One of the Millennium Development Goals is to promote gender equality throughout the world. This is because it has been proven that empowering women often leads to the empowerment of communities. The education of women is key to progress, for a number of reasons.
An annual report by the NGO Save the Children has shed light on a disturbing reality. Through a measurement of life expectancy, education, use of contraception, wages and political power, the organization measured the best and worst places in the world to be a woman. Overall, the results are mostly unsurprising, but show the complexity of the problem of gender inequality. Much progress has been made, but much work is still left to do.
Unsurprisingly, this year Western Europe and Scandinavia top the list of best countries to live with the countries of Finland, Sweden and Norway, followed by Iceland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Australia. At the bottom of the list, the worst places to be a women include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen, Somalia, Niger, Chad, Afghanistan, Mali, Eritrea, Sierra Leone and Madagascar.
Though countries like India and South Africa have received significant media coverage for the levels of sexual violence their female populations suffer, they are surprisingly high up on the list. South Africa has an impressive 60% of its population using modern contraceptives and 41% of its government seats held by women. India is significantly less well off, but still beats countries such as Singapore and Korea, with an encouraging life expectancy rate and close to half the population on contraceptives.
What this shows is the multifaceted nature of discrimination; it is not manifested solely in sexual violence, but in a myriad of ways which -– though they may not be as visible -– can be similarly devastating to a women’s physical and mental well-being.
One thing that does stand out is that the link between poverty and gender discrimination is clear. The list correlates surprisingly well as a ranking of wealth as well as status. It is not exact; other factors such as culture and religion play a large role. But all of the top-ranking countries are developed and established, while all of the bottom-ranking ones have many citizens struggling to eke out an existence.
At times, some think of foreign aid as the solution to a given problem — food for hunger, relief for a disaster, supplies for education. But the truth is that foreign aid, successfully delivered, contributes to development which has far reaching implications. Encouraging the development of countries, no matter what way, opens opportunities for its citizens in far more than one area. If we are to fight gender discrimination, we must also fight poverty, one of its root causes.
– Farahnaz Mohammed