Gender Equality in ScandinaviaWomen’s rights are at the forefront of human rights, including their financial, emotional, physical and work rights. The practices seen in Norway and Iceland act as a great example of gender equality in Scandinavia.

The Impressionable Statistics in Scandinavia

Gender equality in Scandinavian countries Norway and Iceland are examples of progressive gender equality in action. Both countries have been voted as the happiest places in the world and this is in part due to their attitude to gender equality. The World Happiness Report states that Norway and Iceland have the ‘six key indicators’ to an abundant lifestyle — GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and corruption.

Norway and Iceland see women as a factor that is beneficial to their society. Although the pay gap has lessened over the past decade, women still earn less than men — even in countries like Iceland & Norway. In 2023, the World Economic Forum stated that Iceland had closed more than 90% of the gender pay gap.

Social Support in Iceland and Norway

Women in Scandinavia are considered not only a part of the makeup of Iceland and Norway but are a fundamental part of the country’s workforce.

Iceland is voted number one for gender equality in the world. 66% of graduates are women and 30 of 62 parliamentary seats are held by women. 80% of women in Iceland are a part of the workforce and 50% of the attendees of the GMAT business school entrance exam are women. 

The World Economic Forum states that Norway’s ”Fostering and developing of female talent has the potential to accelerate the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide.”

Healthy Life Expectancy in Norway

Much work goes into researching women’s livelihoods and what can improve them. Norway’s ‘Women’s Public Health Association’ is an example of betterment for women, as they focus on housing women for domestic violence recovery and women’s overall health.

The Women’s Public Health Association states: “We are equally committed to contributing to research on women’s health working on behalf of women who have been exposed to violence and minority women and more generally, to improving women’s rights in society.”

Freedom in Norway & Iceland 

Scandinavian countries like Norway and Iceland say that “their social contracts thrive because their community is strong.’ This community is made up of citizens, residents and visitors. Focus on gender equality in Scandinavia encourages freedom for all, as women’s rights are extended to immigrants.

Anthropologist Thomas Hylland-Eriksen states “What may be peculiar about the Nordic way of dealing with immigrants is the great emphasis placed on equality, including gender equality.” Minorities are considered a part of the fundamental system that makes up Nordic countries.

Furthermore, Iceland holds the Gender Equality Act, last updated in 2021, its main aims are to: prevent discrimination based on gender, as well as maintain gender equality and equal opportunities for the genders in all spheres of society. This means that it is by law unadvised to discriminate in the workplace.

What Is the Takeaway?

Gender equality is at the heart of human rights and United Nations values. Gender-based discrimination is prohibited under almost every human rights treaty. Yet globally, millions of women and girls continue to experience discrimination and violence — being denied their equality, dignity, autonomy and even life.

These influences and examples of equality allow for the gender gap to be discussed in the future. It will take almost 140 years for women to stand equal with men globally. However, gender equality in Scandinavia serves as inspiring progress. The female rights and attitude towards gender is a great example of a nation wanting to move forward on equal footing. 

– Anastasia Brown
Photo: Flickr

Elderly in BangladeshThe world currently has approximately 720 million people over the age of 65. By 2050, about 22% (36 million) of Bangladesh’s people are projected to be in this age category. With this in mind, it is important that this growing demographic is taken care of. In particular, the poverty affecting the elderly in Bangladesh is a concern that should be attended to.

Elderly Poverty in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the most impoverished countries and the effects of poverty are felt hardest by vulnerable populations like the elderly. The Global AgeWatch Index ranks countries by how well their older populations are faring socially and economically. Bangladesh is considered a distinctly tough country for older people as HelpAge International ranked Bangladesh 67th out of 96 countries on the 2015 Global AgeWatch Index.

The organization notes that a considerable amount of the hardship inflicted upon older people in Bangladesh is due to natural disasters and extreme weather. Cyclones, floods, and heatwaves destroy the homes and livelihoods of elderly people. Additionally, HelpAge notes that elderly people in Bangladesh are often refused healthcare due to ageism within the country’s public health system.

Elderly people in Bangladesh also struggle to maintain a dependable income since finding employment is harder with age, especially with common and physically demanding jobs like rickshaw pulling or soil digging.  As in many other lower-income countries, elderly people in Bangladesh have to look for employment in old age due to inadequate livelihood support and insufficient social security measures.

While by no means exclusive to Bangladesh, another problem that the elderly face in Bangladesh is stigma, as pointed out by Dr. Atiqur Rahman. The stigma described is one that views the elderly as unproductive, unhealthy and needing intensive and constant care. Dr. Rahman describes the idea of the elderly being a burden as both morally and economically incorrect.

Old Age Allowance Program

The Old Age Allowance (OAA) program is a government social pension scheme that assists the elderly in Bangladesh. Originally implemented in 1997, the program provides welfare payments to qualifying elders in order to help them get by. The overall size of the program was rather small at its inception, supporting about 400,000 people. Since then, the OAA has come to cover 4.4 million elderly in Bangladesh and the size of the payments increased from 100 to 500 Bangladeshi takas (around $6). Granted the growth is a step in the right direction, the program is not yet at a point where it can help in the broad sense. Elderly poverty has still increased since it started. The OAA program accounts for a minuscule portion of Bangladesh’s budget (0.53%) and covers only 2.25 million elderly people.

Additionally, much of the fund is going to the wrong people. A study by the University of Dhaka’s Bureau of Economic Research and HelpAge International discovered that elderly people who are not impoverished are getting 50% of the total benefits and about 33% of the fund is going to those who are younger than the eligible age. Another study found that local governments lack the knowledge and interest to properly target relevant beneficiaries most in need.

Organizations Supporting the Elderly in Bangladesh

HelpAge International provides early warning systems for potential natural disasters. In times of these disasters, the organization ensures the elderly have shelter, food and access to services. For long-term relief, HelpAge restores livelihoods by supporting small business enterprises with low-cost community loans. The organization also provides training for healthcare workers to treat conditions affecting the elderly and works on improving healthcare infrastructure and referral systems for the elderly.

The Care First Foundation is an organization that offers the elderly in Bangladesh risk monitoring, referrals, counseling, medicine and medical support, home care and activities. Its goal is to expand its initiatives to alleviate elderly suffering through proper community support and services.

With more support from organizations and improvements to the social support system provided by the government, the elderly in Bangladesh can thrive and not just simply survive.

Sean Kenney
Photo: Flickr