“Bringing the Beijing Platform for Action to the Grassroots of California”

Convenor: Julianne Cartwright Traylor
Facilitator: Lois A.Prentice
Recorders: Lisa Corman and Somava Saha Stout
“We are women of vision, unified across our diversity, and committed in partnership to the celebration, evolution of, promotion, respect for and enforcement of our human rights. We are all working – as our keynote speaker Bella Abzug so aptly phrased it, ‘…for a just and humane order in which all people can live together in harmony.'”

A statement presented to the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 in Beijing on behalf of representatives of more than 70 non- governmental organizations (NGOs) remarked that “…in fact, this entire Conference is a conference about the human rights of women. Whether addressing poverty, sexist educational systems, inadequate health care, gender- based violence, or male bias in the definition of what constitutes peace, all the issues of the Platform for Action are about the inequality of human rights in the economic, political and cultural spheres and women’s lack of equal access to the fundamental conditions that make the exercise of political and civil rights viable. The issue of insufficient mechanisms at all levels to promote the advancement of women and the girl child is the question of justice and justice is at the heart of human rights.”

We are faced with these same issues of concern here in California. Violence against women and girls both violates and impairs/nullifies the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Here in California, as in many other areas, many women face additional barriers to the enjoyment of their human rights because of such factors as race, language, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, religion, disability or socio-economic class, or because they are indigenous people, migrants, including migrant workers, displaced women or refugees. These cross-cutting issues, and others that define the discussions and action plans of the Human Rights Task Force include globalization, ageism, patriarchal/male political and economic dominant power, and militarism.

While women are using the legal system increasingly to exercise their rights, lack of awareness of these rights is an obstacle that prevents them from fully enjoying their human rights and attaining equality.

Thus, we believe that Human Rights in California is a cross-cutting issue that affects all of the critical areas of concern as defined in the Beijing Platform for Action. We believe that all of the work of CAWA is about the human rights of women and girl children. All of the ideas and action plans under the 12 Critical Areas of Concern that form CAWA’s work – including human rights – provide the foundation and framework for a broad policy agenda which if implemented, would improve the human rights of women and the girl child, and society as a whole.

At the Beijing Conference, three strategic objectives for action concerning human rights were identified:

Strategic Objective I.1.
Promote and protect the human rightsof women,through the full implementation of all human rights instruments, especially the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW);

Strategic Objective I.2.
Ensure equality and non-discrimination under the law and in practice;

Strategic Objective I.3.
Achieve legal literacy.

U.S. Government Commitments Made at the Beijing Conference:
The United States made 7 commitments toward implementing the Platform for Action at the Beijing Conference. It added an 8th commitment after the Conference. In principle, all of the 8 commitments are relevant to the implementation of the human rights of women and the girl child. More specifically, in Commitment 4, the Clinton Administration considers the ratification of CEDAW to be its top priority among the human rights treaties now awaiting the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

Mindful of these 8 commitments, the following objectives are proposed for California:


  • Promote equality and non-discrimination under the law and in practice.
  • Promote and protect the human rights of women and girl children, through the ratification and full implementation of international human rights treaties. Implement the provisions of those treaties which have already been ratified by the U.S., e.g., the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Torture Convention, and the Genocide Convention.
  • Achieve legal literacy – promote human rights education, especially among women and girl children.

Based on the work begun in Beijing last year, which culminated in the adoption by consensus of the Beijing Platform for Action, California grassroots organizations and community leaders will pursue actions such as the following:
1. Actions To Be Taken By Legislative Bodies (City, County, State, Federal), and Other Governmental Bodies and Organizations

1.1 Promote and protect the human rights of all women and girls, and prevent discrimination on the basis of race, language, religion, opinions, color, disability, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, national origin, property or other status.

1.2 Provide constitutional guarantees and/or enact appropriate legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex for all women and girls of all ages and assure women of all ages equal rights and their full enjoyment.

1.3 Eliminate violence against women, which is a human rights violation.

1.4 Ensure full respect for the human rights of indigenous women, women and girls with disabilities, refugee and displaced women, migrant women and women migrant workers, who must be made aware of their rights and of recourse mechanisms available to them.

1.5 Work actively to ratify and implement international and regional human rights treaties, including CEDAW and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ICCPR, CERD, etc..

1.6 Develop comprehensive human rights education programs, and undertake public education campaigns to raise awareness among women and girls of their human rights and among others of the human rights of women and girls, especially the rights of women and girls under relevant human rights treaties.

1.7 Promote education about human rights in schools, adult education programs, and particularly within groups such as the military, the police and other law enforcement personnel, the judiciary, legal and health professionals.

1.8 Provide gender-sensitive human rights education and training for public officials.

1.9 Establish mechanisms to investigate violations of the human rights of women perpretrated by public officials, and take the necessary punitive legal measures in accordance with the law.

1.10 Review and amend criminal laws and procedures to protect women against discrimination, and against crimes that affect women disproportionately. Prosecute crimes against women regardless of the relationship between the perpretrator and the victim, and ensure that women defendants, victims and/or witnesses are not revictimized or discriminated against in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.

1.11 Strengthen existing or establish readily available and free or affordable alternative administrative mechanisms and legal aid programmes to assist disadvantaged women seeking redress for violations of their rights.

1.12 Eliminate trafikking in women for sexual exploitation, pornography, prostitution, or sex tourism.

1.13 Translate (into local languages, indigenous languages, and formats accessible to people with disabilities), publicize, and disseminate laws and information relating to the equal status and human rights of all women.

2. Actions To Be Taken By NGOs

2.1 Advocate on all governmental levels for the U.S. ratification of international human rights treaties such as CEDAW and CRC and the American Convention on Human Rights.

2.2 Promote the enforcement on all governmental levels, of the provisions of human rights treaties which the U.S. has already ratified.

2.3 Cooperate/advocate with legislators to create and sponsor bills and ordinances, and monitor the implementation of such legislation to protect women’s human rights (e.g., the rights of women migrants, immigrants, refugees and other underrepresented groups (indegenous women), the disabled, of older women.

2.4 Advocate for programs specifically designed to improve the situation of women and minorities, such as affirmative action laws and policies, and against those which would prohibit gender and ethnic preferences in education and government contracting.

2.5 Advocate for a living wage, not just for an increased minimum wage, and support labor unions such as in the garment industry, among migrant workers, and other unions fighting for increased wages, and improved working conditions.

2.6 Advocate for Women Prisoners’ Rights, e.g., prison conditions, health issues, child custody issues, sexual harassment and physical abuse, location of prisons, etc.

2.7 Advocate for changes in the criminal codes which adversely affect women in the criminal justice system.

2.8 Educate and train the public to promote awareness among women and girls of their human rights, especially their rights under relevant human rights treaties – those already ratified by the U.S., and those yet to be ratified. This should be done especially in communities identified as needing such information in order to facilitate the organization and mobilization at the grassroots level of women and girls to overcome victimization and to become agents for change.

2.9 More specifically, promote public education about human rights in schools on all levels, within professional organizations and associations (e.g., legal, health care, trade unions, judiciary, including creating brochures about human rights issues in appropriate languages.

2.10 Research, investigate and report about situations where human rights violations are occurring.

2.11 Conduct voter education campaigns and legislative workshops especially among women with a view toward participation of youth in the election process. Hold politicians accountable to policies and programs to improve the status of women and girls as identified in, for example, the Contract with Women of the USA.

These ideas and plans for action serve as a beginning for work to be done to improve the human rights of women and girl children in the State of California.

Human Rights Task Force members are convinced of the need to continue the work of CAWA, and to form linkages and networks with others on the West Coast. There is an increasing need to develop a West Coast presence on the national scene dealing with women’s rights, and to collaborate more with other networks such as the Working Group on the Human Rights of Women – a coalition of organizations based on the East Coast.

Task Force members expressed the need to continue the work of the President’s Interagency Council on Women.

In addition, West Coast organizations must join and contribute to the evolving work of the Working Group on a National Women’s Organizing Body – a coalition of 30 NGOs in the areas of women’s development, politics, research and public policy advocacy, which is working to fill the need for an independent national mechanism to interact with the U.S. government on a regular basis. Such a mechanism should not be subject to shifting political winds or leadership changes. It would represent the broad diversity of American women and work in consultative status with the U.S. government – to form a partnership between civil society and government. The goal would be to reinforce a new commitment to implement policies such as those forged based on the Beijing Platform for Action.


American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Amnesty International – USA
West Coast Region Baha’is of the US (throughout the State of California)
Beijing Conference Action and Resource Network
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
California Council of Churches 
California Federation of Centers for Independent Living
Catholic Charities of the East Bay
HIV/AIDS in Prison Project
Citizens for Retirement Protection
Coalition of Marin Women
Common Threads Project
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
Disabled Workers Alliance
Freedom Summer ’96
Human Rights Advocates
Human Rights Campaign Fund
Interfaith Peacemakers of San Diego
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Interreligious Council of San Diego
Lambda Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
League of Women Voters
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Marin County Women Lawyers
Marin Women’s Service Coalition
Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute
Mobility International USA
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Committee of UN/CEDAW
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 
National Women’s Political Caucus of California 
Network of Black Women for Justice 
No on CCRI Campaign Northern California
Coalition for Immigrant Rights 
Old Lesbians Organizing for Change
Pacific Research Training Alliance 
San Diego Volunteer Lawyers
Soroptomist International
Southern California Women’s Coalition to Implement the Beijing Commitments
Suscol Council – Intertribal NGO UNA-USA
East Bay Chapter UNA-USA
San Diego Chapter Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Farm Workers
The Women’s Convention Working Group
Women’s Economic Agenda Project
Womens’s Institute for Leadership Development for Women’s Human Rights 
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Women’s International Linkage on Disability
World Federalist Association
Adopted by the Human Rights Task Force of the California Women’s Agenda Assembly on June 29, 1996