By Gillian Chong, Agence France-Presse
Published: 20 Mar 2019 - 12:21 AM
The UNCSW aims to achieve gender equality in governments around the world
On the second day of council, the UNCSW continued discussing the issue of “Women’s Political Leadership and Representation”. The council picked up from where they stopped yesterday, focusing on wrapping up the discussion about education with the aims of reducing social stigma and empowering women to join politics.
Countries touched on several areas of concern. Firstly, the council worked on providing education for women, in order to reduce the development of social stigmas from a young age. The Republic of Korea proposed free or subsidised education for women. Compulsory education for all up to the age of 12 was suggested by Ireland. However, USA suggested all girl schools instead, on the basis that this solution would receive less resistance from conservative countries with highly patriarchal societies, and would thus have higher chances of being implemented. In addition, they also mentioned that their solution would help avoid the inculcation of negative gender stereotypes that is prevalent in co-ed schools. These solutions were well received by the assembled countries.
Secondly, countries discussed how to fund the suggestions raised. The methods proposed were microfunding, a worldwide fund which countries would contribute to with an amount proportional to their gross national income, and a shared fund through a partnership with UNICEF.
Thirdly, the UNCSW discussed ways to increase the number of women joining politics. Argentina proposed the building of public libraries, funded by NGOs, in order to educate women, mentioning how “Books are the most important, most fundamental way of educating women”. The United Mexico States also suggested implementing courses in political science, which would allow women to pursue a career in politics. However, these solutions were criticised by other countries such as Yemen, Iceland and the USA, who argued that they would work only in developed countries and not less developed or conservative countries. Iceland even mentioned how these solutions could be banned in more conservative countries, and urged the council to think of solutions which would be feasible in these countries.
After hours of debate over the issue of education, the council reached a consensus over the need for tailormade solutions. They agreed to split the proposed solutions into groups, which would be catered towards different groups of countries such as the less developed countries, the developed countries, and the countries with highly patriarchal societies.
Next, the UNCSW moved on to discussing the portrayal of women in media, with the aim of ensuring that men and women are portrayed equally in mainstream media.
To combat the unfair representation of men and women in mainstream media, the majority of the council agreed on the need for guidelines on journalism. The council also agreed on other methods such as the importance of positive representation of women in creative media such as movies and novellas, and the importance of giving greater publicity to the success stories of females through documentaries and social media. These solutions aimed to inspire women to take up roles in their local governments.
The council then moved on to gender quotas. Most countries acknowledged that gender quotas have many shortcomings, and cannot be a long term solution. However, opinions of countries on this issue were split into two. The first group, consisting of USA and Russia, were vehemently against gender quotas. Russia argued that the reason behind the lack of female representation was misogyny present in society, and that gender quotas would only exacerbate the situation. The USA argued that gender quotas were against what the UNCSW stood for, the empowerment of women, and instead created an unhealthy reliance on gender quotas without solving the problem.
On the other hand, countries such as Mexico, Korea and Iran supported the implementation and gradual increase of gender quotas. In direct contrast to the USA’s point, Mexico stated that gender quotas do empower women to take up roles in politics. They argued that while gender quotas are not efficient long term solutions, they are necessary to increase the representation of females in politics, especially in less developed countries. They also stressed the need for small increments to the gender quotas, not large ones, in order to minimise tensions that might arise between the public and the government from such policies.
At the end of the day, Argentina and co-submitters put forth a resolution. After several countries called the resolution vague and insufficiently comprehensive, USA submitted an unfriendly amendment, arguing for the need to further flesh out several clauses and to strike out clauses they see as unfeasible. However, a simple majority could not be reached and a resolution was not passed.
The UNCSW will convene again tomorrow to discuss the “Reproductive Anatomy of Women”.