an opportunity to leverage additional resources and expertise.