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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is CEDAW?

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, also known as CEDAW (pronounced see-daw), is an international bill of rights that focuses on women’s rights as human rights and addresses the advancement of women. The treaty was adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly, and it defines discrimination against women as "...any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."

Of the 194 member states of the United Nations that have ratified CEDAW, the United States is one of the seven countries that have not, along with the Pacific Island nations of Tonga and Palua; Iran, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan. Then-President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty in 1980, but it has been languishing in the Senate ever since.

2. What is a local CEDAW Ordinance?

Following the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, where Hilary Clinton famously delcared "Women's rights are human rights," the women of San Francisco decided that instead of waiting for the Senate to ratify CEDAW, they would take action and adopt a local CEDAW Ordinance. 

In 1998, San Francisco became the first municipality to adopt a local CEDAW Ordinance (No.128-98). The ordinance requires the City & County of San Francisco to take action in the form of preventive and forward-thinking measures to ensure that the City & County resources, policies, and actions do no intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against women and girls from any community.

3. What is the Commission on the Status of Women?

Established in 1975, the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women is a seven member body appointed by the Mayor, its purpose it is to ensure that women and girls have equal opportunities throughout the City and County of San Francisco.

Following the adoption of the local CEDAW Ordinance, the Commission was designated the official government agency to implement the principles of CEDAW in San Francisco, and tasked to ensure that women and girls have equal economic, social, politicial, and educational opportunities.

4. When are Commission meetings?

Commission meetings are held at 4 pm on the fourth Wednesday of the month and take place in City Hall, Room 408. To receive up to date information, sign up for monthly newsletter or contact our office at 415-252-2570, dosw@sfgov.org.

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