Testimony to City Charter Commission


September 28, 2018


I wish to thank the City Charter Revision Commission for the opportunity to provide civil society inputs into the critically important process.

My name is Mary Luke and I am co-chair of the NYC4CEDAW Act Steering Committee, and President of the Metropolitan New York Chapter of UN Women- US National Committee.  We are a non-profit organization dedicated to support UN Women’s mission of women’s empowerment and gender equality to improve the lives of women and girls around the globe.

CEDAW, or the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, is an international human rights treaty that defines gender discrimination.  While CEDAW is a 1970’s document that initially recognized gender as a binary of women and men, it has been amended through General Recommendations to further include LGBTQ, transgender, gender non-conforming and Cisgender people. It should be understood in the same way that New York City Law recognizes the diversity of gender. We also want to recognize intersectionality and other forms of discrimination that also impact upon gender discrimination.

The NYC4CEDAW Act is part of a Cities for CEDAW campaign that uses CEDAW as an overarching framework for advancing political and economic equality for women in the US at the local level.  By framing local concerns of gender equality and inclusion in a human rights context, NYC4CEDAW underscores the importance of gender responsive policies in NYC.  Our mission is to expand participation of women in government, economic development, access to education, and ensure the protection and safety of women.

Our goal is to ensure that women, especially marginalized women will have access to gender-sensitive policies, programs and services that are based on human rights principles.  

Women make up over half of the New York City population and are a member of virtually every household in New York City.  Although NYC has made great progress with specific laws and policies to promote women’s rights including: equal pay for equal work, benefits, protection against sexual harassment and violence, staff training; but there is still much more to be done.

 While women comprise the greater half of our population, women heads of households remain  disproportionately affected by poverty; black women and babies have significantly poorer maternal and child health outcomes; all women, especially black and Latina women earn significantly less than men for the same work (55 cents and 46 cents);  NYC has high rates of sexual abuse and violence against women;  and women are inadequately represented in politics or decision making positions.

CEDAW is bill of rights for women and serves to protect women from all forms of discrimination.  We recognize that all issues are women’s issues and women’s lives are affected by all policies, programs and services of the city. CEDAW provides tools to guide the city through an analysis of how proposals, budgets, and employment practices may inadvertently discriminate by gender. Training and tools for gender analysis and budgeting would enable all city departments to fully incorporate gender into their planning, policies and programs and pave the way to ensure that gender discrimination, intentional or unintentional, is eliminated.

Recommendations under Civic Engagement:

We recommend that The New York City Charter Revision Commission incorporate a human rights framework based on the principles of CEDAW to prevent discrimination and ensure equal rights and opportunities for all women.

Foster civic engagement through participatory planning and gender-responsive budgeting

1.      Inclusion of women in the planning and evaluation of programs

Ensure participation of women, LGBTQ, transgender, Cisgender people in the planning and evaluation of policies and programs. Civil society should have the opportunity to contribute to planning and improving programs to meet the needs of women and diverse communities by reviewing reports to assess the impact of programs on women and recommend improvements. Such reports should be based on gender assessment, using sex-disaggregated data.  The importance of  gathering and analyzing data that is disaggregated by gender nd race must be emphasized in order to obtain a true picture of how services and programs are accessed and utilized,

2.      Foster civic engagement through a participatory gender-responsive budgeting

 Gender-responsive budgeting is not about creating separate budgets for women, or solely increasing spending on women’s programs. Rather, gender-responsive budgeting seeks to ensure that the collection and allocation of public resources is carried out in ways that are effective and contribute to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.


Gender-responsive budgeting should be based on in-depth analysis that identifies effective interventions for implementing policies and laws that advance women’s rights. The analysis should address also the different needs and contributions of men and women and all genders  within the existing revenues, expenditures and allocations.

Gender-responsive budget analysis, along with legislation, and other practical policy measures can address gender bias and discrimination. It is a step not only towards accountability to women’s rights, but also towards greater public transparency and can shift economic policies leading to gains across societies.


3.      Ensure gender parity in appointments to Commissions and boards  

Achieving gender parity is an urgent priority not only as a basic human right, but also as it is essential to an organization’s efficiency, impact and credibility. It is important to create an environment at all levels, that embraces equality, eradicates bias and is inclusive

As new processes are developed to expand civic engagement in the city, women must have equal access to and representation on city board and commissions. Training and mentoring and opportunities for prepare women to participate would encourage more women to engage actively and step up in leadership positions.

Having diverse boards and commissions is of particular importance to ensure that gender equality is integrated into the planning and budgeting processes and that public budget revenues and expenditures benefit women and men equally.


As Mayor Bill de Blasio stated on the release of a report to the UN on social goals: “New York is on track to become one of the more equitable, healthier and safer cities in the world”.  By using a human rights framework as a fundamental basis for the revised City Charter, New York, an international city and home to the United Nations,  will establish itself as a premiere city in the United States, which affirms that gender discrimination holds no place in New York City. 

Eleanor Roosevelt summed up the importance of citizen action to uphold human rights in the community.

 “Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of an individual person: The neighborhood he lives in: the school or college he attends; the factory, firm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seek equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” 

Honorable Commissioners, I thank you again for this opportunity and together let us work to make OUR City the preeminent CEDAW city that is responsive to the needs of ALL women.


Mary M. Luke, President, Metro NY Chapter,  USNC-UN Women 

Submitted 9/28/2018 to the City Charter Revision Commission   

Mary Luke