January 30, 2019

Review: Women’s March Looks at the ERA

The Women's Wave workshop brought a wave of women and men to the Amerlinghaus on the afternoon of the global Women's March.

After a rousing and competitive trivia round, everyone settled in and watched the documentary film "Equal Means Equal," which detailed the history of women fighting for equal rights and protection under the law through the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Thirteen states have not ratified the ERA, which was introduced by Alice Paul in 1923.

After the film, Dardis McNamee, the Editor in Chief and Publisher of METROPOLE Vienna in English, spoke to the group and combined her personal experiences with historical perspectives on feminism and equal rights. McNamee explained that the issue of gender equality strikes at the heart of every home, relationship and family. It creates a war within women because they feel they don't want to hurt the people they love. This is mainly because of the myth that equal rights for women is a zero-sum game, where it is perceived as personal abandonment in a husband and wife relationship. She had perceived early on that the fight for women's rights would take longer than the fight for equal rights for African Americans.

She stressed that the only way to discuss this issue and gain our rights is to approach our loved ones with compassion by listening to their concerns, fears, and anxieties. Along with compassion and a listening ear, McNamee also urged the predominantly female audience to use "humor as ammunition," because sometimes that is one of the only ways we as women can get through the daily struggles we face.

Next to speak was Laurie Richardson, Chair of the NGO Committee on the Status of Vienna and UN Liaison for FAWCO. She began with some interesting statistics, most surprisingly that out of 197 countries with a constitution, 18 have no provisions about equality or non-discrimination based on sex. She also cited data from the World Economic Forum about the nations with the lowest gender equality gap, with Scandinavian countries dominating the top of the list, but also some surprises. The most chilling information she shared with us is that the United States has signed, but refused to join, not only the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), but also other key UN conventions including on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and on Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She stated that the main reason the US has hesitated on such important conventions was the excuse that it would violate the rights of each individual state (i.e. federalism). She encouraged everyone to petition their state to adopt and join these conventions at the state level.

For the final portion of the workshop, the group wrote postcards to the states of Virginia and North Carolina urging the leadership to vote to ratify the ERA.

The organizers hope that the Women's Wave and the #MeToo movements will continue to fight for gender equality and hold our leaders accountable to addressing all social, economic and health issues surrounding women. Perhaps the Women's Wave and the Blue Wave will be enough to stem the tide of sexism in the US and result in lasting change in 2020 and beyond.

To learn more about the ERA and what you can do to make sure it gets ratified, please visit: http://equalmeansequal.com/

For more information on what UN Women does, visit: http://www.unwomen.org

– Faith Hall Herbold, Member-at-Large