women in Asia In Asia, women are affected daily by heightened gender inequality, high instances of gender-based violence and low access to education. To combat these issues, four organizations are working diligently to improve the quality of life for Asian women. The International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP), Women’s Fund Asia, U.N. Women and The Asia Foundation are all respectively working toward helping women in Asia and providing them with the resources necessary to thrive.

IWRAW Asia Pacific

Operating from Malaysia, IWRAW-AP focuses on improving feminism. The organization’s mission is to demobilize establishments that violate women’s rights. To fulfill this goal, IWRAW-AP utilizes policy advocacy, online communications, networking and feminist analysis. These methods advance women’s development across the world, including Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. IWRAW has also recently been conducting work in Africa and Europe, further widening its influence. Thus, the organization’s efforts have been impactful so far.

IWRAW-AP has administered discussions and legal training sessions with lawyers and judges in Asia for more than 300 legal actors. Additionally, IWRAW-AP held technical training sessions on gender equality. These meetings taught the standards for women’s rights organizations based on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other human rights treaties. Through this initiative, IWRAW-AP emphasized three main strategies to enforce equality for women in Asia. By increasing recognition, knowledge of rights and teaching how to apply strategy to advocacy, the CEDAW convention holds immense power. Overall, it has trained 800 women’s rights leaders, helping to improve the lives of women in Asia.

Women’s Fund Asia

Women’s Fund Asia focuses on improving philanthropy grants. Aimed at supporting girls, women, intersex and trans people, the Women’s Fund Asia provides financial aid to fight for those in need. Moreover, the organization offers application-based grants under three programs to support women in Asia. The first is the Strengthening Feminist Movements initiative. This program provides financial assistance to minority groups in Asian countries.

The second program is called Leading from the South, which utilizes resources administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. This program assists women’s rights organizations through financial aid, primarily in South Asia. Lastly, Linking and Learning is a program that operates differently than the first two resources. The organization supplies travel grants and collaborative events grants for advocacy improvement and workshops related to women’s rights in Asia. Women’s Fund Asia has already had immense success. From 2019 to 2020, grants under Strengthening Feminist Movements amounted to $150,054.

UN Women Asia and the Pacific

Thirdly, U.N. Women is a global organization that centers around creating and maintaining gender equality in Asia. Women in Asia benefit through various focus areas, including, but not limited to, increasing leadership and political participation, furthering economic empowerment and ending gender-based violence. Prioritizing national security and promoting humanitarian action are other major goals for U.N. Women.

To tackle all of these initiatives, U.N. Women backs international political negotiations encompassing gender equality. It also supplies financial aid and knowledge to support women in Asia. Examples of these efforts include the intergovernmental forums at the U.N. In the last two years, collecting funds from the public to directly combat the effects of COVID-19 has been a major focus of the organization. This has included providing sanitary products, food and healthcare for impoverished women in South Asia.

The Asia Foundation

Lastly, The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on the development of Asian countries, including the empowerment of women. Through various programs, the foundation makes education, entrepreneurship and employment more accessible to women in Asia. The foundation also works to supply sufficient leadership training and mentorship.

The Asia Foundation garners funds from a network of developmental agencies, corporations and individuals committed to women’s advancement. Some of the major outcomes in 2020 include implementing legal clinics in Afghanistan and a new employment program to improve women’s technological skills in Malaysia. Another success was the registration of 600 new clients to the Asia Foundation’s Women’s Business Center in Mongolia.

The Importance of Women’s Empowerment

In order to alleviate global poverty and promote gender equality in Asian countries, the efforts of these organizations are necessary for creating change. With the empowerment of feminism, more opportunities are available for women in Asia. As more women gain access to education, enter the workforce and learn essential life skills, women can earn higher incomes that will break cycles of poverty. Furthermore, improved healthcare leads to lower rates of maternal and child mortality.

According to the World Bank, these combined elements can help break the cycle of poverty. As nations become educated and empowered, countries become wealthier. As COVID-19 has impacted millions of Asian girls, initiatives and organizations such as IWRAW-AP, Women’s Fund Asia, U.N. Women and The Asia Foundation have the power to end instances of gender-based inequality. Overall, with more recognition and funding, the cycle of poverty comes closer to breaking.

– Riya Sharma
Photo: Flickr

Women's rights in New ZealandOn September 19, 1893, New Zealand Governor Lord Glasgow signed off on a new Electoral Act, granting women the right to vote. New Zealand ushered in a new phase of the women’s suffrage movement by becoming the first self-governed nation to allow women the right to vote. Women’s rights in New Zealand have always mattered to New Zealanders, a notion that has become more apparent in recent years. Following the 2017 election, women made up 38% of parliament. Women have held positions in high-ranking offices such as prime minister, governor-general and chief justice. A brief overview of New Zealand’s history reveals that the country has progressed at an accelerated pace over the last decade and is continuing in the right direction.

3 Advancements in Women’s Rights in New Zealand

  1. Paid Leave for Miscarriages and Stillbirths. Women’s rights in New Zealand still play a central role in political affairs. In March 2021, New Zealand’s Parliament approved a bill that provides paid leave for women and their partners after miscarriage or stillbirth. A miscarriage is defined as a loss of pregnancy “earlier than 20 weeks of gestation,” whereas stillbirths can occur after such a point. The only other country to provide paid leave for women following a miscarriage is India.
  2. Women in Parliament. The rich diversity within New Zealand’s culture is displayed within its parliament. New Zealand is ranked number five in the world for its representation of women in parliament. The growing number of women in cabinet has further advanced women’s rights in New Zealand. The country also prioritizes women’s rights in legislation. It has also delivered an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially focusing on vulnerable groups such as women. New Zealand’s parliament is making great strides in supporting women.
  3. Equal Pay. New Zealand’s commitment to the advancement of women’s rights continues to serve as an example to other nations. In 2018, New Zealand’s parliament unanimously passed the Equal Pay Amendment Bill that guarantees equal pay for workers, regardless of gender. A similar bill was passed in 1972. However, the most recent bill focuses on pay equity. It guarantees that women in “historically underpaid female-dominated industries” will have the same compensation as men in “different but equal-value work.” The bill also makes it simpler for workers to lodge pay equity claims. It also establishes guidelines for pay comparisons, ensuring any possible gender pay gaps are fair and justified.

The Road Ahead

The country continues enacting policies to advance women’s rights in New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is also offering relief to those hit hardest by COVID-19. Due to Ardern’s exceptional response to the COVID-19 crisis, she was victorious in her re-election campaign. As the country pushes ahead in hopes of eliminating COVID-19 altogether, New Zealand’s government proposed a $2.8 billion income support initiative. The initiative will serve as financial assistance to the country’s most vulnerable group: women.

As history and current policies reveal, New Zealand is making great strides in terms of women’s rights. The country’s commitment to gender equality is reflected in its legislation and its parliamentary representation.

– Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Flickr

gender wage gap In “one of the most substantial moments for gender equality in New Zealand in decades,” the Equal Pay Amendment Bill was passed by the New Zealand parliament and took effect in November of 2020. This legislation intends to address pay equity, advance previous work toward pay equality and address the gender wage gap. Rather than just addressing gaps between men and women’s wages in the same professions, this bill targets differences between wages in female-dominated professions as compared to male-dominated ones.

How Equal Pay Addresses Poverty

Addressing gender wage gaps is key to fighting global poverty for numerous reasons. Not only do women tend to be in lower-paying occupations, but they also lack employment opportunities. Females are also tasked with two to 10 times the care work (housekeeping, childcare, etc.) than men. Research in developing countries shows that women lose out on $9 trillion annually due to economic inequality. As the number of women in paid work increased between 2000 and 2010 in Latin America, overall poverty fell by approximately 30%.

To truly appreciate this victory in fighting the gender wage gap in New Zealand, we can take a brief journey through the nation’s history of work toward equal pay.

New Zealand’s Work Towards Equal Pay

New Zealand National Tramways Union afforded equal pay to women in 1942. As women entered the workforce during World War II due to the shortage of male workers, the New Zealand National Tramways Union insisted women received the same pay as men. It became the nation’s first union to win equal pay for females working as tram conductors.

Almost two decades later, The Government Service Equal Pay Act was passed in 1960, thanks in part to the lobbying of the Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity (CEPO). The New Zealand government began to investigate equal pay in the country more holistically. The findings of that investigation led to the Equal Pay Act of 1972. This act gave women in both “private and public sectors” equal pay opportunities. By 1985, the gender wage gap diminished by 22%.

During that time in 1957, the collaboration among multiple New Zealand unions including the Māori Women’s Welfare League and the National Council of Women formed CEPO. The group began advocating for equal pay through raising awareness and educating people, political lobbying and more. CEPO was then revived in 1986 as the Coalition for Equal Value, Equal Pay and began work to disrupt male-dominated professions and fight for truly equitable pay for all New Zealanders.

In another effort to move the country toward pay equity as opposed to equality, the New Zealand Government formed the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles (JWG). The JWG developed principles and formal processes through which the government would field pay equity claims.

National Organisation for Women

One of the more structured groups of the women’s liberation movement in New Zealand was modeled after the National Organisation for Women in the United States. Founded in 1972 New Zealand’s National Organisation for Women (NOW) fought not just against the gender wage gap, but for gender equality in all areas of life. This includes legal protections.

Unfortunately, the organization in New Zealand didn’t have the same impact that it did in the U.S. so members decided to help in different ways. Many feminists took to community projects or attempted to tackle the gender wage gap in the corporate world.

New Zealand ranks 6th place in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2020. The Equal Pay Amendment Bill is not only an important step toward eliminating the gender wage gap in New Zealand but a great step toward narrowing gender gaps across multiple national benchmarks. This includes economic, educational, health, or political areas.

Despite a three-year stall in the nation’s gender pay gap, the New Zealand government’s continued focus on equal pay for work of equal value is bound to chip away at that gap and foster poverty reduction.

– Amy Perkins
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Oman
Before 1994, women in Oman did not have permission to vote. Before 2008, women did not have equal ownership of property compared to men. These are a small glimpse of many such fundamental rights that some countries deny women. Preconceived notions about the roles of women in society are difficult to alter after generations of their observance; however, Oman is starting to make significant strides towards progress in women’s rights.

Women’s Suffrage in Oman

In the 2003 elections in Oman, both men and women received an equal chance to vote for the first time. Women obtained permission to vote for members of the Majlis al-Shura, the elected governing body of Oman, and could even run as candidates in 2012. Commentator Muhammad Al Hinai observed that “society is becoming more aware of how important the woman’s role is, in pushing the wheels of development in the country along with men,” in a Gulf News interview. In the recent elections of Majlis al-Shura that took place in October 2019, 47.3% of voters were women, and government bodies have represented more than twice the number of women since the 2012 elections.

Omani Women’s Right to Equal Pay

Women in Oman face many day-to-day challenges, including their right to equal pay. Under the Basic Law of Oman’s government, women are entitled to the same wages and treatment as men. In practice, however, the law overlooks workplace discrimination and prejudices employers have against women. Women continue to face difficulty in gaining equal independence when they have to financially rely on their husbands to be the breadwinners of the family. Due to the lower pay, women in Oman are more likely to face greater financial struggles than men and are frequently unable to escape the cycle of poverty. Despite this issue, recent laws and articles have brought the gender wage gap to the forefront of Omani citizens’ attention.

The national daily Times of Oman reported that between 2010 and 2016, the wage for women increased more than 160%. The Omani Women’s Association, a non-governmental organization that emerged in 1972, is a prominent supporter of women’s rights in Oman. Its work promotes social justice and equal opportunities by encouraging women to apply for jobs and gain a source of income, eliminating dependence on family members. Opportunities that the organization offers include providing literacy classes, as well as setting up family programs to allow women to explore areas of interest outside of caretaking. The Omani Women’s Association currently has 58 associations across Oman.

Laws Regarding Marriage

Although Oman has made several breakthroughs regarding the ability of women to choose their spouses and divorce their husbands, the patriarchal system effectuates that women remain dependent on men. According to Article 17 in Oman’s Basic Law, women can marry freely. However, the Personal Status Law retains higher authority in matters of guardianship, child custody and inheritance. In exchange for protection, Omani women must bind themselves to their husbands and may not receive financial compensation if they divorce. As a result, women are unable to fully exercise their rights.

Nevertheless, the Government of Oman stipulated in a 2016 report that it was attempting to “[address] shortcomings in the application of the Personal Status Law by amending to ensure women’s optimal obtainment of their right.” In addition to granting women more fundamental freedom, the Government of Oman is building schools in order to provide women with education and improve the issue of women’s rights in Oman.

The Importance of Awareness About Women’s Rights in Oman

 The first step in creating a progressive mindset in society is to inform and educate civilians. Without knowledge, countries like Oman cannot obtain change simply through legislation, and oftentimes, women in countries such as Oman are not even aware of their basic rights.

Awareness of rights and the necessity to challenge traditional thinking has led to the passing of many successful laws in Oman. In Oman’s capital of Muscat, Omani women held a three-day protest in front of the General Police Headquarters to advocate for women to gain better access to healthcare. While two of the women underwent unfair detainment without a proper hearing, authorities eventually released them imposing any charges on them.

Following the numerous demonstrations in the capital, the government of Oman attempted to pass laws to improve the state of women’s rights in Oman. For example, in 2008, Omani legislation passed a law that declared that courts would regard testimonies from both men and women as equal. In addition, a 2010 law stated that married Omani women no longer needed the consent of their husbands in order to acquire a passport, a law that established a great amount of freedom for women. Advocating for women’s rights is an essential component to empowering and supporting women in developing countries.

– Esha Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

The Journey Towards Hmong Gender Equality
Hmong people are a part of an ethnic group from Southeast Asia. They have achieved relative economic and political stability in the United States and other countries of Hmong migration after the Vietnam War. However, Hmong women continue to face inequality and repression within their own communities. The Hmong culture highly values education. As such, Hmong families often encourage their children to pursue higher education. However, Hmong’s people still need to achieve Hmong gender equality. As a result, families have not equally supported young girls in recent years.

Hmong society firmly implants gender roles. Established gender conventions continue to affect Hmong families’ opportunities. However, women have been triumphant in breaking barriers. In a survey of several Hmong women, author Gokia Vang found that a number of respondents felt pressure to transform into perfect housewives and conform to the idea of the woman as the homemaker.

Who Are the Hmong People?

It is crucial to understand the socio-economic conditions affecting the contemporary Hmong population. According to a leader at The Center for Hmong Studies, the Hmong are an ethnic group within the country of Laos. People in Laos primarily refer to the Hmong as Hmong. Although a majority of Hmong people migrated to the United States from countries such as Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, the Hmong are a unique ethnic group of their own. Furthermore, they have their own distinctive culture and lineage.

The CIA began leading covert efforts to recruit Hmong soldiers to defend against the influence of communism in the 1960s. Additionally, most Hmong soldiers fought alongside the United States during the Vietnam War and the Secret War in Laos. The two wars devastated the Hmong population. Furthermore, it drove hundreds of families to abandon Laos and flee to more stable surrounding countries. Eventually, many migrated to the United States.

Gender Dynamics in the Hmong Household

Economic pressures as a result of mass migration vastly influence gender roles in the Hmong community. Sara R. Curran and Abigail C. Saguy’s research on the effect of migration in gender roles reaffirms this phenomenon. The heads of households often feel compelled to assert a sense of legacy and encourage male members of the family to become resourceful, well-educated individuals when migrating to a new country. This is so men can send money back to relatives in their home country.

Researchers have observed a behavior called relative deprivation, where male members of a migrant community compensate for the upturning of tradition by purchasing material goods to assert social dominance. However, the head of households is hesitant to challenge tradition and instead push women towards homemaking and marriage to better integrate into American society. According to Identity Within Cultures, Hmong women began embracing more liberal forms of gender expression after arriving in the United States. Furthermore, new insecurities emerged in regard to Hmong gender equality. Thus, more rigid gender roles emerged as a method of holding onto their own culture.

The Challenges of Hmong Gender Norms

Many often perceive gender equality in a white-centric context for Hmong women. Studies acknowledge Hmong culture as fluid and changing and that Hmong American women are active participants of cultural change. However, more discussion of discourse and ideologies that impact Hmong American girls’ self-perceptions and choices is necessary. Hmong women have succeeded in the educational sphere despite the racial and cultural implications. Furthermore, they have demonstrated their motivation to secure college degrees and seek out challenging careers.

Women within these communities have explored various paths to achieve Hmong gender equality and belonging. Their ambitious and motivated efforts have flipped the dynamics within the cultural sphere. Jennifer Yang, a writer for Diverse Education reported that Hmong women seeking higher education outnumber Hmong men. There have been significant improvements in Hmong gender equality. It is important to acknowledge how Hmong women have rapidly shifted economic roles and redistributed opportunities in a more egalitarian manner amidst the complexities of acculturation and cultural preservation. Women within micro-cultures can successfully shape and mold their own roles in a new social climate.

– Luna Khalil
Photo: Flickr

7 Organizations that Fight for Gender Equality
In order to alleviate global poverty, it is imperative to fight for gender equality. The President of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development said, “When you invest in a man, you invest in an individual. When you invest in a woman, you invest in a community.” Women all over the world continue to struggle for equality in the workplace. Additionally, women often bear the burden of completing domestic responsibilities and unpaid labor.

Poverty Among Women

Poverty affects women especially. Women do not have the same opportunities as men in receiving a quality education, work and owning property. Thus, their ability to be productive citizens often has severe limits. Many young girls learn to prioritize domestic responsibilities over education. Consequently, women are often illiterate and unable to find employment. This hinders the fight for gender equality and the economic development of a country as well. Moreover, global poverty will prevail until the world achieves gender equality.

Fortunately, many organizations fight for gender equality within their respective countries. Here are seven organizations that strive to empower women and alleviate poverty.

7 Organizations that Fight for Gender Equality

  1. The Korea Women’s Associations United: This is an umbrella organization that aims to achieve gender equality, democracy and peaceful reunification in the Korean peninsula by facilitating solidarity and collectivism. It played an important role in establishing the “basic framework for government policies on women, including the creation of the Ministry of Gender Equality and the adoption of a [gender-responsive] budget.”
  2. The Akshara Foundation: This Foundation works to improve access to education and enhance social consciousness in India by providing scholarships and capacity-building workshops to disadvantaged young women. Its main objective is to break the cycle of gender equality and poverty. Additionally, its Youth for Change program teaches young men and women the importance of gender equality for all.
  3. The Women for Peace & Gender Equality Initiative: This organization fights for gender equality by empowering young women in Nigeria via a uniform platform of advocacy. The platform resolves social issues and eradicates inequalities at grass root levels for policy-level changes. Furthermore, it provides skill and leadership training for adolescent boys and girls. Additionally, the Women for Peace & Gender Equality Initiative conducts research on gender-based violence.
  4. The Foundation for Studies and Research on Women: This Argentina-based Foundation has developed programs, projects and other activities concerning political participation, leadership, teenage pregnancy, violence against women and comprehensive sex education. The Foundation for Studies and Research on Women partners with local municipalities, universities and other NGOs to promote and teach its research through its extensive programs.
  5. The Pratthanadee Foundation: This Foundation provides mentoring and career guidance in Thailand. It successfully reaches over 3,000 undereducated and economically underprivileged women and girls in central Bangkok and rural Ubon Ratchathani each year. The Pratthanadee Foundation aims to build confidence in young women from low-income regions across Thailand. Additionally, the organization recently launched a new program to teach young women how to create and act upon their future aspirations.
  6. The Network of Young People for Gender Equality: This Portuguese nonprofit fights for gender equality and promotes women’s rights through informational activities, education, lobbying and research. Furthermore, this organization falls under the Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities for Youth (SALTO-YOUTH). It is also a part of the European Commission’s Training Strategy.
  7. Voices Against Violence: This organization is an informal learning program for boys and girls in Australia. The United Nations and the World Association of Girls Guides and Girl Scouts developed this program. Additionally, the initiative works to help young people understand violence, abuse and relationships. Voices Against Violence works in Australia under Girl Guides Australia to empower young women to be confident and responsible community members.

Looking Ahead

These seven organizations strive to empower women, fight for gender equality and improve the economic development of countries. Providing girls and women with tools to succeed will improve work productivity and decrease education gaps and gender-based violence.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in China
For many years, gender equality and women’s rights in China have been a problem, mainly for women. Various restrictions still take place, even today. Income discrepancies and traditional gender roles in the country aimed at placing and keeping women inferior as compared with their male counterparts.

For example, women who have children do not always receive support from their supervisors and often lose their pay when on maternity leave. From occupational rights to issues such as property rights, men in China have always (and unfairly) been the more supported gender for years. Unfortunately, this continues to this day.

Discrimination in the Workplace

Women of the past and present in China, have dealt with unfair employment practices. They have had to jump over unnecessary hurdles just to keep up with their male counterparts. The Chinese government claims to better prioritize the promotion of gender equality, and therefore women’s rights in China. Particularly — in the workplace, however, recent research says otherwise. Of the job listings in the Chinese Government’s civil service job list, 11% stated preferences for men. The percentage was higher in jobs preferring men from 2018 to 2019, at 19%.

This information was identified by the Human Rights Watch, which also discovered that fewer than 1% of these job postings offered offered support to women. This has caused many women to surrender to traditional gender roles. For example, staying at home, not working and being dependent on the male of the house. Notably, only 63% of the female workforce worked in 2017.

Patriarchal Oppression

China’s history has seen a higher focus on men being the core of not just their families but the country’s overall success and growth. Post Confucius era, society labeled men as the yang and women as the yin. In this same vein, society views Yang as active, smart and the dominant half. This, compared with Yin, which is soft, passive and submissive. These ideologies are not as prominent today but persist enough that there is a problem.

The tradition begins at birth with boys being the preferred children compared to girls in China. A consensus opinion in the country is that if one has a male child versus a female child, they believe the son will grow into a more successful member of the family. The sons are more likely favored because the issue of pregnancy is a non-factor and they can choose almost any job they desire. Of course, this is something that does not support efforts for gender equality nor women’s rights in China.

A survey done just last year found that  80% of generation Z mothers did not have jobs outside of the home. Importantly, most of those surveyed were from poorer cities. The same survey found that 45% of these stay-at-home mothers had no intention of going back to work. They simply accepted their role of caring for the house. Gender equality and women’s rights in China have shifted toward cutting into the history of patriarchal dominance within the country.

Women’s Rights Movement in China

Since the Chinese government is not completely behind gender equality in China for women, the feminist movement is still active and stronger than ever. In 2015, the day before International Women’s Day, five feminist activists were arrested and jailed for 37 days. They were just five of an even larger movement of activists fighting against the traditional gender role ideology that has placed females below males. These movements have begun to make great progress towards gender inequality within the country. From 2011 to 2015, a “12th Five Year Plan” had goals of reducing gender inequality in education and healthcare.

The plan also was to increase the senior and management positions and make them accessible for women to apply for said positions. Xi Jinping, the current President of the People’s Republic of China, has proclaimed that the country will donate $10 million to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. During the next five years and beyond, this support will help the women of China and other countries build 100 health projects for women and children. March 1, 2016, the Anti-domestic Violence Law of the People’s Republic of China took effect. This law resulted in the improvement in legislation for gender equality in China. In June of that year,  ¥279.453 billion was put forth toward loans to help women, overall.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Finland
Finland has a long history with gender equality, being the world’s first country to offer full political rights to women in 1906. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Finland, including landmark developments and where it needs to improve.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Finland

  1. Finland offers one of the most generous parental leave policies in all of Europe. A February 2020 policy granted seven months of paid leave for new mothers as well as one month of pregnancy allowance prior to their official leave. Non-biological parents have access to the same parental leave privileges while single parents receive a full 14 months of paid leave. This updated policy also extends the seven months of parental leave to fathers and allows parents to transfer up to 69 days from their seven-month allotment to the other parent. Gender-neutral parental leave policies are a crucial step toward gender equality by leveling the gap between conventionally male and female roles in society and relieving women of the tradition of them solely raising their children.
  2. Women in Finland enjoy high-quality education. In fact, Finland ranked first in the world in leveling the gender gap in educational attainment in 2018. The consistently high levels of education among women show this. Among those obtaining a university-level or post-graduate in 2012, the proportion of women was 60% and 50%, respectively. Moreover, the rate of female educational attainment is increasing rapidly and significantly outpacing that of men, as the share of women earning post-graduate degrees jumped from 15% in 1975 to 54% in 2012.
  3. Political institutions provide equal representation. Finland’s government has a history of pioneering gender equality, being the first parliament in the world to include female members of parliament. Finland elected its first female prime minister in 2003, and its third female prime minister, Sanna Marin, assumed office in December 2019. Marin leads a coalition government consisting of five parties, all of which have women under the age of 35 at the helm. Female representation in the nation’s 2019 election was especially notable, with a record number of women winning parliamentary seats, amounting to 47% of the parliament. As a result, Finland ranked sixth globally in political empowerment for women in 2018.
  4. Women dominate the labor market. Finland enjoys the highest labor participation rate of women worldwide and ranks among the best nations for working women. Moreover, the employment rate for Finnish women is higher than the European Union average. However, Finland needs to still make improvements, as women in the public and private sectors receive only 80% to 85% of their male counterparts’ earnings. Nonetheless, the gender pay gap has been steadily decreasing over the last two decades and expectations have determined that it should continue to decrease as a result of social welfare policies that allow women to reconcile family and work life.
  5. Finland is a victim of the “Nordic Paradox,” the trend where Scandinavian nations experience high rates of domestic violence despite promoting gender equality in economic and political life. The 2013 rate of intimate partner violence in Finland was nearly double the European average. Domestic violence rose 7% in 2019 with over 10,000 reported victims, more than half of which were between married couples. Finland has taken steps at the national level to address this trend, having adopted a National Gender Action Plan and trained about 200 federal judges in prosecuting cases involving violence against women. Moreover, crisis shelters and a free 24/7 helpline are available, with specialized investigators and law enforcement officials to address reports of violence. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare oversees these shelters, which also provide professional counseling and health services to customers.
  6. Migrant women are a major part of Finland’s equal rights agenda. Immigrant women with children experience an employment rate that is nearly 50% lower than that of their native-born counterparts, and social integration has posed a challenge for these communities. To address this issue, the Social Impact Bond emerged through institutional and private investment to assist immigrant women in finding employment within four months. Moreover, the national government finances public language programs to offer support to recent migrants learning the Finnish language.

Despite being a pioneer for women’s rights in Finland, the country still experiences its fair share of women’s issues. However, with a female-led government and strong social welfare policies, Finland’s progress is effectively ongoing and still serves as a model for the rest of the developed world.

– Neval Mulaomerovic
Photo: Pixabay

Women’s Rights in Sudan
For decades, the subject of women’s rights has been at the forefront of media and politics. While the world has made progress, women in countries such as Sudan are still fighting for equal rights. The fight for women’s rights in Sudan is in motion by opposing laws such as the Personal Status Law of 1991. This law allows child marriages and states that women can only marry if they have consent from a father or male guardian. Here are five things to know about the women’s rights movement in Sudan.

Women’s Rights in Sudan

  1. Women Make up 70% of Protesters. As women band together to protest in Sudan against laws and government officials who are in favor of limiting women’s rights, globalfundforwomen.org estimates have determined that in the Sudan protests, women account for nearly 70% of protesters. The women taking part in these protests labeled their movement as “the women’s revolution.” Due to the protests, many women have undergone beating or flogging, yet they still stand strong and continue to protest.
  2. Many Laws Women are Protesting Stem from Long Lasting Traditions. As tradition is a large part of Sudan’s culture, many of the laws women are protesting come from years of tradition. Nevertheless, women advocate for themselves despite these laws. The laws restrict women from things such as wearing pants, equality and representation in government, child marriage, amongst other regulations. Though some of these have roots in tradition, modern women are demanding they have equal rights. However, this is difficult as women are limited within government and law.
  3. Women in Sudan have been fighting for their rights for over 30 years. Due to the oppressive rule of dictator Al-Bashir, women in Sudan have had to fight for equal rights since 1989, adding up to over 30 years of subjugation. While inequality did not start with Al-Bashir, he did support and enforce laws to limit women’s rights in Sudan. He did this with military and government forces, beating, raping and murdering women speaking out against years of abuse and inequality.
  4. The Women’s Revolution Movement was a large part of overthrowing Al-Bashir. In 2019, women refused to stay silent as Sudan began to rise up against Al-Bashir. Even though they had to deal with persecution from the military, women continued to rise up against their oppressors. According to Harvard International Review, protesters such as Salah and Lina Marwan stood strong. They told their stories and experiences with inequality. They also continued to protest even after Sudanese military officials harassed them.
  5. As of January 2020, West Kordofan started its first No to Women Oppression Initiative. Though this is the only initiative started in Sudan currently, there is hope to open more across the country with a push to coordinate more organizations fighting for women’s rights in Sudan. These organizations are also continuing to discuss violence against women with Sudan’s government in hopes of gaining equal rights for them.

Though there is a long way to go to achieve equal rights in Sudan, as protests continue and women persist in fighting for their rights, there is hope for the future.

– Olivia Eaker
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Belgium
Women’s rights have come a long way since the beginning of the century. In countries around the world, women have fought tirelessly for many of the freedoms that their male counterparts already enjoy, from the right to vote to the right against discrimination. The women of Belgium are no exception from these movements. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Belgium.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Belgium

  1. Belgium was one of the last European countries to introduce women’s suffrage. Despite some Belgian women earning their right to vote in 1919, Belgium was one of the last European countries to acknowledge women’s suffrage and women’s demands for voting rights. The only country to allow it after Belgium was Greece. The lag in women’s suffrage was mainly due to early women’s rights advocates such as Marie Popelin and Isala Van Diest, who chose to focus first on improving women’s education and legal equality in Belgium before advocating for equal voting rights. Additionally, during this time, many members of the socialist and liberal parties did not trust women with the right to vote, fearing that women would vote too conservatively and would give their overwhelming support to the Catholic parties under the influence of the priest. However, this proved untrue when women officially received the same voting rights as their male counterparts.
  2. Women did not fully gain voting rights until 1948. Women in Belgium, as in many other countries in the world, did not enjoy the same freedoms as men when it came to engaging in politics for a long time. They first received the right to vote in 1919; however, these rights had heavy restrictions in that only specific women could vote. Only mothers and widows of servicemen who died in World War I, mothers and widows of citizens “shot or killed by the enemy” and female prisoners who “had been held by the enemy” initially obtained the right to vote. In 1920, all Belgian women, with the exception of prostitutes and sex workers, received the right to vote in municipal elections. It was not until 1948 that Belgian men and women enjoyed the same voting rights in parliamentary elections. The first parliamentary election in which women participated took place on June 26, 1949.
  3. The number of women in Belgian politics has been steadily rising. In the past, the Belgian Parliament had been heavily male-dominated. However, thanks to policies like the Quota Act, this has been changing, a major win for women’s rights in Belgium. Belgium first introduced the Quota Act in 1994 but updated acts have since emerged. The most recent Quota Act imposed a 50–50 quota for every election list and required that the two candidates at the top of the list not be of the same gender. Election lists that do not comply with the Quota Act are automatically nullified. This helps prevent political parties from participating in elections if they are unwilling or unable to abide by the quota rules. By 2019, women held 42% of positions in parliament. Sophie Wilmès is the current prime minister of Belgium and is also the first woman to hold this post in the country. Increasing the number of women in Belgian politics helps to expand women’s rights in Belgium.
  4. Belgium is closing its workforce gender gap. In 2020, Belgium ranked 27th out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report, which “benchmarks countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment.” The workforce gender gap has also been closing over the years. The overall labor force participation rate for women 20-64 years old in Belgium is 63% (2.34 million women) compared to 72.3% for men (2.66 million men). Despite the increasing number of women entering the workforce over the years, there are still disparities between men and women in the workforce. When examining board members in Belgian companies, women only hold 30.7% of the seats while 69.3% of men hold the rest. There is also a discrepancy between men and women when it comes to wage earnings in Belgium. The pay gap in Belgium was 21% in 2017 and the pension gap was 28%. Despite the wage gap closing, women in Belgium are still more vulnerable than men to living in poverty. In 2018, women were two percentage points higher than men in reports on the poverty level in the country.
  5. Belgium implemented the accelerated Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Beijing Declaration was a resolution that the United Nations adopted in September 1995 at the end of the Fourth World Conference on Women. The resolution established a set of principles aimed at addressing the inequality between men and women. In 2015, Belgium partnered with UN Women to introduce the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The accelerated commitment outlined six main tactics for addressing gender inequality: (1) investing in gender equality at the national and international levels, (2) updating or establishing new action plans, strategies and policies on gender equality, (3) enhancing women’s leadership and participation at all levels of decision-making, (4) introducing new laws or reviewing and implementing existing ones to promote gender equality, (5) preventing and addressing social norms and stereotypes that condone gender inequality, discrimination and violence and (6) launching public mobilization and national campaigns to promote gender equality. One area that has seen improvement from the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is women’s participation in politics throughout Belgium.

While women’s rights in Belgium have dramatically improved over the years, these five facts show that there is still room for improvement within the country. On International Women’s Day in 2019, over 5,000 female demonstrators went on strike in Brussels to campaign for women’s rights and gender equality. Despite Belgium’s best efforts, there is still more the country must do to ensure total equality between the rights of men and women.

Sara Holm
Photo: Pixabay