(The above photos are of women who represent different generations in the same families.)
Social Watch, an NGO which watchdogs discrimination against women, has issued the 2007 Gender Equity Index which evaluates 154 countries, amounting to 90 percent of the world’s population, on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being a perfect score for parity between men and women.
- There are currently only 12 women, as of 2007, who have been elected Head of State or Government among a total of 200 such positions in the world.
- Women owned only 23 percent of companies in the European Union in 2004.
- Of the 550 million low-paid workers in the world, an estimated 330 million, or 60 percent, are women. (ILO)
- In some countries the 2006 gender wage gap was 30-40 percent. This means women are paid 30-40 percent less than men.
- Of the 17 million women aged 15 to 49 who live with HIV/AIDS, 98 percent live in developing countries and 77 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. (WHO)
- The gap between men and women persists in all countries of the world.
Social Watch believes sex inequality manifests in the division of responsibilities between men and women, in access to and control of resources, and in the decision-making process, and evaluates the status of women vis a vis men using these criteria. The organization views the following as key to ending discrimination against the world’s women:
- Legislative Reform Legislative reform is an effective strategy for the promotion of women and girls’ autonomy and for safeguarding their rights. Mechanisms to prevent and respond to violence against women are necessary. Governments should apply existing laws, promote new laws and address common law legislation that discriminates against women.
- Finance and Budget Sufficient resources must be allocated to achieve justice for women.
- Education Guaranteeing educational opportunity is one of the most effective measures in the fight against discrimination against women. Educational curricula should emphasize the importance of sex equality and pro-male, anti-female prejudice in the classroom should be addressed.
- Affirmative Action Quotas enable women to overcome obstacles which hinder their participation in political life. Of the 20 countries in the world with the most women in Parliament, 17 have some type of quota system.
American women will not be surprised to hear that the U.S., despite its wealth and power, is among the 10th most regressed nations this year, and ranks only 24th among the 154 nations evaluated.
Top 10 Countries for 2007
- New Zealand
Worst Performing Countries for 2007
- Saudi Arabia
- Central African Republic
- Sierra Leone
- Cote d’Ivoire
10 Most-Regressed Countries
- Central African Republic
- United States
10 Countries with Greatest Progress
- Cape Verde
- El Salvador
Analysis of Rwanda’s Impressive Performance
Rwanda’s impressive performance, according to Social Watch, is related to implementation of affirmative action policies involving legally binding regulations, either of a constitutional nature, or designed to promote change in social factors, including structural ones.
Examples of rapid change in Rwanda over recent years:
- 30 percent of decision-making related positions were assigned to women;
- Local funds and micro-credits were provided for production projects led by women;
- In 2003 Article 187 of the new Rwandan Constitution formalized equity promotion structures such as the National Council of Women;
- A Gender Issues Monitoring Office was created to facilitate the participation of women in public life and to ensure that development initiatives will benefit both sexes.
As a result, many Rwandan women entered public life as political leaders, with 48 percent of seats in the Chamber of Deputies held by women. There was also a significant increase in participation of women at ministerial and local government levels.
An important finding is that the differences between countries with high, middle and lower-middle incomes are not significant; in other words, the relation between a country’s income and its treatment of women is not direct.
The news is not good, but those of us who are committed to women know that. It’s interesting the resistance which still exists to the facts, the truth, about the status of women in the world. Women remain an oppressed and subjugated minority; it is men and the institutions, structures, and organizations they have created which are responsible for our oppression and subjugation. We have a long, long way to go until we are free.
Thanks to Shirley of Global Sisterhood Network for the heads up.