Women’s rights have been a concern of the United Nations (UN) since 1945, when the United Nations Charter promised in its preamble ‘to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.’ At the very first UN General Assembly meeting in February 1946, Eleanor Roosevelt, a delegate from the United States, made a statement calling upon all governments to encourage women to take a more active role in political affairs at both national and international levels. That same month, following through on its promise to promote equal rights for women, a sub-commission dedicated to the status of women was founded under the auspices of the Commission on Human Rights. After the international community recognized the increasing importance of global women’s rights, the sub-commission gained full commission status under the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on 21 June 1946 through ECOSOC resolution 11(II), thus becoming the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The Commission’s original mandate was to ‘prepare recommendations and reports to the Economic and Social Council on promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social, and educational fields’ and to ‘make recommendations to the Council on urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women’s rights.’
Topic A: Protecting the Rights and Welfare of Palestinian Women
As the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip continues to deteriorate, the well-being of women and girls must be prioritized. Palestinian women, in particular, face a multitude of challenges due to laws and social norms that discriminate on the basis of sex. For example, the unemployment rate of Palestinian men decreased 1.5 percent from 2005–2017, for women, the rate actually increased over that same period, with over a quarter of Palestinian women now unemployed. Furthermore, girls are also almost 2.5 times more likely to be out of school in conflict-affected countries than in other countries. The lack of safety in public spaces, rising involvement in clashes with security forces, and strict cultural norms often leave young Palestinian women and girls unable to have access to basic educational facilities. There is not only a lack of sufficient humanitarian assistance targeting women and girls’ needs, but Palestinian women are also excluded from political decision-making in their society. The dire economic and social conditions of Palestinian women underline the urgency of helping alleviate the difficulties faced by these women. Therefore, measures need to be taken by CSW to guarantee the safety and protection of Palestinian women in the face of the broader humanitarian situation.
Topic B: Women’s Participation and Role in Government
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action explicitly states that everyone has the right to participate in the governments of their respective countries. There are many benefits to increasing women’s involvement in government, including the fact that diverse leadership structures have been shown to achieve better results. In India, villages that elected women to their panchayats—local governments in rural villages—saw a 62 percent increase of projects focused on finding clean drinking water in comparison to councils led by men. Countries that have women involved in their government are also more successful at successfully implementing legislation regarding gender-based violence, pensions, and electoral reform. Despite the benefits of having women in elected office, women hold only 20.9 percent of national parliament positions around the world. At the core of the issue, the obstacles that women face when trying to find any form of employment, such as domestic responsibilities, and the cultural attitudes towards women entering work sectors dominated by men contribute to the suppression of women from entering politics as well. In seeking office, women face obstacles such as a lack of funding and endorsements, a lack of access to political networks, and violence against them because of their ambitions. To promote stronger leadership and to continue to fight for the rights of women around the world, CSW needs to take action to address the barriers that women face when attempting to participate in government.