It is the time of year to reflect on achievements and the need for change. The World Economic Forum 2016 Report on the Global Gender Gap points to both.
Countries are measured on the following metrics regarding women and gender inequality: economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment, health, and survival.
The highest possible score is one for gender equality. The lowest possible score is zero for gender inequality. Rwanda has achieved a ranking of five. Pakistan and Yemen are 143 and 144 respectively out of a total 144 countries. Gender inequality examples are numerous in both Yemen and Pakistan.
Gender inequality leads to gender-based violence against both women and young girls affecting one in three females around the world, in the name of “honor killings”, public stoning’s, wartime rape, domestic violence and abuse. Increased conflict in Yemen highlights a correlation with marrying off child bride’s sooner. This is a longstanding human rights violation in Yemen.
Numbers from a survey of 250 community members conducted by UNFPA indicated 72 percent of child marriage survivors in North Yemen were married between the ages of 13 and 15. In the South, 62 percent were married before the age of 16. Child brides experience pregnancy complications and are more vulnerable to violence. They are expected to conceive within their first month after marriage.
Pakistan also experienced severe spikes in violence against women this past summer. Women died by burning, strangling, and poison. Women are vulnerable to early marriage, domestic violence and death by male family members who may be suspicious that they are unfaithful.
New legislation passed in October called the “anti-honor crime bill”. This marks progress; there will, however, remain obstacles between parliament and religious groups. For real change, all murders will need to be treated the same as a crime against the state.
True change for women living in vulnerable settings is possible. Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act is a bill that was introduced in July 2016 that “… is critical to ensure that children, particularly girls, displaced by conflicts overseas are able to receive a quality education and that the educational needs of women and girls are considered in implementing U.S. foreign assistance policies and programs.”
Pakistan activists are taking action for change with a play on words to end violence against all women. The U.N. Women Pakistan’s new #BeatMe campaign challenges men to beat well-known women from Pakistan at things in which they excel. The campaign confronts physical abuse with female mountain climber Samina Baig. She is the only Pakistani woman to climb Mount Everest.
The campaign will focus on success stories of women from all walks of life. Pakistan’s #BeatMe campaign has advocacy components, legal services for survivors and intends to address a shift in social attitudes particularly among men and boys. The campaign’s long-term goals focus on opening a global dialogue about women’s rights and gender equality.
It has been twenty years since the Rwandan genocide where 100 million men, women and children died. Women extended their strength as mothers into the fields of construction and mobilization to rebuild their nation. Today women have a seat at the economic and political tables of power. This is why Rwanda ranks 5th this year for improving the status of women.
- Fifty percent of Rwanda’s Supreme Court Justice’s are women
- Girls attend public school in equal numbers to boys
- Women can legally own property and pass citizenship to their offspring
- Established businesswomen are leaders in the private sector
- Rwanda ranks first in the world for women’s representation in elected lower house of parliament.
New laws are one factor in the Rwanda’s shift to a country where women hold a new place in society. These laws are strengthened by a paradigm shift in the collective thinking of the entire country.
Rwanda did not rebuild overnight. The strength of Rwandan women is a model for countries at war, where women are struggling to stay alive, and seek freedom from violence, a large stepping stone to education, political power and equal pay.
– Addison Evans