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Live in For Women
Where in the world do women have the most opportunities? One must consider many factors when evaluating a country’s appeal to women. Gender equality, women’s rights, equal pay, the poverty rate for women, the rate of education for women and more specific issues like paid parental leave all play a significant role in building an egalitarian society. The following five countries are the best countries to live in for women.

Sweden

The Swedish government has declared itself a feminist government, setting forth a nation-wide standard of gender equality. Gender equality in Sweden goes beyond equality of opportunities and extends into ensuring equal qualities of life to ensure a positive future for Sweden. Workplace gender discrimination has been illegal beginning in 1980 and Swedish legislation further developed gender equality when the Swedish Discrimination Act passed in 2009. This law states that all employers and businesses must take active steps to ensure the existence of equality between women and men and the absence of harassment in the workplace. In 2017, the law expanded to include the prevention of all harassment, not only harassment on the basis of gender. Notably, Sweden’s legislation prevents discrimination against individuals seeking to take parental leave, the absence of which causes a major financial burden on families worldwide. These policies ensure that women, whether single or married, mothers or not, receive protection against all major forms of harassment. A telling fact of the extent of gender equality in Sweden is the percentage of women comprising Swedish parliament and cabinet – 46 and 50 percent, respectively.

Denmark

Women in Denmark integrate incredibly into the workplace, as women generally maintain jobs outside of their homes. With a generous parental leave policy, women are able to raise families while working without worrying about maintaining income. Similar to women in Sweden, Danish women have respect and can participate in government affairs, with 40 percent of Swedish parliament being female. According to a 2016 survey that the U.S. News and World Report conducted, Denmark is the number one country in the world for women to live in. Respondents considered five factors including safety, progressiveness, income equality and gender inequality.

Canada

Canadians have ample legislation to preserve the presence of equality for women and men. Previously, Canadian women did not experience such egalitarianism, and the government of Canada has made tremendous strides in bettering the country for women. In 2015, Justin Trudeau famously appointed an equal number of males and females to his cabinet, setting forth a precedent for his time in office. Canadian women receive protection from discrimination through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Women are, on average, more educated than men in Canada, indicating definite equality when it comes to educational opportunities. However, Candian women still experience the wage gap and income inequalities in the workplace. Canadians claim that these issues are the largest and greatest obstacles standing in the way of true equality in Canada.

Norway

In 2014, the Constitution of Norway expanded to include more human rights, including the Equality and Anti-Discriminatory Act. This act improved the status and rights of women and minorities and was necessary due to violence against women and the segregation of men and women in the workplace. In 2016, the Government of Norway signed a new plan into action that would take steps to further women’s rights and gender inequality. The Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Foreign and Development Policy focused on five different goals, including equal participation for men and women in politics, full economic rights for women to participate in the labor workforce and inclusive education programs for all children, male or female. These policies contribute to why Norway is on the list for top countries for women to live in.

The Netherlands

Prior to 1956, women in the Netherlands automatically lost their job as soon as they married. This fact is hard to fathom when compared to the state of women’s rights and gender equality of the Scandinavian country today. Dutch law legally prevents discrimination and explicitly bans any type of inequality in men’s rights and women’s rights. However, a closer look into the Netherlands reveals that the country is not exactly a perfect place to live for women. For example, though men and women have close to equal levels of education, there still exists a gap in the comparison of individuals doing paid versus unpaid labor. In terms of safety, 45 percent of Dutch women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Governments in countries like the Netherlands have had to implement new platforms and legislation to ensure that citizens feel safer in favor of true gender equality.

These best countries for women to live in concentrate in North America and Scandinavia. The top 10 list also includes Finland, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, expanding the geographic regions outward. The United States of America ranks at around number 16, appearing lower on the list due to crippling income inequality. Additionally, some regions in the world provide very dangerous environments for women, including the Middle East and Asia in countries such as Afghanistan and India.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

Feminist Foreign PolicyIn the last several years, feminist foreign policy has made its way into the spotlight. Foreign policy refers to a government’s strategy in dealing with other nations while the definition of feminism is “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” How do these two definitions come together to make one theory?

Feminist Foreign Policy

According to the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy (CFFP), “a feminist approach to foreign policy provides a powerful lens through which we can interrogate the hierarchical global systems of power that have left millions of people in a perpetual state of vulnerability.” In other words, feminist foreign policy involves making domestic and global gender equality issues a central focus of the government. It is a multidimensional policy with the goal of improving women’s and marginalized groups’ experiences and quality of life. Its goal is to explore the effects of the patriarchy, capitalism and racism.

Origins

In 2014, Sweden became the first country to prioritize feminist foreign policy, led by Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom. Subsequently, the government applied a systematic gender equality perspective throughout Sweden’s entire foreign policy plan.

In 2018, Sweden released its feminist foreign policy manual which took a deeper dive into the policy. The manual contains lessons on women’s rights and includes work and research from the last four years. The manual includes topics about economic emancipation, sexual violence and women’s political participation.

Other Countries’ Views of Feminist Foreign Policy

Under the power of Justin Trudeau, Canada has adopted a foreign feminist policy. In 2017, Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian Foreign Minister, stated that “It is important and historic that we have a prime minister and a government proud to proclaim ourselves feminist. Women’s rights are human rights.” Also in 2017, Canada’s aid program was renamed the Feminist International Assistance Policy because the government felt that the best way to reduce poverty and create a peaceful and inclusive world was to promote empowerment of girls and women, and equality of the sexes.

New Zealand is ranked ninth of 144 countries when it comes to gender equality, according to the Global Gender Gap Index 2016 by the World Economic Forum. It was also the first country to give women voting rights, which happened in 1893. But according to Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, “There is no room for complacency.” The country will continue to work towards supporting girls and women in education, ending domestic violence and closing the pay gap. “This work will continue until we have equality,” says Ardern.

In the U.S., Hillary Clinton stated at a 2010 TEDWomen event that equal gender rights would create more stable and secure nations and that the inequality between genders is a threat to domestic and global security. This idea went on to be known as the Hillary Doctrine. It is also written in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review of 2010 that the protection and empowerment of women is key to foreign policy and safety of the United States.

Although there are still gains to be made when it comes to gender equality in foreign policy, definite improvements have been achieved, especially in the last 10 years. While some countries have fully embraced the idea of feminist foreign policy, many have yet to make it a focus. Sweden has caused a ripple effect and made an impact when it comes to gender equality on a national and international level.

– Malena Larsen
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in CanadaHuman rights in Canada became a major topic of discussion after an investigation found that cultural genocide had been committed against Native Canadians. The Canadian government has vowed to reconcile with aboriginal Canadians, who also have the support of several advocacy groups.

In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published a report that found the Canadian government guilty of cultural genocide following a detailed investigation into its former practice of sending Canadian aboriginal children to attend state-funded residential schools.

The report’s introduction explains that cultural genocide is “the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next.”

“In its dealing with Aboriginal people,” the report states, “Canada did all these things.”

Six years of research was conducted in order to compile the report, which reveals that between the 19th century and the 1970s, 150,000 children from aboriginal families were forced to attend over 130 Christian boarding schools with the purported intention of integrating them into Canadian society. Native languages, religions and cultures were suppressed and many First Nation children faced physical and sexual abuse. The report estimates that at least 4,000 aboriginal children died in the schools, many buried in unmarked graves.

Since the report was initially published, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed the Canadian government’s solidarity with aboriginal people and his commitment to improve human rights in Canada for all. To that end, this year Trudeau invited Pope Francis to visit Canada and issue a formal apology on behalf of the Catholic Church, which directed many of the schools.

In addition to the government’s pledged efforts, several nonprofit organizations are working to advocate for the reconciliation and inclusion of aboriginal peoples in Canada after being denied basic human rights, excluded from society and, as affirmed by the report, suffering cultural genocide. Here are three of organizations you can support in their mission to create a better tomorrow for Native Canadians and defend human rights in Canada for all of its citizens.

  1. Assembly of First Nations: “The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada, which includes more than 900,000 people living in 634 First Nation communities and in cities and towns across the country.”
  2. Canadian Human Rights Commission: A key site for annual reports, updates on related public policy and its outcomes, and related campaigns. Opportunities to support advocacy endeavors also disseminated.
  3. The Native Women’s Association of Canada: “founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations and Métis women within First Nation, Métis and Canadian societies.”

Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

Canada's Indigenous PopulationThroughout Canada’s history, the Indigenous peoples of the territories have faced extreme racism, colonialism, hatred and violence. Canada’s Indigenous population has been so negatively represented throughout society, and resources that others take as basic rights have been unavailable to Indigenous peoples.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, Indigenous peoples of Canada’s territories fall far behind the national average on several measures of equity and social cohesion. Indicators of their low averages include poverty, crime rates and income distribution.

The problems that Canada’s indigenous population faces stem from the lack of proper education offered to these individuals. According to Markets Insider, improvements need to be made in education accessibility as well as access to healthcare in order for social outcomes to improve for Indigenous peoples.

Because of the territories’ isolated geographic location, education and social service attainment for Indigenous people are very low, and infrastructure gaps create low social outcomes.

Canadian leaders are working to improve educational outcomes and access to healthcare by implementing policies that protect and support Canada’s Indigenous population. Cultural measures are also being taken to improve emotional, social and material support in areas that are more secluded.

People are pushing to improve these conditions for Canada’s Indigenous population at the educational level, including Maggie MacDonnell, winner of the Global Teacher Prize in March 2017.

MacDonnell grew up in Nova Scotia and witnessed racism and hatred toward Indigenous people throughout her childhood. By viewing injustice toward Indigenous people at such a young age, MacDonnell made it her goal to work in support of her Indigenous students at Ikusik School located in an Inuit village in Northern Quebec.

Because Indigenous peoples have been oppressed for much of Canada’s history, it is important for people like MacDonnell to stand up for their right to a quality education. Education systems like that of Ikusik School are a great benefit to improving the future of Canada’s Indigenous population.

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau acknowledged MacDonnell’s work and the necessity to improve education for Indigenous students. “As a society, we must acknowledge past mistakes,” Trudeau remarked as he highlighted the victims of Indigenous oppression at Canada 150—the 150th anniversary of the country.

Without proper education, Canada’s Indigenous population will be unable to meet the national average in areas including equity and social cohesion. Breaking away from the habitual oppression that has been inflicted on Canadian Indigenous peoples is a tough task, but with the efforts of Trudeau, Canadian leaders and passionate teachers like MacDonnell, it is becoming more feasible for the future.

Kassidy

Photo: Google

Canada and its Strong Stance on Sexism in Poverty
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently condemned sexism in poverty in response to a letter by the ONE Campaign. The open letter was released by Bono and the ONE Campaign on International Women’s Day in March. It was signed by some of the most influential women in the world, including Charlize Theron, Cheryl Sandberg and Angelique Kidjo.

Trudeau is the first world leader to formally respond, addressing the campaign thus: “On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am writing back to let you know that I wholeheartedly agree: Poverty is Sexist. Women and girls are less likely to get an education, more likely to be impoverished, and face greater risk of disease and poor health.”

According to Melinda Gates, one reason poverty is sexist is time. It takes time to finish an education, learn a new life skill or start a business. Men in developing countries are more likely to have access to this time because women are responsible for the vast majority of unpaid housework. There are also more tangible barriers restricting women’s ability to work, whether in the form of laws barring women’s employment or a lack of access to child care for working mothers.

Trudeau had the opportunity to lead by example when Canada hosted the Fifth Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund in Montréal on Sept. 16. The conference brought global health leaders together to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. According to Trudeau, such collaboration is an important step to ending sexism in poverty because young women account for 74 percent of all HIV infections among adolescents in Africa.

Canada has increased its contribution to the Global Fund by 20 percent to $785 million CDN, all of which will go toward providing mosquito nets, medication and therapy. The Global Fund aims to save millions of lives and prevent hundreds of millions of new infections by 2019.

According to the ONE Campaign, nowhere in the world do women have the same opportunities as men do, a fact due in part to the sexism inherent in poverty. Trudeau’s response is one of many steps needed to rectify this major inequality.

Sabrina Santos

Photo: Flickr