Background Guide CSW 2021 - IMUNA

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Background Guide CSW 2021 - IMUNA
Background Guide
CSW • 2021
Background Guide CSW 2021 - IMUNA
                                                                                                  Phone: +1 (212) 652-9992

 Secretary-General    Hello Delegates,
   Maura Goss
                      My name is Ellie Hanjian, and I am thrilled to welcome you to the Commission on the Status of
                      Women (CSW) at the first-ever NHSMUN-Mexico! We have two excellent topics in this back-
 Rose Blackwell
                      ground guide, “The Disproportionate Effect of Natural Disasters on Women” and “Young Wom-
   JJ Packer
                      en’s Access to Education in Developing States.” Both are of incredible importance to the needs of
Conference Services   women today, as well as to the global community.
  Hannah Lilley
   Alisa Wong         I am a fourth-year student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where I study Public Affairs
Delegate Experience   and Policy Management with a concentration in human rights and development. When I am not
Akanksha Sancheti     studying, I love going on walks, listening to podcasts, participating in British Parliamentary debates,
   John Wood          and reading books. I also work for the Registrar of my university in the records management office.

Global Partnerships   I am ecstatic to be a part of the NHSMUN-Mexico conference. I was a delegate at NHSMUN-
  Sofia Fuentes       NYC throughout my high school years. When I began university, I joined the NHSMUN-NYC
 Salmaan Rashiq       2018 staff as an Assistant Director for the UNHRC. I was happy to return as Director in 2019, and
Under-Secretaries-    I am currently a NHSMUN-NY Director for the upcoming conference in 2021. I truly believe that
    General           IMUNA conferences are the best MUN experiences you could participate in as a young person.
    Jon Basile
                      NHSMUN-Mexico will allow you to debate and solve problems with your peers on a high level. I
   Ankita Bhat
                      am so excited to hear all the ideas you will bring, and I look forward to some inspiring committee
  Beatriz Circelli
 Caitlyn Johnson      sessions.
  Patrick Leong       Both of the topics discussed in this background guide are of critical importance to our global com-
     Kathy Li
                      munities. As our changing climate has accelerated fluctuations in weather patterns, the world has
Pablo Maristany de
                      seen an uptick in devastating disasters for many communities. Women have borne the brunt of the
     las Casas
  McCall Olliff       impacts of these events. Additionally, education is often the key to economic liberation and success,
   Abolee Raut        not only for individuals but for communities and states. Full access to the human right to education
  Pranav Reddy        has not been realized for many women around the world. Moreover, when women are educated,
   Clare Steiner      they can contribute to their country’s economic and social success through their gainful employ-
  Ann Williams        ment. As you will see in this guide, the impact of disasters on women and the lack of educational
                      opportunities for women necessitates a solidified and detailed response from the Commission on
                      the Status of Women.

                      I am very interested to see what you will all bring to the committee. Please be sure to continue to
                      research beyond this background guide. While this guide is a great place to start, there is certainly
                      an abundance of information to be discovered on each topic regarding your own countries and
                      more. If you have any questions about NHSMUN-Mexico, the CSW simulation, or anything in this
                      background guide, I would be happy to answer them. Again, I am looking forward to our upcoming
                      conference. I will see you all at NHSMUN-MX 2020!

                      Ellie Hanjian
                      Commission on the Status of Womens
Background Guide CSW 2021 - IMUNA
Background Guide
                                                             Table of Contents   |3
Table of Contents
A Note on the NHSMUN Difference                                                  4
A Note on Research and Preparation                                               6
Committee History                                                                7

The Disproportionate Effect of Natural Disasters on Women                        9
History and Description of the Issue                                            11
Current Status                                                                  20
Bloc Analysis                                                                   25
Committee Mission                                                               27

Young Women’s Access to Education in Developing States                          28
Introduction                                                                    29
History and Description of the Issue                                            29
Current Status                                                                  36
Bloc Analysis                                                                   39
Committee Mission                                                               42

Research and Preparation Questions                                              43
Important Documents                                                             44
Works Cited                                                                     45
Background Guide CSW 2021 - IMUNA
Background Guide
4|     A Note on the NHSMUN Difference

A Note on the NHSMUN Difference
Esteemed Faculty and Delegates,

Welcome to NHSMUN-MX 2021! We are Elizabeth Dudley and Sofia Fuentes, this year’s conference leaders. Thank you for
choosing to attend the first iteration of this sister conference to NHSMUN, the largest Model United Nations conference for
secondary students. We are thrilled to welcome you to this new conference this October! As a space for collaboration, consen-
sus, and compromise, NHSMUN has always striven to help transform today’s brightest thinkers into tomorrow’s leaders, and
NHSMUN-MX is honored to carry on that legacy. Our organization provides a uniquely tailored experience for all in atten-
dance through accessible programming, a mission that we have innovatively expanded during the past year of this COVID-19
pandemic. We believe that an emphasis on education through simulation is paramount to the Model UN experience, and this idea
permeates throughout NHSMUN-MX. Our goal to make MUN more accessible to students is also achieved by introducing
Spanish-language committees as Spanish is one of the six official languages of the UN! NHSMUN-MX is a conference that is
pursuing a meaningful and thought-provoking experience for all its students.

Debate founded on strong knowledge: With knowledgeable staff members and delegates from around the world, NHSMUN-
MX can facilitate an enriching experience reliant on rigorous debate. To ensure this high quality of debate, our staff members
produce extremely detailed and comprehensive topic overviews (like the one below) to prepare delegates for the complexities
and nuances inherent in global issues. This guide is designed to be a launching point from which delegates should delve further
into their topics.

Extremely prepared and engaged staff: The detailed knowledge that our staffers provide in this background guide aims
to spur critical thought within delegates. Before the conference, our Directors and Assistant Directors are trained rigorously
through hours of virtual exercises and workshops in an effort to provide the best conference experience possible. Beyond this,
our Directors and Assistant Directors read every position paper submitted to NHSMUN and provide thoughtful insight on
those submitted by the feedback deadline. Our staff aims to tailor the committee experience to delegates’ reflections and re-
search and facilitate an environment where all delegates’ thoughts can be heard.

Emphasis on participation: The UN relies on the voices of all of its Member States to create resolutions most likely to
positively impact the world. That is our philosophy at NHSMUN-MX too. To properly delve into an issue and produce fruitful
debate, we believe that delegates must focus their energy on the topic at hand. Our Rules of Procedure and our staff are focused
on making every voice in the committee heard, regardless of each delegate’s country assignment or skill level. This is the reason
for our creation of Spanish-language committees: understanding that not all students feel comfortable debating in English, we
want to foster a space where delegates are able to engage with the topics at their current state. And unlike many other confer-
ences, we also emphasize delegate participation after the conference in their communities. MUN delegates are well researched
and aware of the UN’s priorities, and they can serve as the vanguard for action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Therefore, we are proud to also connect students with other action-oriented organizations at the conference to encourage fur-
ther work on the topics.

Focused committee time: NHSMUN-MX encourages an electronics-free committee environment, except for the device from
which the delegate is participating. We feel strongly that interpersonal connections during debate, through active listening and
engagement, are critical to producing superior committee experiences and allow for the free flow of ideas. In pursuit of this
environment, we also encourage all delegates and participants to have their cameras turned on as they are able.

Educational emphasis, even for awards: At the heart of NHSMUN-MX lies education and compromise. As such, when
Background Guide CSW 2021 - IMUNA
Background Guide
                                                                               A Note on the NHSMUN Difference               |5
NHSMUN-MX distributes awards, we de-emphasize their importance compared to the educational value of Model UN as an
activity. NHSMUN-MX seeks to reward schools whose students excel in the arts of compromise and diplomacy. More impor-
tantly, we seek to develop an environment where delegates can employ their critical thought processes and share ideas with their
counterparts from around the world. We prioritize a dedication to teamwork and encourage our delegates to engage with others
diplomatically and inclusively. In particular, our daises look for and promote constructive leadership that strives towards consen-
sus, as delegates do in the United Nations.

Realism and accuracy: Although a perfect simulation of the UN is never possible, we believe that one of the core educational
responsibilities of MUN conferences is to educate students about how the UN System works. Each NHSMUN-MX committee
simulates a real deliberative body so that delegates can research what their country has actually said in the committee. Our topics
are chosen from the issues currently on the agenda of that committee (except historical committees, which take topics from the
appropriate time period). This creates incredible opportunities for our delegates to do first-hand research by reading the actual
statements their country has made and the resolutions they have supported. We also incorporate real UN and NGO experts into
committees through our committee speakers program and arrange for meetings between students and embassies of the country
they are representing. It is this commitment to increased understanding and the delegate experience that sets NHSMUN-MX

As always, we welcome any questions or concerns about the substantive program at NHSMUN-MX 2021, and we would be
happy to discuss NHSMUN-MX pedagogy with faculty or delegates.

Delegates, it is our sincerest hope that your time at NHSMUN-MX will be thought-provoking and stimulating. NHSMUN-MX
will be an incredible time to learn, grow, and embrace new opportunities. We look forward to seeing you work both as students
and global citizens at the conference.


Sofia Fuentes		           Elizabeth Dudley

Secretary-General         Director-General
Background Guide CSW 2021 - IMUNA
Background Guide
6|     A Note on Research and Preparation

A Note on Research and Preparation
Delegate research and preparation is a critical element of attending NHSMUN-MX and enjoying the conference’s intellectual
and cosmopolitan perspective. We have provided this Background Guide to introduce the topics that will be discussed in your
committee. This document is designed to give you a description of the committee’s mandate and the topics on its agenda. We
do not intend to represent exhaustive research on every facet of the topics. We encourage and expect each of you to critically
explore the selected topics and be able to identify and analyze their intricacies upon arrival at the conference. Delegates must be
prepared to intelligently utilize your knowledge and apply it to your country’s unique policy.

The task of preparing for the conference can be challenging, but to assist delegates, we have updated our Beginner Delegate
Guide and Advanced Delegate Guide. In particular, these guides contain more detailed instructions on how to prepare a
position paper and excellent sources that delegates can use for research. Use these resources to your advantage—they can help
transform a sometimes-overwhelming task into what it should be: an engaging, interesting, and rewarding experience.

An essential part of representing a state in an international body is the ability to articulate a given state’s views in writing. Ac-
cordingly, NHSMUN-MX requires each delegate to write a position paper for both topics on the committee’s agenda. More
information about how to write and format position papers can be found in the NHSMUN Research Guide. To summarize,
position papers should be structured into three sections, described below.

I: Topic Background – This section should describe the history of the topic as it would be described by the delegate’s coun-
try. Delegates do not need to give an exhaustive account of the topic background, but rather focus on the details that are most
important to the delegation’s policy and proposed solutions.

II: Country Policy – This section should discuss the delegation’s policy regarding the topic. Each paper should state the policy
in plain terms and include the relevant statements, statistics, and research that support the effectiveness of the policy. Compari-
sons with other global issues are also appropriate here.

III. Proposed Solutions – This section should detail the delegation’s proposed solutions to address the topic. Descriptions of
each solution should be thorough. Each idea should clearly connect to the specific problem it aims to solve and identify potential
obstacles to implementation and how they can be avoided. The solution should be a natural extension of the country’s policy.

Each topic’s position paper should be no more than 10 pages long double-spaced with standard margins and font size. We
recommend 2–4 pages per topic as a suitable length. The paper must be written from the perspective of the country you
are representing at NHSMUN-MX and should articulate the policies you will espouse at the conference.

Each delegation is responsible for sending a copy of its papers to their committee Directors via myDais on or before October
1, 2021. The papers received by this deadline will be reviewed by the dais of each committee and returned prior to your arrival
at the conference.

Complete instructions for how to submit position papers will be sent to faculty advisers via the email submitted at registration.
If delegations are unable to submit their position papers on time, they should contact us at as soon as possible.
Background Guide CSW 2021 - IMUNA
Background Guide
                                                                                                  Committee History        |7
Committee History
On June 21, 1946, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) created the international governing body
known as the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for the sole purpose of promoting women’s rights and the empow-
erment of women all over the world.1 Diplomat and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt desired for women to achieve a more
active role in the affairs of the government and beyond, so she advocated for a subcommittee under the Commission of Human
Rights, which eventually led to the approval of the independent committee under the ECOSOC.2 Its 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 “on urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of
women’s rights.”3CSW is also responsible for overseeing the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a concerted ef-
fort that focuses on improving the women’s rights agenda in all dimensions of life.4 Further, CSW handles international disputes
over human rights in a very particular fashion, following precedents outlined by the UN. For instance, CSW has a 1503 procedure
to report the behavior of human rights violations, which communicates the existence of violence in a member state or instances
of violence faced by women in several member states.5

CSW comprises 45 member states worldwide based on equitable geographic distribution: thirteen members from Africa, eleven
from Asia, nine from Latin America and the Caribbean, eight from Western Europe and other States, and four from Eastern
Europe.6 Each annual session meets in March to discuss key themes pertaining to current global issues impacting women, to
adopt resolutions, and to revise their celebrated multi-year program of work. Additionally, CSW is one of nine functioning com-
missions in ECOSOC accountable for implementing policy recommendations related to the progress of women.7

Some of the notable contributions of CSW include the drafting of the first international conventions to protect the
rights of women, particularly the Convention on the Political Rights of Women (1953), Convention on Consent to
Marriage, Minimum Age of Marriage, and Registration for Marriages (1962), and the Convention on the Elimina-
tion of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1967) at the behest of the UNGA.8 With its annual sessions
hosted in New York City, USA each year, CSW is a global policy-making body solely focused on achieving gender
equality and women empowerment.9 Discussions amongst key stakeholders such as ministers, government officials,
and civil society representatives on a priority theme determined by member states in advance culminate in creating
a document called “Agreed Conclusions.”10 CSW works closely with accredited NGOs that are invited to participate
in its deliberations as observers.11 In 2011, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement
of Women (INSTRAW), UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Office of the Special Advisor on Gender
Issues and the Advancement of Women (OSAGI), and Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) merged to
1 “Commission on the Status of Women,” UN Women,
2 “What Is The United Nations Commission On The Status Of Women (CSW)?,” Sahar Moazami and Daniel Bradley, Creation of CSW, last
modified July 7, 2017,
3 A/RES/20/14, Carolyn Hannan, Aina Iiambo, and Christine Brautigam, “Short History of the Commission on the Status of Women,”
United Nations Women, (2019): 4, accessed 21 September 2019,
4 “The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW): An Overview,” Women’s Environment and Development Organization, We Do,
accessed September 8, 2020,
5 “UN Commission on the Status of Women,” Stop Violence Against Women, Complaint Mechanism, accessed September 12, 2020,
6 “Member States,” UN Women, Members of the Commission, accessed on September 8, 2020,
7 “About ECOSOC and its Subsidiary Bodies,” Department of Economic and Social Affairs, NGO Branch, accessed September 12, 2020,
8 “A brief history of the CSW,” United Nations Women, accessed September 8, 2020,
9 “Snapshot: What is CSW?” United Nations Women, accessed September 8, 2020
10 “Snapshot: What is CSW?” United Nations Women, accessed September 8, 2020
11 “A brief history of the CSW,” United Nations Women, accessed September 8, 2020,
Background Guide CSW 2021 - IMUNA
Background Guide
8|     Committee History

form UN Women which comprise the secretariat of the CSW.12 Multi-year programs, including the priority themes for
the annual sessions, are determined by the CSW as per ECOSOC resolutions, and consequently, the theme for 2020
was determined by ECOSOC resolution 2018/8.13 Moreover, the multi-year program for 2021-2024 for the CSW is
included in ECOSOC resolution 2020/25.14 The priority theme for 2021 is “Women’s Full and Effective Participa-
tion and decision making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the
empowerment of all women and girls.”15 In 1996, the ECOSOC resolution 1996/6 expanded the mandate of CSW
to monitor and review the progress of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and bring a gender
perspective to activities and programs of the United Nations.16

12 “A brief history of the CSW.”
13 “Commission on the Status of Women,” United Nations Women, Commission on the Status of Women. ,accessed September 8, 2020
14 “Commission on the Status of Women,” United Nations Women, Commission on the Status of Women, accessed September 8, 2020.
15 “Resolution adopted by the Economic and Social Council on 17 July 2020,” United Nations,,
published 27 July, 2020
16 “Resolutions and Decisions of the Economic and Social Council,” United Nations, E/1996/96. published 27 July, 2020.
Background Guide CSW 2021 - IMUNA
Background Guide
                                              NHSMUN-MX 2021

                                   Topic A:
  The Disproportionate Effect of Natural Disasters on Women
Photo Credit: EC/ECHO/Aftab Alam
Background Guide CSW 2021 - IMUNA
10|TI   opic A: The Disproportionate
                                             Effect of Natural Disasters on Women

Natural disasters are unavoidable and unpredictable events that can decimate communities and cities.
Hurricanes, typhoons, floods, and earthquakes can cause an immense number of fatalities, destruc-
tion of infrastructure, and permanent displacement of the inhabitants of any area they affect. Hurri-
cane Mitch, striking the coasts of Central America in October 1998, was one of the most destructive
Atlantic hurricanes in recent history. The damage from the storm included USD 3 billion in agricul-
tural land and goods, USD 800 million in impacts to housing, health, and education, USD 1.2 billion
in total physical infrastructure in regions affected, and USD 4 billion to the manufacturing sector,
including two-thirds of the infrastructure of Honduras and Nicaragua.1 Although Hurricane Mitch
was intense, it was not as notably economically destructive as more contemporary natural disasters.
More recently, the 2011 Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand cost USD 40 billion in damages,
the 2011 Hurricane Sandy in the United States cost USD 75 billion, and the 2008 earthquake in Si-
chuan, China cost USD 148 billion.2 The most expensive natural disaster on record was the 2011
Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, resulting in USD 300 billion of total damage (including the damage
from the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant).3
Climate change can alter weather patterns, ecosystems, and            simultaneously increased. High flood waters caused by storms
other processes in ways that make natural disasters more fre-         pushing water onshore, storm surge is actually responsible
quent occurrences or even more intense. Climate change can            for a majority of the damage left by hurricanes.8 Additionally,
affect both average and extreme temperatures, which increas-          climate research shows that increasing global temperatures
es the likelihood of weather-related natural disasters.4 A natu-      might decrease the frequency of weaker storms—such as cat-
ral disaster begins as a natural hazard resulting from naturally      egory 1 and 2 hurricanes—but will increase the frequency and
occurring geologic processes that have occurred throughout            intensity of the strongest storms—such as Category 3, 4, and
history.5 If the hazard causes loss of human life or property,        5.9 Climate change can also affect drought and more natural
then the event is considered a natural disaster.6 While storms,       disasters, so while this is most importantly an issue of gender,
earthquakes, and other hazards come in varying sizes, human           improved and gender-sensitive plans of disaster risk manage-
and societal factors are major drivers of how much damage a
                                                                      ment will be increasingly imperative as global temperatures
natural disaster can cause.7 This dichotomy of natural hazards
                                                                      continue to rise.
and societal risk factors can be particularly examined through
the lens of differing impacts along gender lines. As global           Within all societies, there are power dynamics and class hi-
warming continues to raise sea levels, the risk of storm surge is     erarchies in place. Depending on a person’s race, age, class,

1 Sarah Bradshaw, “Socio-economic Impacts of Natural Disasters: A Gender Analysis,” United Nations, May 2004, https://repositorio.cepal.
2 Melissa White, “Top 10 Most Expensive Natural Disasters,” Business Pundit, September 26, 2017,
3 White, “Top 10 Most Expensive Natural Disasters.”
4 “The Impact of Climate Change on Natural Disasters,” NASA Earth Observatory, March 30, 2005,
5 Stephen A. Nelson, “Natural Hazards and Natural Disasters,” Tulane University, January 9, 2018,
6 Nelson, “Natural Hazards and Natural Disasters.”
7 Sarah Bradshaw, “Socio-economic Impacts of Natural Disasters: A Gender Analysis,” United Nations, May 2004, https://repositorio.cepal.
8 Amina Khan, “Fires, Droughts, and Hurricanes: What’s the Link Between Climate Change and Natural Disasters?” LA Times, 5 December
2017, accessed June 24, 2019,
9 Khan, “Fires, Droughts, and Hurricanes: What’s the Link Between Climate Change and Natural Disasters?”
Topic A: The Disproportionate Effect of Natural Disasters on Women
                                                                           History and Description of the Issue                     |11
and gender, they will experience a disaster differently.10 CSW          Action endorsed gender mainstreaming as a critical tool for
is particularly interested in exploring these dynamics in re-           achieving gender equality. By using gender mainstreaming and
gards to gender. Women constitute the majority of the world’s           ensuring that a gender perspective is assessed and evaluated in
poor and occupy livelihoods that have a higher dependency               issues of disaster risk management, the CSW can take more
on natural resources that are vulnerable to climate change.             steps to achieve gender equality.
These factors make them disproportionately affected by both
climate change and natural disasters.11 Environmental degra-
dation has been identified as a key threat to human security
                                                                        History and Description of the Issue
because, in any post-conflict or post-crisis situation, coun-
                                                                        Gendered Impacts On Life Expectancy
tries face grave issues that can undermine the peace-building
process and endanger women who face a disproportionate                  The effect that natural disasters have on populations, com-
amount of hardships.12 This topic and background guide fo-              munities, or a region is decidedly unnatural and driven by
cus on one specific aspect of disasters and disaster manage-            mankind and society. A society’s preparedness for natural di-
ment—the gendered nature of disaster vulnerability due to               sasters is determined by its economic status, government poli-
social norms, gender roles, and the socioeconomic status of             cies and emergency plans, local industry, and trade regulations
women.13 Rather than a discussion of how to prevent these               surrounding relief efforts, among other factors. Even within
disasters, this guide will cover the ways in which the gendered         a society, disasters can affect individuals differently based on
impacts of natural disasters can be mitigated.                          their socioeconomic status or, crucially, gender. For example,
                                                                        the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killed at least
Identifying gender-sensitive strategies for responding to nat-
                                                                        220,000 people throughout 16 different countries, according
ural disasters and reducing gender-based vulnerability is the
                                                                        to Oxfam International.15 Of those 220,000, about 80 percent
focus of this guide, which will utilize gender mainstream-
                                                                        of them were women. Women accounted for 91 percent of
ing as a major tool to explore the topic. In 1997, ECOSOC
                                                                        fatalities following the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone and 61 per-
defined gender mainstreaming as “the process of assessing
                                                                        cent of fatalities following Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.16
the implications for women and men of any planned action,
including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and         Eric Neumayer and Thomas Plümper, economists from the
at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s     London School of Economics and Political Science, have
concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design,           conducted research that confirms that the incidence of natu-
implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and               ral disasters at birth has a tangible impact on a person’s life
programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres              expectancy. More specifically that “natural disasters on aver-
so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not            age kill more women than men or kill women at a younger
perpetrated between the two. The ultimate goal is to achieve            age than men, and the more so the stronger the disaster.”17
gender equality.”14 The Beijing Declaration and Platform for            Neumayer and Plümper can pinpoint this discrepancy upon
10 Bradshaw, “Socio-economic Impacts of Natural Disasters: A Gender Analysis.”
11 “Women, Gender Inequality, and Climate Change,” UN Women, 2009, accessed June 23, 2019,
12 “Women, Gender Inequality, and Climate Change,”
13 Eric Neumayer and Thomas Plümper, “The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gen-
der Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981–2002,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 97, No. 3 (2008): 551-566, accessed June 23, 2019,
14 “Gender Mainstreaming,” UN Women, accessed July 25, 2019,
15 Rhona MacDonald, “How Women Were Affected by the Tsunami: A Perspective From Oxfam,” PLOS Medicine 2 No. 6 (2005): 178, 28
June 2005, accessed 24 June 2019,
16 MacDonald, “How Women Were Affected by the Tsunami,” 178.
17 Eric Neumayer and Thomas Plümper, “The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender
Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981–2002,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 97, No. 3 (2008): 551-566,, https://www.tandfonline.
12|TH      opic A: The Disproportionate Effect of
           istory and Description of the Issue
                                                           Natural Disasters on Women

 Elderly Pariaman woman sits in a ruined home

the socioeconomic status of women, that “where the socio-               individuals to natural disasters. Traditional gender roles and
economic status of women is high, men and women will die                patriarchal values that are prevalent in many societies do not
in roughly equal numbers during and after natural disasters,            work in women’s favor and tend to disadvantage women be-
whereas when the socioeconomic status of women is low,                  fore, during, and after a disaster.
more women than men die.” They hypothesize that women
are consistently the prominent victims of natural disasters be-         Neumayer and Plümper identify three main causes for the
cause of their socioeconomic status and the gender roles and            mortality discrepancy, which will be examined further in this
stereotypes that control their place in society and, therefore,         background guide. These causes include social norms and gen-
their vulnerability. Sometimes, however, the roles are reversed.        der roles, the shortage of essential resources, and a temporary
Studies of European heat waves show that more women die                 breakdown of the social order. What is important to under-
than men, consistent with other disasters.18 However, in the            stand is that pre-disaster social orders and constructs undeni-
United States, this is not the case. There, elderly men are more        ably influence women’s access to resources post-disaster and
at risk, possibly because of “the level of social isolation” of         lead to them facing an increased vulnerability because of their
that demographic.19 Gender roles and the social structure of            gender.20 Women’s “restricted access to assets (physical, finan-
society have an undeniable impact on the vulnerability of               cial, human, social and natural) and unequal power relations
18 R. Sari Kovat and Shakoor Hajat, “Heat Stress and Public Health: A Critical Review,” Annual Review of Public Health 29 (2008): 41-55, ac-
cessed 5 July 2019,
19 “Gender, Climate Change, and Health,” World Health Organization, accessed 27 June 2019.
20 “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Disaster Recovery,” United Nations, accessed June 23, 2019,
Topic A: The Disproportionate Effect of Natural Disasters on Women
                                                                           History and Description of the Issue                     |13
are pivotal in undermining their capacity to respond;” thus,            camps. These violent attacks took place alongside more subtle
women are not vulnerable because they are weaker but be-                forms of sexual exploitation in which LGBT people were co-
cause of societal structure that unfairly disadvantages them.21         erced to obtain food or money.26

Social and Physical Vulnerabilities that Wom-                           Additionally, the LGBT population is commonly blamed in
en Face                                                                 the media for the natural disasters themselves. After Hur-
                                                                        ricane Katrina, which struck the United States in 2005, tel-
Vulnerability to natural disasters can differ based on geo-
                                                                        evangelists linked the hurricane to homosexuality in New Or-
graphic location, time, wealth, level of education, or gender
                                                                        leans. In 2010, the Russian Association of Orthodox Experts
of those affected. The root cause of vulnerability being, of
                                                                        blamed LGBT activists for the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull
course, “lack of access to the resources that allow people
                                                                        Volcano.27 In some cases, LGBT victims are denied access to
to cope with hazardous events–such as income, education,
                                                                        shelters and aid because of discriminatory policies or ho-
health and social networks.”22 Thus, taking all of these factors
                                                                        mophobia.28 For example, in regions with widespread political
into consideration when determining the vulnerability of an
                                                                        or social recognition of one or more “third genders,” such as
area to a natural disaster is critical.
                                                                        Tamil Nadu, third-gender individuals specifically had major
LGBT women—because they do not fit the traditional nu-                  difficulties accessing shelters because shelters were labeled ac-
clear family structure—often are denied foreign aid after a             cording to binary genders (male and female), which they do
disaster.23 However, the main issue when it comes to LGBT               not fit into. Similarly, those who do not fit into a standard of
women in this context is the lack of data. The LGBT experi-             the heterosexual nuclear family have been reported to have
ence is not widely researched except for a few studies declar-          struggled to access aid because they do not have a male head
ing that “the marginalisation of LGBT people is heightened              of household, which is sometimes required to receive aid.
during disasters, as existing inequalities are magnified.”24 The        Thus, relief is unfortunately often tailored to heteronormativ-
destruction of safe personal and communal spaces such as                ity, a concept describing the assumption that heterosexuality
homes and community centers exposes LGBT people to ha-                  is the ideal, normal, or expected sexuality for people, which
rassment. According to the International Gay and Lesbian                can cause problems of exclusion or invisibility for LGBT in-
Human Rights Commission, before the 2010 earthquake in                  dividuals.29
Haiti, “the physical shelter and structure afforded by domestic
spaces provided local LGBT populations with a ‘sense of se-             Disaster relief is not only tailored to heteronormative stan-
curity’ by acting as sanctuaries and barriers against homopho-          dards for nuclear families but also able-bodied individuals.
bic and transphobic violence.”25 A civil service organization in        When viewing natural disaster relief and prevention from a
Haiti, SEROvie, documented evidence of rapes of lesbians,               gendered lens, the committee must also consider the extended
gay men, and transgender women in or near displaced person              and diverse vulnerabilities of these marginalized communities.
21 Jenny Moreno and Duncan Shaw, “Women’s Empowerment Following Disaster: A Longitudinal Study of Social Change,” Natural Haz-
ards 92, No. 1 (2018): 205-224, accessed July, 8 2019,
22 Sarah Bradshaw and Maureen Fordham, “Women, Girls, and Disasters: A Review for DFID,” Middlesex University and Northumbria Uni-
versity and Gender and Disaster Network, August 2013, accessed June, 27 2019,
23 Zoe Tabary, “Women, LGBT People ‘Invisible’ Victims of Disasters--Experts,” Thomas Reuters Foundation News, March 8, 2018,, https://
24 Andrew Gorman-Murray, Scott McKinnon, and Dale Dominey-Howes, “Queer Domicide: LGBT Displacement and Home Loss in Nat-
ural Disaster Impact, Response, and Recovery,” Home Cultures 11, No. 10 (2014), accessed July 5, 2019,
25 Gorman-Murray, “Queer Domicide: LGBT Displacement and Home Loss in Natural Disaster Impact, Response, and Recovery,”
26 “The Impact of the Earthquake, and Relief and Recovery Programs on Haitian LGBT People,” International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission and SEROvie, accessed July 14, 2019,
27 “The Impact of the Earthquake, and Relief and Recovery Programs on Haitian LGBT People.”
28 Gorman-Murray, “Queer Domicide: LGBT Displacement and Home Loss in Natural Disaster Impact, Response, and Recovery.”
29 Elizabeth Boskey, “Heteronormativity and Heterosexuality in Our Daily Lives,” Very Well Health, April 11, 2019, https://www.verywell-
14|TH      opic A: The Disproportionate Effect of
           istory and Description of the Issue
                                                                      Natural Disasters on Women

After the earthquakes in Nepal in 2015, disabled individuals                  abilities (PwD) in ways that may not particularly impact a
residing in temporary housing and displaced person camps                      person living without a disability.32 Thus, it is imperative to
struggled to access the same resources and share the same                     consider the necessary accommodations for PwD in disaster
spaces with able-bodied people. One woman in Nuwakot af-                      recovery settings, for example, in terms of evacuation access
firmed that “the simple act of going to the bathroom is a                     or specific forms of shelter, when their support system has
major issue for young girls with disabilities since fathers and               been disrupted. A study in Zimbabwe analyzing disability as
mothers are able to carry a disabled boy to the bathroom, but                 a factor influencing disaster risk reduction recommends and
gender norms limit the help that female children receive after                “advocates for a paradigm that brings people with disabilities
a certain age.”30 Other individuals in this same camp claimed                 at the centre of disaster risk reduction (DRR) decision-mak-
that disabled females are “more prone to other types of vio-
                                                                              ing and policy formulation.”33 Evaluating the impact of natu-
lence as well as sexual violence,” specifically in shelters that
                                                                              ral disasters upon women requires an evaluation from angles
are unsafe or in the absence of parental figures or guardians.31
                                                                              and identities of women—disability included.
Additionally, it is important to note that natural disasters can
create disability, as well as inflict injuries on persons with dis-           Pregnant and postpartum (after birth) women present another

 Expectant mothers check in after evacuating from Hurricane Katrina

30 Austin Lord et al., “Disaster, Disability, and Difference: A Study of the Challenges Faced by Persons with Disabilities in Post-Earthquake
Nepal,” United Nations Development Programme, May 2016,
31 Austin Lord et al., “Disaster, Disability, and Difference.”
32 Wilfred Lunga et al., “Disability and Disaster Risk Reduction as an Incongruent Matrix: Lessons From Rural Zimbabwe,” Jamba 11, No.
1 (2019): 648, accessed July 9, 2019,
33 Lunga et al., “Disability and Disaster Risk Reduction as an Incongruent Matrix.”
Topic A: The Disproportionate Effect of Natural Disasters on Women
                                                                           History and Description of the Issue                 |15
layer of vulnerability in hazardous situations. A few items on        community organizations were all led by men. However, the
a lengthy list of risks associated with their situations following    disaster changed these social dynamics. The men’s principle
natural disasters include a greater risk of infections, tissue dam-   livelihood—fishing—was completely destroyed, so women
age, premature labor, miscarriage, and postnatal depression.34        started their own community organizations such as communi-
After Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, pregnant women               ty kitchens or therapy-oriented support groups as an alterna-
reported difficulty finding formula milk, clothes, and food.35        tive source of income. Although not the most common situa-
A lack of preparation for emergencies and a lack of educa-            tion, this case study shows that there is a chance for the typical
tion about how to cope with pregnancy during a crisis existed         gender roles to be disrupted by a natural disaster resulting in a
in Philippine communities leading to diminished healthcare,           positive outcome for women.
confusion, and pregnancy problems following the typhoon.
Outside of the physical differences that women face from              Female Poverty
men, the invisible forces shaping the idea of womanhood can
                                                                      Ancient Greek philosopher Plutarch once said that “an im-
have similar impacts. Traditional patriarchal gender roles and
                                                                      balance between rich and poor is the most fatal ailment of
what is deemed culturally “appropriate” for girls and women
                                                                      all republics.”40 Wealth discrepancies affect both men and
can greatly impact women’s mobility and their likelihood of
                                                                      women, and the last few years saw immense progress towards
survival. For example, in cultures that require women to wear
                                                                      eliminating extreme poverty around the world. However, one
certain clothes due to concerns about modesty—specifically
                                                                      traditional root of wealth gaps remains embodied in gender
in some Latin American and Asian countries—girls are usually
                                                                      discrimination. There is a 19-year gap between women’s life
not taught to swim.36 This is believed to have severely exac-
                                                                      expectancy in high-income countries and low-income coun-
erbated the death toll of the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone, as the
                                                                      tries. More than 1.3 billion women do not have an account at
lack of ability to swim impacted women’s chances of survival
                                                                      a formal financial institution.41 In comparison, there is only a
significantly.37 Women can even face discrimination during
                                                                      nine-year gap between the life expectancies of men in high-
rescue efforts. One father recalled that he was “unable to hold
                                                                      income and low-income countries.42 Rural and urban women
on to both his son and his daughter from being swept away by
                                                                      face even more wealth discrepancies. For example, only 23
a tidal surge in the 1991 Cyclone in Bangladesh, released his
                                                                      percent of poor, rural girls complete their primary education
daughter because ‘(his) son has to carry on the family line.’”38
                                                                      in sub-Saharan Africa. Wealth has a substantial impact upon
These forms of discrimination are not always observed and             those affected by natural disasters, and in this regard, women
can be influenced by unique societal factors. One study of a          are especially vulnerable. While there is some debate and criti-
small Chilean coastal community after the 2010 earthquake             cism regarding a gender discrepancy in poverty, women are
and tsunami found that women played a larger role in their            still more likely than men to live in poverty, according to the
community after the disaster. Before, women assumed tradi-            United Nations, but only in a certain period. A collaborative
tional reproductive, domestic roles while men worked out-             study from UN Women and the World Bank found that spe-
side the home for income.39 The community’s three existing            cifically, between the ages of 20 and 34 years, women are more

34 Mari Sato et al., “Immediate Needs and Concerns Among Pregnant Women During and After Typhoon Haiyan,” PLOS Currents 8,
(2016), accessed June 27, 2019,
35 Sato et al., “Immediate Needs and Concerns Among Pregnant Women During and After Typhoon Haiyan.”
36 “Gender, Climate Change, and Health,” World Health Organization, accessed June 27, 2019.
37 “Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction,” UNDP, accessed June 6, 2019,
38 Neumayer, “The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters.”
39 Moreno, “Women’s Empowerment Following Disaster: A Longitudinal Study of Social Change.”
40 “Women and Poverty,” UN Women, accessed August 4, 2019,
41 Women and Poverty,” UN Women, accessed August 4, 2019,
42 “World Health Statistics 2014,” WHO, accessed August 12, 2019,
16|TH    opic A: The Disproportionate Effect of
         istory and Description of the Issue
                                                           Natural Disasters on Women

likely to live in a poor household than men.43 This is due to
many different circumstances, including low wages, lack of
decent work, unpaid care work, and longer work days.44

These concepts are anything but new, as Diana Pierce coined
the term “feminization of poverty” in 1978 after observing
the increasing number of women suffering from income pov-
erty in the United States.45 Women’s traditional role as the
caregiver of a family—completing domestic tasks that are
unpaid—prevents them from acquiring formal, paid employ-
ment.46 “Time poverty” describes the time it takes to complete
domestic tasks such as accessing safe drinking water or pre-             Woman waits with children for meals after 2010 Haiti Earthquake
paring meals instead of completing other tasks such as getting          an’s capacity to have a say in the allocation of resources within
an education. In less developed and rural areas, this time is           the home.49 Thus, even fewer resources will be available to
often lengthened because of a lack of access to transporta-             women in such a nuclear household, and the true representa-
tion, technology, or sanitary conditions.47 Difficulties in time        tion of women’s financial status is hard to measure because of
allocations result in using children—most often daughters—              difficulty in examining how it is distributed in the home.
of the family to assist in completing these tasks, which comes
at the expense of their education. As mentioned previously,             The wealth gap plays a direct role in the situation of women
women are less likely to have a bank account for financial as-          after a disaster, reducing their access to resources and likeli-
sets but also lack access to other methods of financial gain            hood of survival.50 Impoverished people are less likely to af-
besides formal employment such as land, housing, agricul-               ford a home built of solid, more durable materials that will be
tural equipment, large livestock, and vehicles. For example,            resistant to disasters and are more likely to live in areas that
women individually own 11 percent of documented land in                 are at more risk of hazards.51 For women, their “responsibility
Tanzania and 5 percent in Niger.48 Additionally, research in            for unpaid care work can make them dependent on men for
areas regarding female poverty can often omit key elements of           access to economic resources, and may heighten their rela-
women’s access to resources because of “secondary poverty.”             tive economic vulnerability.”52 Poor and homeless women are
Secondary poverty involves examining power dynamics inside              also less likely to heed evacuation warnings because they do
of a household when it comes to the distribution of finances.           not have the resources needed to do so.53 In New Orleans, 41
Within a male and female household, the woman is likely to              percent of female-headed households with children fall below
have a subordinate status relative to men, lessening the wom-           the national poverty line, and these women “are the least likely
43 “UN Women and the World Bank Unveil New Data Analysis on Women and Poverty,” UN Women, November 9 2017, http://www.un-
44 “Why the Majority of the World’s Poor Are Women,” Oxfam, accessed June 26, 2019,
45 Sylvia Chant, “Feminization of Poverty,” Wiley Online Library, February 29, 2012,
46 “Gender and Extreme Poverty,” United States Agency for International Development, September 2015,
47 “Gender and Extreme Poverty.”
48 “Gender and Extreme Poverty.”
49 “Poverty,” UN Statistics, accessed August 4, 2019,
50 Neumayer, “The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters.”
51 Neumayer, “The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters.”
52 Bradshaw, “Women, Girls, and Disasters: A Review for DFID.”
53 “Disaster Technical Assistance Center Supplemental Research Bulletin: Greater Impact--How Disasters Affect People of Low Socio-
economic Status,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, July 2017,
Topic A: The Disproportionate Effect of Natural Disasters on Women
                                                                           History and Description of the Issue                    |17
to have access to good information ahead of disaster, the least        fered by girls is exacerbated post-disaster, then this is a disas-
likely to have a place they can go to and stay for days or weeks,      ter risk for them.”59 Therefore, attention to the incidence of
and the least likely to have the means to leave.”54 An example         SGBV must be paid when considering the impacts of natural
of this comes during the evacuation of New Orleans before              disasters on women and girls.
Hurricane Katrina. Almost everyone that left the city did so
by car, which poor women are the least likely to have access           The main reasons for these increased levels of violent prac-
to.55 Additionally, women in Asia make up more than 80 per-            tices include the lack of security, unemployment, and the
cent of those living below USD 2 per day.56 These women                abandonment of children following a disaster.60 When com-
have no access to savings or extra financial resources after           munities lack the resources to address these issues, SGBV can
a disaster and are less likely to have the means to evacuate.          become a major issue for women and girls. After the eruptions
People living in poverty are much more vulnerable to natural           of Mt. Pinatubo and Mt. Saint Helens, after Hurricane Mitch,
disasters, but so are marginalized groups, and thus the drastic        and after the Loma Prieta earthquake, increases in levels of
extent to which poor women are affected.                               domestic and intimate partner violence have been reported.61
                                                                       In Uganda, Mercy Corps, a global non-governmental humani-
Violence Against Women                                                 tarian aid organization, found that domestic violence, child
                                                                       marriage, courtship rape, and female genital mutilation rap-
Research has shown that in the aftermath of a disaster, in-
                                                                       idly increase during droughts.62 The conditions of temporary
creased rates of child marriage, sexual and gender-based vi-
                                                                       housing and shelter seem to be a key issue, with Oxfam Inter-
olence (SGBV), particularly domestic violence, are likely to
occur.57 As previously discussed, individuals with disabilities        national reporting that after an earthquake in Nepal, “women
and members of the LGBT community are vulnerable to vio-               and adolescent girls feel at risk of physical and sexual abuse
lence. While notable, it is important to understand that wom-          in overcrowded temporary shelters where there is often no
en and girls are generally at increased risk of violence. The          privacy or solid walls.”63 Shelters in Ecuador after an earth-
lack of “sound” research into the tangible increases of SGBV           quake in 2016 were run by male military personnel, who were
is partly due to the breakdown of existing reporting systems           reportedly not trained in camp management, gender equal-
during disasters and because in many countries, these frame-           ity, or SGBV protection.64 One interviewee from the study in
works are already underdeveloped and underutilized due to              Ecuador observed a distinct abuse of power in the aftermath
the social stigma associated with reporting instances of SG-           of the disaster, leading to women and girls’ harassment and
BV.58 Whether or not the level of violence actually increases,         assault and isolating girls in the shelter because of constant
as Bradshaw reflects, “if the violence and exploitation suf-           fear and anxiety.65 After the crisis, there was “a definite in-

54 Joni Seager, “Natural Disasters Expose Gender Divides,” Chicago Tribune, September 14, 2005,
55 Seager, “Natural Disasters Expose Gender Divides.”
56 “Ha Noi Recommendations for Action on Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction,” Regional Asia-Pacific Conference on Gender and Disaster
Risk Reduction, May 2016,
dation-final-13-jul-en.pdf ?la=en&vs=5328.
57 “The Responsibility to Prevent and Respond to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Disasters and Crises,” International Federation of Red
Cross and Red Crescent Societies, accessed June 27, 2019,
58 “Effective Law and Policy on Gender Equality and Protection From Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Disasters,” IFRC, accessed
June 27, 2019,
59 Bradshaw, “Socio-economic Impacts of Natural Disasters: A Gender Analysis.”
60 Bradshaw, “Socio-economic Impacts of Natural Disasters: A Gender Analysis.”
61 “Violence and Disasters,” WHO, accessed June 27, 2019,
62 “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Disaster Recovery.”
63 “Women are Living in Fear for Their Safety Three Months On From Nepal Earthquake, Oxfam Says,” Oxfam, July 24, 2014, https://
64 “Effective Law and Policy on Gender Equality and Protection From Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Disasters.”
65 “Effective Law and Policy on Gender Equality and Protection From Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Disasters.”
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