Every Woman Treaty aims for a safer, more equal world

It’s a global crisis, but it’s barely mentioned. It affects countless females the world over, but the laws just aren’t adequate. Nothing was being done, but now something is. That something is the Every Woman Treaty, according to NGO founders Vidya Sri and Lisa Shannon, who gave a talk Monday evening about their work to get this important treaty passed by the United Nations.

The Every Woman Treaty is legislation at the highest level that will hold states accountable for measuring, preventing and ending violence against women. The Treaty is proactive and has evidence-based interventions, meaning that it holds governments accountable to strict standards and that the methods it employs are effective.

Sri described the methodology of the treaty as the “whole hand approach.” First of all, the law must support survivors. Then, service providers like police, judges and public health workers must be trained to work with these laws. Preventative education is also put in place to educate women about their rights and forms of recourse and to change upcoming generations’ understanding of what violence against women is. Additionally, direct services, like hotlines, shelters and medical treatment are made easily accessible to all. Finally, funding is established to support these causes.

Sri and Shannon have studied previous campaigns, such as the Tobacco Treaty and the Landmine Campaign, to understand what made them so successful. They incorporate some features from each of these campaigns into their own. The two devote so much time to learning and spreading awareness about this cause because they know that treaties work.

“Treaties definitely catalyze change and donors and funders definitely step up and invest in that potential and in that outcome” Sri said.

Shannon also mentioned that it’s difficult to know if the work you’re doing will matter, but it is worth it.

“Activism requires leaps of faith,” Shannon said, later stating that they do pay off exponentially.

Both women doggedly pursue their cause, though they came to it in different ways. Shannon first encountered violence against women when she saw a piece about violence against Congolese women on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that motivated her to act. Sri experienced violence firsthand when her parents sent her to India and said that she could not return to the United States until she married. She makes a point to note that hers was a forced marriage – not an arranged marriage – because she did not give her consent to the marriage.

When the two first met, they realized that they shared the same cause. Upon talking about their experiences and research in this area, they realized that they could put their efforts together to effect greater change.

“And here’s Lisa saying, ‘There’s so many gaps at the global level. There’s nothing at the global level that says violence against women is wrong. Can you believe that, Vidya?’” Sri said of meeting Shannon and agreeing with her ideas.

Students in the audience responded well to Sri and Shannon’s initiative, though some expressed concern at the fact that Sri and Shannon don’t expect the United States to be a key leader in the passing of this treaty.

“Hearing that they don’t anticipate us doing anything on a large scale for women’s rights is just insane,” third-semester communications and anthropology major Natalia Paskevicz said. "It makes me want to go home and sign their website.”

Others were more hopeful and look forward to the day when such a treaty can be passed.

“I think it’s really interesting the way they’re trying to tackle talking about violence against women to get different results than treaties like CEDAW [Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which some say is not comprehensive],” ninth-semester human rights and physics double major Amelia Henkel said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how this plays out on the ground and how it’s able to bridge the gaps in protecting women against violence internationally.”


Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.santillo@uconn.edu.