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Women Worldwide...The Continuing Struggle for Advancement and Empowerment

As the days count down to the passing of the millennium, women worldwide continue the long journey of advancement in all spheres: political, educational, employment, health care, economic, social, legal, and familial.

In Kavitha's dispatch she writes about how girls aren't often listened to or thought of when it comes to education. Then Monica wrote about a topic which has been at the forefront of the women's rights movement since its origin - women's role in the economy. All over the globe, including Mali, women struggle to earn money, recognition and empowerment. The Office du Niger is one establishment in Mali striving towards this goal.

Not only does it manage the largest irrigation works in West Africa, the Office du Niger also serves as a tool to increase women's political activity and elevate their status in Mali. However, Mali is not alone in the struggle to gain empowerment for women. It is an issue which reaches all corners of the earth.

Vocabulary Box

civil - relating to government or community
ratify - to sign to make a real law
initiated - started

On an international level, the United Nations will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Twenty years ago, in December 1979, CEDAW was adopted. Two years later, on September 3, 1981, the treaty was established. Currently, more than two-thirds of the members of the United Nations have ratified the CEDAW. Known as the international Bill of Rights for Women, the mission of CEDAW is to advance the status of women by eliminating all forms of discrimination against women - civil, political, economic and cultural.

Among the long list of State Parties to ratify the Convention (CEDAW), Mali joined the crusade in 1985 along with many others. What year did the United States ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women? For a country so proud of its democratic traditions, one might think that the treaty was ratified at the outset. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The United States is one of the few remaining countries that refuses to ratify this important world treaty. Currently 50 Senators have expressed their support for CEDAW, 8 are against it, and 43 have not made a decision (Text/statistics taken directly from the National Organization for Women web site).

Senator Diane Feinstein (Democrat - California) has initiated a "Dear Colleague" letter which is being circulated through the Senate offices. She needs your help, the treaty needs your help, and women throughout the world need your help.

Whether at a national, local, or grass-roots level, the greatest tool we possess is our voice. Make your voice heard and back good intentions with action!

How you can help:

  • Set up a booth at school to promote awareness of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Inform and educate about the necessity of ratifying this treaty in the United States. No matter where you live you can do this! You can check out the full text of the Convention at
  • If you are American, send a letter to your local Senator and let them know why they should support the treaty. To contact your Senators call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, write to The Honorable (full name)/U.S. Senate/Washington, D.C. 20510 or check for their e-mail addresses.
  • Encourage those who stop by the booth to send letters to their Senators.
  • If you aren't American, then choose a prominent member of the Senate and write them anyway, explaining why the convention is important for ALL people EVERYWHERE!

Steps to take:

  • Always do your homework - research the topic of women's rights in the United States to educate not only yourself, but those you must convince to ratify the treaty.
  • Gather information on current issues facing women in your society today - socially, politically, economically and culturally. What bothers you the most? What would you like to see changed? It is sometimes a helpful hint to begin with what is personal and extend that into the broader context of women in the world.
  • Another research tool is interaction with other students through discussion groups and/or collective thinking.
  • Once you gather your research, plan the booth you would like to set up. You may want to have helpful information on hand, such as important web sites, statistics you found, and information that other students may not be aware of in regards to the topic of women's advancement and empowerment.
  • Another idea is to create a flyer with the essential information included on it. This can be passed out to visitors of the booth. Be sure to include addresses, web sites, phone numbers and anything else you discover in your research and deem important. Encourage visitors to the booth to send letters and conduct research of their own.
  • Finally, be sure to write your own letter to a Senator. Choose one or two issues currently facing women in your society to support your argument. This is your opportunity to voice your opinions and play an active role in furthering the advancement and empowerment of women in the United States.
It all begins with the first step...Help shape the direction of the path!

Abeja - French Influence Does Not A Paris Make
Team - Why Have the Gods Deserted Me?!? - The Magic of the Book, Segu
Monica - Keeping Up with the Fulani - Jewelry, Parties, and Romps in the Forest
Monica - Not Just a Desk Job: Women, Rice Cultivation, and the Office du Niger
Kavitha - From Word of Mouth to Word from the Wise

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