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United Nations and Women

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Submitted By kiblerelf
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9. What is the role of the UN in post-conflict or post-disaster situations, with respect to addressing the needs of women on ground?
It is unquestionable that in many parts of the world women bear significant burden when it comes to subjugation, marginalization, and disempowerment. Their debilitating condition is not by choice rather by economic, social, political, cultural, and even environmental factors. Only recently have we begun to understand the “gendered nature of war as well as peace”. Conflict or disaster creates vulnerable groups; amongst which women and children are the largest. Given the pretext of gender disparity in resource allocation of developing countries, women by virtue tend to suffer disproportionally during crises.
Women have been typically excluded from post-conflict and post-disaster rehabilitation and reconciliation processes. Many agencies, both governmental and non-governmental have pledged to integrate women into the mainstream of reconstruction planning; it’s sad to say that few have been translated to practice. The United Nations as well as many other IGO and NGOs have recognized that reconstruction efforts must consider the possible economic, social, physical and mental discrepancies faced by women in post conflict situations. From the UN’s (_end?_) the newly created comprehensive UN Women (consolidating UNIFEM, DAW, INSTRAW, and OSAGI) will among its various other duties, address the needs of women on ground post-conflict/disaster.
For the most part during such emergencies immediate assistance is provided to women on ground through United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) to address the direct humanitarian needs of refugees and internally displaced populace (IDPs). These organizations provide basic needs of the population after complex emergencies such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Furthermore, in addition to basic needs of refugees and IDPs on ground, women and girls need special protection against manipulation, sexual discrimination, prevention and education about HIV/AIDS, and delivery of goods and services. It was/is the work of UNDP, UNICEF, ECOSOC and the four separate agencies dealing with women’s issues that focus on long-term empowerment aspect, and reporting compliance of gender equality of women on ground.
Development paradigms have repeatedly seen that investing in women in emerging nations after conflicts and disasters have yielded positive results in social and economic contexts. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) have concentrated recent efforts in integrating women into food delivery and consumption mechanisms after complex emergencies. Women’s input in agricultural necessities, food consumption and allocation have proven effective in monitoring the nutritional requirements of households. Furthermore, the recent trend of micro-financing to women has led to an increase in their productive capacities after emergencies – thus allowing them to create social and economic stature in the rehabilitated communities. Early on UN institutions like UNIFEM and INSTAW realized that training women to participate in rehabilitation, election, education, and peace process efforts will empower not only their cohort, but also their children and families. UNIFEM has provided grant awards as incentives to countries that instilled projects to address gender-based violence in conflict, and post conflict situations. As the readings suggest especially admirable is UNIFEM’s efforts to develop culturally competent strategies for assisting victims of gender-based violence, holding their offenders accountable, and preventing violence in the future.
Although great strides have been made by the UN towards gender equality, more needs to be done. Ongoing allegations against UN Blue Helmets show that these UN officials exploit women and underage girls sexually and financially for personal gain. It is with high hopes that UN Women will convene in January 2011 to oversee and consolidate the mandates of women’s empowerment agencies as well as oversee the UN’s own compliance with fighting against gender discrimination.
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