Commission on the Status of Women

Dear Delegates,

Welcome to the Commission on the Status of Women!

My name is Danu Mudannayake, and I am a sophomore at Harvard College. I currently intend to pursue a joint concentration in Engineering Sciences and Visual and Environmental Studies, as well as a language citation in Mandarin Chinese. Having lived in East London my entire life, growing up in, arguably, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world has definitely impacted my view of international relations and global issues. It was during high school in the UK that I first encountered Model UN. I served as the delegate for Iraq in the Commission on the Status of Women – how the tides have turned! I went on to found and chair at two MUN conferences at my high school, and have since worked as an Assistant Director at HNMUN 2017. Over the course of this summer, I will be preparing for HNMUN 2018 and HMUN China 2018, as well as teaching in Brazil and China. MUN has a special place in my heart given that it embodies the values of healthy debate and diplomacy, which I strongly believe are vital characteristics in today’s day and age.

As a passionate feminist, I am ecstatic to be your Director for the Commission on the Status of Women this year! Now more so than ever, the standing of women is in jeopardy in nations across the globe, prompting outcries from women globally. In directing the committee this year, I would like to focus more on broader issues that affect women’s rights, rather than issues directly linked to gender. I aim to draw connections upon larger topic areas, such as terrorism and poverty, and how these broader issues have direct implications on the lives of women. In this way, we can work together to draft solutions to real-world issues that hold much pertinence today.

Thus, my guide and committee will explore women’s rights and the connection to terrorism and global poverty. We will analyse the implications of these broader issues on women’s lives, and attempt to find targeted ways of addressing some of the issues that we encounter. I hope you will thrive in making your own impact at committee, and bring a multitude of well-thought through ideas to the table regarding the issues I have outlined. I look forward to seeing you all at committee!

Danu Mudannayake
Director, Commission on the Status of Women
Harvard National Model United Nations 2018

Topic Area A: The Gender Politics of Terrorism

In this topic, CSW will focus on the way in which the gender politics of terrorism impact the lives of women more than those of men. War crimes that occur in terror-struck nations, such as rape as a weapon of war, sexual slavery, trafficking, and emotional abuse, have a severe detrimental effect on women’s ability to function as a part of society.

Moreover, “Women: Peace and Security,” a report published by the UN, specifically mentions terrorism’s effects on health. Armed conflict affects women more than men due to the “biological differences” between men and women. Maternal healthcare is another huge concern, alongside the psychological and social impacts of terrorism on women’s mental health. The lack of access to education for women living in these regions also has an impact on social well-being and socio-economic prosperity. We must investigate these themes further to better understand the role the UN can play to alleviate the situation and better the quality of women’s lives in terror-struck countries.

Furthermore, the impact of Islamophobia on women must also be examined. Several studies and nationally published articles have commented on how it seems that women “bear the brunt of Islamophobia.” A Washington Post article found that “69% of Muslim women who wore hijab reported at least one incident of discrimination,” contrasting with 29% of women who did not wear a hijab. Thus, it appears Islamophobia is also a pressing issue in the Western world that affects the quality of life of women, and we must resolve to find a way of tackling the issue.

Topic Area B: Global Poverty and its Effects on Women

According to Chapter 8 of the UN’s “The World’s Women 2015,” “gender disparities in poverty are rooted in inequalities in access to economic resources,” which clearly indicates a link between poverty and gender inequality. In fact, a report published by the Housing and Land Rights Network found that homeless women suffer the most severe kinds of abuse and violence. These violent crimes are handled in an incredibly inadequate manner. We must investigate why these women are affected by homelessness, why state officials cannot alleviate the situation, and what we can do to help.

It appears that homelessness amongst women is most commonly due to forced migration, a lack of affordable housing, domestic violence, and the inadequacy of the law. It is vital that we better understand these factors, and come to terms with ways in which we can address them to tackle the root of the problem.