“The US Constitution was written by a bunch of old white men with the intent of keeping women and people of color out of politics and this does not reflect the current values of our society, something needs to change,” said Shaundra Y. Scott, the first African American Executive Director of South Carolina’s ACLU and panelist.
I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of a powerful film through CofC’s Women’s and Gender Studies department entitled “Equal Means Equal”. The film encompasses all aspects of modern women’s rights issues and how they are all interconnected. Unequal wages, pregnancy discrimination, foster care and child sex trafficking, and female incarceration were some of the topics covered along with many others. The film acts as an educational tool to inform people about the vast inequities facing women in the world today.
After the screening, there was a panel-led discussion which included members of the community as well as current CofC students. Dr. Millicent Brown, the Principal Investigator for the “Somebody Had to Do It” Project which investigated desegregation in Southern schools, was a member of this panel. The court case “Millicent Brown, et al. v. School District 20” (Charleston, SC, 1963) was a huge step in desegregation in the state. The two CofC student panelists were Kate Cockerham and Temperance Russell. Kate Cockerham, a double major in History and Women’s and Gender Studies and minor in Political Science, wrote a variation of the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) resolution which was then passed by city council on February 26 of this year and will be adopted by the city of Charleston and is now being voted on in Columbia as well.
Passing CEDAW within local government is a huge first step in paving the way for other social justice-themed legislation. The US is one of seven countries in the entire world who has not adopted this legislation. The remaining 7 of 194 countries include Tonga, Palau, Iran, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and the US.
Pretty shocking, right? But in order to make progress within our own society, we must take an active role in government and VOTE! Being educated about our elected officials and having our voices be heard via voting is the best thing we, as American citizens, can do to ensure that equality occurs. Another piece of legislation, the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), was tabled in 1972 after falling short of the ¾ approval needed to ratify the Constitution. After CEDAW is a success in most states, we can expect to see much larger changes such as the ERA being enacted.
So what can we do? Well, as I said before, the most efficient way of having our voices be heard is going out and voting for officials who represent our values as well as educating our peers about these issues. I know this is a huge cliché, but it really does start with YOU. So go out there and start talking to your friends, family, and maybe even total strangers you meet on a Saturday night. Whoever it may be, I am sure they will appreciate gaining new insight on very serious issues facing American women today, as well as women all over the world.
What an exciting event! I loved learning about CEDAW. How empowering that a student wrote a resolution that passed City Council!