By Nicole Klungle
October 31st, 2012
Editor’s note: Throughout the fall, VQR will be posting educational information related to women’s rights, to extend and support the articles in our Fall 2012 issue on The Female Conscience.
A woman born in the United States in 1920 could expect to live 57 years, on average—until 1977.
In that time, she would see the adoption of a constitutional amendment granting women the vote. She would witness a surge of women entering the workforce, personified by Rosie the Riveter during World War II. And she would be there for the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision (summary here), which legalized abortion with some restrictions.
A girl born in 1977 can expect to live about 75 years. A girl born today—at least 80.
So much progress. And still so much to do.
Just a few of the problems still facing women around the world:
• The continuing disparity in opportunities and pay for men and women in the workplace
• Discrimination against women based on ethnicity and sexual orientation
• Inadequate general and reproductive healthcare
• The sexual mutilation of women to preserve chastity and marriageability
• The denial of education to women
Recognition of a woman’s equality in both word and deed won’t happen on its own. Here’s a look at some of the organizations defining and fighting for women’s rights.
In the year 2000, the United Nations set eight Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs). Number three on the list was to “promote gender equality and empower women.”
UN Women is the part of the UN that helps member nations make that abstract goal concrete. They focus on eliminating violence against women, equalizing the status and wages of women in the workforce, increasing women’s voice in politics and government, and ensuring education for women.
The UN has also created the gold standard in women’s rights declarations, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). A UN committee monitors each nation’s progress toward establishing and protecting women’s rights.
Check out the UN’s WomenWatch site for global news, campaigns, and events related to women.
Human Rights Watch is a human rights organization that regularly investigates women’s rights issues. HRW puts experts on the ground around the world to interview witnesses and victims. They send observers to trials and talk with local officials. And they record it all so they can share it with the public, the media, and governments. Visit the HRW Topics section for a mind-expanding list of human rights issues, including women’s rights topics.
Like HRW, Amnesty International monitors human rights worldwide and advises governments and the media. It also mobilizes grassroots campaigns to pressure politicians and to support activists, political prisoners, and victims of rights abuses. It’s worth checking the main Amnesty International site and the AI US web site for news and activist opportunities related to women’s rights.
In the United States, NOW is your one-stop shop for nonpartisan national women’s rights, and it pulls no punches when it comes to advocating for women’s rights in all spheres of American life. Visit the NOW site for platform statements on legislative issues like abortion and reproductive rights, LGBT rights, and racism.
The League of Women Voters is dedicated to getting informed women to the polls everywhere in the US. If you need to register to vote, find your polling place, or understand your ballot, the LWV is there to help. Visit Vote411.org or your state and local LWV chapters close to election time for nonpartisan voter guides and a preview of your ballot. The LWV also advises lawmakers on issues related to women voters.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) takes human rights issues to the courts. Making the most of our government’s checks-and-balances system, they both advise lawmakers and litigate everything from high-end national policy decisions to individual rights abuses. Many of these are women’s rights issues. The ACLU’s blog channel for women’s rights highlights critical issues and women’s rights activists nationwide.
Like the ACLU, the National Women’s Law Center works in both the US legislative and judicial arenas. Unlike the ACLU, the NWLC focuses exclusively on laws and policies affecting women. Visit the NWLC’s issues page for an overview of their activities, as well as comprehensive and detailed fact sheets on specific issues.
A woman’s right to reproductive healthcare—and to make her own reproductive choices—is a cornerstone of women’s rights advocacy. NARAL promotes legislative action at the national and state levels to secure a woman’s right to abortion, contraception, sex education, maternal health, and general reproductive health. Their site offers state-by-state report cards.
Planned Parenthood operates over 800 clinics that provide essential reproductive-health services, including PAP smears, STD testing and treatment, contraception, and abortion. One in five women in the US have visited a Planned Parenthood health center, and this reach has given Planned Parenthood a powerful voice when informing policymakers and the media—in the US and internationally. Planned Parenthood is also active in the court systems, challenging laws that threaten the rights and privacy of women. Both the healthcare centers and the Planned Parenthood web site provide detailed, fact-based information on general and reproductive healthcare for both men and women.
If you want to see some great examples of feet-on-the-ground human rights action, visit MADRE. MADRE supports local organizations working to resolve immediate human rights crises for women around the world. Many of these crises may never be addressed by governments, or can’t wait for government intervention. MADRE also offers ways to get involved from home.
Like MADRE, many of the organizations mentioned here operate campaigns you can join wherever you are. Ultimately, it’s not the organizations that make the difference—it’s the individuals powering those organizations. Don’t forget to visit the “Take Action” or “Get Involved” sections of these sites for inspiration on how you can help make progress in our lifetime.
About the author: Nicole Klungle is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Fall 2012: Female Conscience