Committee: GA2 – Human Rights Issue: Empowering women and promoting gender equality Student Officer: Kiyah Clemence (Deputy Chair of GA2) I- Introduction Historically, the struggle for achieving gender equality has been joined by few advocates and the traditions of patriarchal domination have seemed permanent. In recent years however, light has been shed over the increasing difficulties and obstacles women specifically are having to overcome simply to receive an education or earn the same wages as their male counterparts for equal work. As more attention is drawn to this issue specifically, advocacy to this cause has grown significantly, millions of dollars have been granted to sponsor equality/empowerment programs worldwide, and much progress has been made. With that being said, women statistically receive only 70 to 90 percent of men’s wages for the same work, only 18.3 percent of women hold management positions despite women comprising 40 percent of the global workforce, and that at least 65 million girls of schooling age (to which have been recorded) were not enrolled in school as of the 2011 UN census. The object of the many projects the UN, extensions, and private companies have sponsored supporting the cause of women empowerment and/or gender equality is not only to raise awareness to these issues, but to garner support, pave the way for change/reform, and to educate. Our job is to use these resources to not only initiate reform, but to execute it decisively. These are issues that need not only ideas and support, but solutions. This is our goal and our duty – be the solution. II- Involved Countries/Regions and Organizations [Sub-Saharan Africa] This region, being one of the most rural and developing, remains one of the biggest parties yet to achieve social, educational, or representative parity. Ranging from active traditional practices of genital mutilation to a lack of job security, sub-Saharan Africa is a major concern. One issue that has recently been highlighted is that women and girls have less access to an education because work (such as water carrying) absorbs their daylight hours as well as any time that could be devoted to education. Organizations such as the UNDP and UNESCO have been working with this area specifically to make water more accessible, allot women more time to go to school, and grant school stipends so that they can afford the education. Other organizations like UNFPA and UNICEF are working with the governments of many sub-Saharan nations to promote and achieve safety and equality for their women. [India & Southeast Asia] These areas highlight the pressing issues of violence, sexual harassment, and rape culture. Many of these nations hold a traditionally patriarchal social structure, which by definition is not necessarily a bad thing, but in these regions this structure often puts women at a strong disadvantage in such fields as education. This patriarchy also suggests a male dominance, which lends greatly to the rape culture that has been festering in this region. One of the biggest problems the UN is facing in attempting to tackle these issues is that because so many of the issues are social, either tradition, religion, or family based, it is very difficult for any sort of UN personnel to step in without direct intrusion. Also, because cases of rape and abuse are so uncommonly reported, it is almost impossible to infiltrate sexual predators. [United States] The US, although far from equal when addressing women in politics or in the workforce, are not in as severe of a state when referring to issues such as rape. Traditionally, it has a much stronger reaction to cases of abuse or assault and has more recently taken up more cases regarding maltreatment in the work field. There are many strong proponents for gender equality and women empowerment coming out of the US such as Yes Women movement. [UNFPA] The UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) is an organization with the primary focus on women and children being given the basic necessities and medical care. This organization has headed several initiatives to improve the safety of women in developing countries as well as provide career training and school stipends. [UNESCO] UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) plays a major role in the womens’ empowerment movement by launching the Girls’ Education Initiative that has been providing stipends and quality schooling to many young girls worldwide. III- Focused Overview of the Issue To start, individuals or parties wishing to discuss an issue as broad and as sensitive as gender equality must focus on the main ideas of each argument – not lose the information in the details. Breaking down these main points, the three most important topics to touch on would be the violence/rape culture, education, and the workforce. The violence and rape culture has statistically become a bigger problem in countries/regions in which justice is not dealt accordingly. In a developing nation, India for example, gang rape has historically been dealt with by paying off the victim and/or victim’s family to prevent leakage to the media while the offending party is let off often without an arrest. India also happens to have one of the highest rape rates in the world. Using this as an example, sexual violence against men and women often goes unreported due to factors such as lack of communicative resources, asylum, and a trustworthy police force. It could be argued that the most significant singular factor in empowering women from a young age and eradicating rape culture is education. In many developing countries, women are significantly less likely to have access to education than men and this includes not being permitted to attend, not being able to afford to attend, or simply working too long throughout the day to attend. On another side of the issue of education, the attitudes of male dominance and masculine violence are often being picked up in the home. To combat this, boys must have a non-hostile environment in which to be exposed to female contact and to receive an education free from influence from the home. This last point is one that as of yet, no nation has successfully eradicated the issue of inequality in the workforce. As mentioned above, women on average earn 70 to 90 percent of the wages their male counterparts earn for the same work. Also, women are also more likely to be forced to work in vulnerable labor when secure job opportunities often refuse to hire women. Sexual harassment and blackmail of women are common occurrences among employers and many hirings, especially of illegal immigrants, are done under the table to avoid medial attention. Although it has not been touched on as frequently and is not as big of a trend in the media today, men all over the world also experience gender inequality and abuse. Cases of rape, molestation, and physical violence against men are frequently not taken seriously or are downright ignored. One of the most public incidents on sexual abuse against males has been the molestation cases between priests and alter boys in the Catholic church. This being said, sexual violence against men/boys has been extremely prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, often relating to gang violence. IV- Key Vocabulary Gender Parity: A general term used to describe equal gender opportunity and results being achieved (eg. equal ratio of men and women members in a parliament). Vulnerable Jobs/Labor: Forms of labor characterized by low wage earnings, low productivity, and substandard working conditions. Intrinsic/Inalienable/Natural Rights: Rights that have been declared either by the UN itself or in an individual country’s constitution as necessary to all human beings, regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or social class (eg. the right to a trial by jury) Exploitation: The act of robbing an individual of their natural rights and/or using an individual/group/resource to benefit another party without consent or repaying the original party in kind (eg. enslaved prostitution). V- Important Events & Chronology Considering the fact that the topics of women empowerment and gender equality have been significant issues for centuries and that neither of these themes circle around a specific event/events, it would not be relevant to the discussion to attempt to timeline all events involving the issues thereof. VI- Past Resolutions and Treaties Provided below are links to gender equality convention agendas, resolutions, and proposals made by the UN. Members planning to discuss this topic should read and familiarize themselves with these documents. http://www.unrol.org/doc.aspx?n=CONVENTION+ON+THE+ELIMINATION+OF+A LL+FORMS+OF+DISCRIMINATION+AGAINST.pdf http://www.un.org/womenwatch/ianwge/resolutions.htm http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-humansciences/themes/gender-equality/gender-peace-andconflict/un-security-council-resolution-1325/ http://www.unfpa.org/gender/rights2.htm VII- Failed Solution Attempts The UN is still in the process of finding an effective way to approach these issues, seeing as many of them are societal conflicts rather than political ones. This being said, the majority of the initiatives the UN has launched are still in operation at this time and we have yet to know whether these efforts will be successful. VIII- Possible Solutions At the moment, many efforts are being made to tackle specific aspects of achieving gender equality in various ways and as stated previously, it is uncertain to whether these efforts will be successful. Some of these possible solutions include the freshly launched “He for She” campaign, headed by UN Women ambassador Emma Watson, political and agricultural training campaigns headed by the UNDFW and the UNFPA, and the UN Girls’ Education Initiative headed by UNESCO. IX- Useful Links http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/ http://www.unicef.org/education/bege_70640.html http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/MDG_FS_3_EN.pdf http://www.heforshe.org/ X- Works Cited "2015 Millenium Development Goals." The United Nations. The United Nations, 20 Sept. 2010. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. "Girls' Education and Gender Equality." UNICEF. The United Nations, 15 Jan. 2014. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. "Violence Against Women." World Health Organization. WHO, 1 Oct. 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/>. "Facts and Figures: Economic Empowerment." UN Women. The United Nations. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. <http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economicempowerment/facts-and-figures>.