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The Circle of Empowerment
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Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling

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Cees Flinterman

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The Circle of Empowerment

Twenty-Five Years of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
Edited by Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling & Cees Flinterman

Adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the most important human rights treaty for women ever created. The United States is the only industrialized country that has yet to ratify it.

Essays and personal reflections written by 42 former and current members of CEDAW's Committee and five UN staff members reveal the profound impact this Convention has had on women's lives around the world. With examples and moving reminiscences from Korea to Egypt, from Russia to the Caribbean, this book addresses CEDAW's impact on women in personal status laws, labor markets, migration, human trafficking, politics, as well as the obstacles created by cultural stereotypes.

“This book is a significant contribution to the history of women’s human rights internationally. It is eminently readable, moving . . . every facet of women’s lives is covered, including the worldwide plague of violence against women. It will become a classic, required reading for lawyers, students, and those interested in international affairs or international jurisprudence. Yet once into it, one can’t stop reading, for despite the differences among women, a common humanity and sympathy is revealed that transcends world politics and provides hope for the future.”

—Arvonne Fraser, co-founder and director, International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) and former U.S. ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women

“This book is essential reading for those interested in moving the agenda forward on women's equality. Written by an extraordinary group of CEDAW experts, it provides invaluable insights into the global challenges of eliminating all forms of discrimination against women.”

—Rebecca J. Cook, professor of law and Faculty Chair in International Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

“This collective account by former and current CEDAW experts underscores the key accomplishment of the CEDAW Committee: moving the focus of the gender discussion from development and empowerment to rights and equality. This has made all the difference for millions of women in the last twenty-five years and will continue to do so for decades to come.”

—Marsha A. Freeman, director, International Women's Rights Action Watch, University of Minnesota Human Rights Center

“This insightful collection brings together the wide-ranging expertise of the CEDAW Committee in taking on long-standing and deep-seated obstacles to women's equal rights—economic, political, social, and cultural—as well as critical new challenges to those rights brought by globalization. Now celebrating its twenty fifth year, the Convention has been ratified by nearly every nation in the world. UNIFEM has supported CEDAW and its Committee since its inception, and will be there to help it reach new heights over the next twenty five.”

—Noeleen Heyzer, executive director, UNIFEM

"Essential reading . . . and a sobering reminder to U.S. women of how their country's failure to ratify the Women's Convention has resulted in their exclusion from a vital international conversation."

—Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics, The Wharton School, The University of Pennsylvania

"This book . . . sheds invaluable light on one of the great milestones in the history of human rights."

—Philip Alston, New York University Law School

"The volume is well edited and accessibly written, covers a broad spectrum of policy, and pulls a few punches in evaluating the work of the committee, the responses of national governments, and the constructive or obstructive roles of NGOs. Summing up: Highly recommended."

—M.M. Ferree, University of Wisconsin,Choice Magazine

"Written in accessible prose [The Circle of Empowerment is a] welcome and timely arrival for any ratification debate in the U.S. Senate. . . .[it is] an excellent candidate for inclusion in courses on women's rights, international human rights, and international organizations women's studies/gender studies, law, political science, sociology and cultural studies."

—Professor Isabel Marcus, School of Law, State University of New York at Buffalo

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