Cities for CEDAW

What is Cities for CEDAW?

Cities for CEDAW is a nationwide, grassroots effort to encourage local governments to become more gender equitable. Research shows that inadvertent discrimination is common without a proactive review of city activities. CEDAW ordinances require cities to evaluate their programs and budgets and ensure they affect men and women equitably. It is a process, a fairer way of operating, not a separate program. If there is no discrimination, great! But where it is found, these laws help cities make changes to become more equitable.

But what is CEDAW?  It is the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW). This is the only international human rights treaty that focuses entirely on ending discrimination against women. It addresses important issues such as:

●  Equal pay for women

●  Elimination of violence against women

●  Support for families and caregivers

CEDAW – Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

CEDAW was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979, more than 35 years ago, yet the UNITED STATES is one of only six countries – out of 196 nations – that still has not ratified this treaty.* In the meantime, the Cities for CEDAW campaign is bringing these rights to our cities.


Cities for CEDAW Toolkit

UN Womens A Cities for CEDAW toolkit (pdf)

Promoting Women’s Equality in Your Community Guidelines and Toolkit

Download toolkit
Which Countries have Ratified CEDAW

Only a Handful of Nations Have Not Adopted This U.N. Human Rights Agreement

The United States was one of the first signatories of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women when it was adopted by the U.N. in 1979.  A year later, President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty and sent it to the Senate for ratification. But Carter, in the final year of his presidency, did not have the political leverage to get senators to act on the measure.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is charged with ratifying treaties and international agreements, has debated CEDAW five times since 1980. In 1994, for instance, the Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on CEDAW and recommended it be ratified. But North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, a leading conservative and longtime CEDAW opponent, used his seniority to block the measure from going to the full Senate. Similar debates in 2002 and 2010 also failed to advance the treaty.


Who is involved in Cities for CEDAW?

Across the USA, different civic organizations take the lead. The initiative is non-partisan and promotes no specific program. Over 200 civic organizations nationwide have endorsed Cities for CEDAW.

ZONTA INTERNATIONAL Is one of over 200 Organizations supporting Cities for CEDAW.

LosAngeles CEDAW Law - sample


We invite you to become peer leaders in your city or village. If you are an NGO, connect with a governmental organization, or with an NGO if you are governmental. This partnership is critical for success.

In addition,  please take a look at the resources on the link below to help you get involved and take action for the Cities for CEDAW campaign.


Background Reading:
Columbia Transnational Law Journal in August 2021 in regard to the US ratification of CEDAW
Penn Law Journal of Social Policy and the Law in 2017
 Cities for CEDAW Organization:
The CEDAW Trilogy – Jill Follows

The three individual plays make up THE CEDAW TRILOGY.  These plays were presented at the [...]


Watch the CEDAW Trilogy

A fictionalized account of how CEDAW came to be, from initial discussions, to ratified Convention, to local adoption in Fairfax County VA

Cities for CEDAW Ordinances vs Resolutions

Zonta USA Clubs and CEDAW

Zonta Club of Toledo and “Toledo for CEDAW”

On April 4, 2018 Zonta Club of Toledo hosted 112 women and men from dozens of area organizations to discuss the p0ssibility of “Toledo for CEDAW”.

In 1979 the United Nations passed CEDAW…the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.  We want to give a special thank you to our presenter, Lee Fogarty, Zonta Club of Pittsburgh!

Here is a link to Lee’s Powerpoint presentation.

Zonta Clubs of Colorado State for CEDAW

Colorado Zonta Clubs took the lead in working with Rep. Alice Borodkin to draft and pass a joint resolution in support of CEDAW on March 10, 2008, which puts Colorado on record urging the US Senate to ratify the women’s treaty. Zontians worked with other organizations and within their own clubs to move this pro-women agenda through the legislature. Zonta continues to push the U.S. Senate to ratify this treaty.

Zonta District 11 has Sample letters

Club Resources for CEDAW Advocacy

  • Sample Letter for individuals to Any Senator Re: CEDAW
  • Sample CEDAW Resolution for Zonta Clubs Sample Letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 2009
  • CEDAW Template Club letter to Your Senator 2009
  • Sample Letter for individuals to Your Senator 2009

CEDAW was introduced adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1979 and is often described as an International Bill of Rights for Women, providing the basis for realizing equality between women and men. Read the full text of the Convention here.

 (source Zonta Foothills club)


CEDAW was introduced to the U.S. Congress in 1982 and has been ratified by 186 out of 193 countries. Only seven countries have not ratified it: Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Nauru, Palau, Tonga and the United States. The U.S. is the only democratic nation that has not ratified CEDAW.

Zonta International take a strong stand in support of the ratification of CEDAW. If you would like to take a position on behalf of human rights visit our ZI web site for sample letters that advocate for the US ratification of the Convention

Updates on Cities for CEDAW and Local Ordinances and Proclamations

Rep Bowan and 17 members of Congress Urge Biden to Prioritize CEDAW

NEWS: Reps. Bowman & Norton Lead 17-Member Letter Urging Biden Administration to Prioritize Ratification of [...]

The CEDAW Trilogy – Jill Follows

The three individual plays make up THE CEDAW TRILOGY.  These plays were presented at the [...]

Cities for CEDAW recommendations

City actions, including Cities for CEDAW Recommended Considerations Government actors and advocates with experience [...]

CEDAW and Abortion Rights:

CEDAW and Abortion Rights

Zonta International Statement on Womens Sexual and Reproductive Health

Equality and empowerment of women are global issues. Women’s rights are human rights and a [...]

Why Won’t the U.S. Ratify the CEDAW Human Rights Treaty?

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is charged with ratifying treaties and international agreements, has [...]