The Women Graduates-USA (WG-USA) group was an active advocate throughout the triennium on many IFUW priorities. The Board votes to take action when the issue falls within the established program priority themes, and ordinarily has been recommended by the WG Advocacy Committee. In addition, action alerts are sent to all members to take individual actions, usually to make contact with their own Congressional Representative and Senators. During the Annual General meeting (AGM), specific issues in the form of Resolutions are voted upon for further direction for action.
Generally, WG-USA works together in networks with other NGOs on specific issues, although on occasion may work together with only one other organization.
Human Trafficking – WG-USA worked to inform US members and members of the public about the business of human trafficking, a serious and dangerous issue worldwide. Activities were undertaken to create visibility and information about the issue and its effects and presence in the United States, especially in localities where WG-USA members are active. Advocacy action was primarily conducted in coalition with other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). WG-USA signed on to the petition to pass the national Safe Harbor Act and ratification of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Children, as well as sending a petition to President Obama to support the Anti-Slavery Act. Through The United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework for Business and Human Rights, the United Nations Global Initiative to Combat Human Trafficking, and the United Nations Global Compact, there is worldwide acknowledgement that corporations are well-positioned to help prevent commercial sexual exploitation at such events. Therefore, WG-USA signed a letter and urged membership to send letters to Super Bowl sponsors and suppliers to stop sex and labor traffickers from plying their trade during that event, as major sporting events now frequently are the scene of human trafficking. They have done the same for organizers of the World Cup in Brazil.
Immigrants’ Access to Education – WG-USA also advocated for access to education by immigrant/refugee women, with a focus on opposing or supporting federal and state legislation that would deny children of undocumented immigrants access to funding for higher education (The Dream Act, which was defeated at the national level because one provision would have allowed eventual path to citizenship; since then 13 States have passed similar legislation); to promote the teaching of English to recently arrived immigrants and refugees, especially women and children; to encourage young women to pursue educational programs and careers in the international arena; and to promote the teaching of foreign languages in the schools.
Peace – WG-USA monitors federal government on the US State Department Plan of Action designed to implement the UN Resolutions on women, peace and security (SCR 1325 et al). Along with 35 other national NGOs, WG-USA also advocated in Congress for a law that would codify the Plan of Action instead of only being an administration policy which could be eliminated by a new President’s administration. A further focus was given to the implementation strategy of “unarmed civilian peacekeeping” (UCP), a successfully proven model of professionally-trained teams of men and women primarily protecting women and children. UCP is used in internecine conflicts in such places as Sri Lanka, Philippines, South Sudan, South Caucasus and Kyrgyzstan. WG-USA also signed on to a Call to Include Gender in the Arms Trade Treaty drafted by Amnesty International and supported by the Peace Network in which WG-USA is represented.
CEDAW – United States law requires that the US Senate ratify UN Conventions such as the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that was signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Since that time, there has only been two instances when ratification could have been possible, an occurrence that happens when the President and the majority in the Senate are of the same party. Currently, this situation exists, therefore, WG-USA signed on to the Global Solutions petition urging the US Senate to ratify CEDAW.
Violence Against Women – At the invitation of the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women Campaign, WG-USA signed on to the UN Women Say NO UNiTE to End Violence against Women petition in support of Malala Yousufzai’s campaign for education for all girls. With the re-introduction in 2013 of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a message was forwarded to WG-USA members urging them to individually contact their Representatives to agree and vote on a Senate version of the VAWA. It passed. The focus for WG-USA is now on the International VAWA agreement.
UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) – Activity was intense at the CSW in 2013, where WG-USA signed statements, sponsored events and joined other events. WG-USA hosted an NGO Side Event on Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping. The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) and Women Graduates-USA sponsored an NGO Side Event on Non-State Torture Victimization, which includes the violence of rape, and is too often not prosecuted and punished. Approximately twenty WG-USA members attended the following events: Ending Violence Against Women and Girls: Effective Practices, sponsored by IFUW; Untying the Knot: Preventing violence against women and girls by ending early marriage, sponsored by Girls Not Brides and World Vision; Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment in Schools, sponsored by American Association of University Women and Working Group on Girls; and Global Perspectives on Violence Against Women, sponsored by Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund along with Zonta International and the Huairou Commission.
Partner NGOs – In addition to those mentioned above, these include Friends of UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Amnesty International, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), Women’s Network, Religions for Peace, US Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, Nonviolent Peaceforce, and The Advocates for Human Rights. WG-USA also collaborates with the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, the CEDAW Task Force, the United Nations Association/USA and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific).
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