Working Group on Ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

May 11, 2003

Leila R. Milani
NGO Liaison for Women's Issues
National Spiritual Assembly
of the Bahá'ís of the United States
1320 19th Street, N.W. Suite 701
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 833-8990 · fax: (202) 833-8988

Sarah C. Albert
Public Policy Director
General Federation of Women's Clubs
1734 N Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 347-3168 · fax: (202) 835-0246

May 11, 2003
The Honorable George W. Bush
The President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush,

On May 11th America will celebrate Mother's Day, a tribute to the essential role mothers play in building a stable, safe, and productive society. While we celebrate the many contributions that mothers make to our children, families, cities and country, we must be mindful of the fundamental human rights that not only enable, but ultimately empower them to make these vital contributions. In view of this, we the undersigned organizations are writing you and First Lady Laura Bush in honor of Mother's Day, and to ask for your support in promoting the most basic human rights of women and mothers worldwide by ratifying the United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Around the world, at least 4 million women and girls are sold into sexual slavery each year. Two-thirds of the world's 875 million illiterate adults are women. More than 510,000 women die annually from pregnancy-related complications. Women are four times more vulnerable than men to HIV/AIDS, with 1.3 million dying each year. An estimated 25 to 39 percent of all women experience domestic violence. Given these facts, one must examine the process by which mothers, who live in these conditions and constitute these statistics, contribute to the well being of their families and societies.

CEDAW provides a universal standard for women's human rights. It addresses discrimination in areas such as education, employment, marriage and family relations, health care, politics, finance and law. The treaty celebrates motherhood by creating stronger families, communities and economies. Only when women are fully and equally involved in decision-making can we achieve sustainable communities that build the foundation for a better environmental future. To date, 173 countries have ratified the Treaty for the Rights of Women (CEDAW). The United States is the only industrialized nation that has failed to do so, putting us in the company of countries like Iran, North Korea and Sudan. Without U.S. ratification, other governments feel free to ignore CEDAW's mandate and their obligations under it.

As you noted last year, "A thriving nation will respect the rights of women, because no society can prosper while denying opportunity to half its citizens." U.S. commitment to women's rights must go beyond words. Ratification of CEDAW is a decisive act that will send a strong message to the world that we are indeed a champion of human rights and the rule of law and that women's rights are critical to the establishment of democracies and civil societies.

During the last several months, the world has seen an even greater struggle for freedom and the promotion of fundamental human rights. The success of these efforts is contingent upon the protection and promotion of women's most basic human rights. What better way to celebrate Mother's Day in the United States and throughout the world than by sending a strong message that the United States supports the universally agreed upon rights for women to live free from violence, have the right to a basic education, the right to vote, access to health care, and the right to own and inherit property.

We urge you to work to ensure immediate ratification of the Treaty for the Rights of Women (CEDAW).

Alaska Pro-Choice America
Albany Regional Community
American Association of University Women
American Federation of Teachers
American Friends Service Committee
American Humanist Association
Americans for Democratic Action
Amnesty International USA
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
Business and Professional Women/USA
Campaign for U.N. Reform
Catholics for a Free Choice
Center for Ethics in Action
Center for Reproductive Rights
Center for Women's Policy Studies
Chicago Women - Church
Choice USA
Church Women United
Congregation of the Humility of Mary
Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc.
A Critical Mass: Women Celebrating Eucharist
8th Day Center for Justice
Elizabeth Seton Federation
Episcopal Church USA
Equality Now
Family Violence Prevention Fund
Feminist Majority Foundation
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Friends of the National Hook-up of Black Women, Inc.
Gaia Women
The General Federation of Women's Clubs
Global Plan Initiative
Gray Panthers
The Hunger Project
Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Institute Justice Team
Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - Mercy Justice Committee Regional Community of Connecticut
Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Regional Community of Dallas, PA
Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Regional Community of North Carolina Justice Team
Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Regional Community of St. Louis
Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Institute, Region 2 New Hampshire
International Association of Schools of Social Work
International Center for Research on Women
International Eye Foundation
International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA)
International Women's Health Coalition
Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Women's Coalition
Kodiak Women's Resource and Crisis Center
Leadership Team Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of New Jersey
League of Women Voters of the U.S.
Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Men Can Stop Rape
Mercy Center Bronx
Mercy Collaborative Ministries
Mercy Professional Services
Montgomery County Commission for Women
Ms. Foundation for Women
National Abortion Federation
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
National Association of Commissions for Women
National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health (NPWH)
National Association of Social Workers
National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
National Center on Poverty Law
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Coalition of American Nuns
National Committee on the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Women's Organizations
National Education Association
National Organization for Women
National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the US
National Women's Conference
Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Northwest Women's Law Center
NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
Open Society Policy Center
Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Planned Parenthood of New York City
Population Connection
The Population Institute
Presbyterian Church (USA), Washington Office
Project Irene
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Sierra Club
Sinsinawa Dominicans Peace and Justice Office - Sinsinawa Women's Network
Sisters of Mercy
Sisters of Mercy - Mercy International Justice Network
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Brooklyn Regional Community
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Regional Community of Buffalo
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Regional Community of Merion
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Rochester Regional Community
Sisters of Mercy Pittsburgh Regional Community
Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of Baltimore
Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of Connecticut
Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of New Jersey Justice Circle
Soroptimist International of the Americas
SSSF Pax Area Community
Statewide California Coalition of Battered Women
Tahirih Justice Center
Texas Association Against Sexual Assault
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United Nations Association of the United States of America
The U.S. Committee for UNIFEM
Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs
Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Inc.
Women and Philanthropy
Women Employed
Women's Action for New Directions (WAND)/Women's Legislators' Lobby (WILL)
Women's Bar Association of the State of New York
Women's Business Development Center
Women's Edge
Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom U.S. Section
The Women's Office - Sisters of Charity, B.V.M.
Women's Ordination Conference
Women Sports International
Women's Sports Foundation
Women of Reform Judaism
World Federalist Association
World Learning
World Vision
YWCA of McKeesport