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Women Internationally


Gloria Steinem came to Chico years ago and said the status of women is lurching around between the Middle Ages and the 21st Century. That’s still true. The UN Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of women (INSTRAW) concluded that the greatest problem affecting women is invisibility.

When I attended the UN Status of Women conference in Copenhagen in 1980, I was surprised to see that men were most of the official delegates. Five years later in Nairobi, that changed. Policy makers used to think problems like female circumcision and early marriage were social customs, but now it’s understood they’re civil rights abuses.

Greater awareness of discrimination results in activism regarding equality in the household, work and government. More girls have access to school, women are entering the paid workforce, and more women are political leaders. . In 2006, 14 women were heads of government, unheard of less than 50 years ago. Goals were spelled out at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000. The Internet spreads this information rapidly and globally

The two fundamental issues are the destruction of the planet and the huge divide between the developing and developing nations. Following are the facts I’ve cut and pasted from the Internet and also some model solutions. Perhaps the underlying principle is what Carl Jung pointed out, about the need for the resurgence of the feminine Eros principle in a lopsided patriarchy. Protestantism is the only religion I know of where there are no female symbols of divinity. The warrior god of vengeance and dominance needs to be replaced. Keep in mind the US spends almost as much on the military as all other nations combined and sells more weapons. Our per capita military expenses are exceeded only by Israel and Singapore, while millions of children are hungry.



Over 1 billion people live on less than $1 a day with nearly half the world’s population (2.8 billion) living on less than $2 a day. (UN HDR, 2003) Of the 1.2 billion people surviving on less than $1 a day, 70% are women. Poverty means having to walk more than one mile everyday simply to collect water and firewood; it means suffering diseases that were eradicated from rich countries decades ago. Every year eleven million children die–most under the age of five and more than six million from preventable causes like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia.


800 million people go to bed hungry every day. (Source:FAO) 300 million are children. More than 90 percent are suffering long-term malnourishment. Every 3.6 seconds another person dies of starvation and the large majority are children under the age of 5.


The three richest men in the world control more wealth than all 600 million people living in the world’s poorest countries. (Source:ChristianAid)


Women are 70% of the world’s 1.3 billion poor people. Women hold only 14% of the world’s managerial and administrative jobs.


Women and children are 80% of refugee populations.


Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, and yet earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. (Source :World Development Indicators, 1997, Womankind Worldwide) Women head one-third of families in the world.


Women work longer hours (an average of 12% more time) than men in all countries except Peru, when paid work and household work are combined. In both developed and developing nations, women work 35 hours more than men each week.


600 million children live in absolute poverty. (SCF, Beat Poverty 2003).

Half the world’s jobless are 15 to 24-years-old.


Kofi Aman, former UN Secretary General, said since CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) was adopted in 1979, we’ve fallen far short, although no tool for development is more effective than empowerment of women. 184 countries ratified it–with among the highest number of reservations on any UN treaty. The US has not signed on.



Demographic and Health Surveys of developing nations found only 10 or 30 countries did 50% or more women participate in all household decisions, including their own health care.


Every year six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday.


Around 2.5 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation and about 1.2 billion don’t have access to an improved source of water. 2 million children die every year from infections spread by dirty water or the lack of toilets. More than 50 percent of Africans suffer from water-related diseases such as cholera and infant diarrhea.


Every day HIV/AIDS kills 6,000 people and another 8,200 people are infected with this deadly virus. The number of women with HIV increased by one-third between 2003 and 2005.  In 2005, about 1.2 million people were HIV-positive. AIDS is the leading cause of death for young African women and African American women. By the end of 2005, 12 million sub-Saharan African children had been orphaned by AIDS.


Every 30 seconds an African child dies of malaria-more than one million child deaths a year.


More than 2.6 billion people-over 40 per cent of the world’s population-do not have basic sanitation, and more than one billion people still use unsafe sources of drinking water. Four out of every ten people in the world don’t have access even to a simple latrine.


Five million people, mostly children, die each year from water-borne diseases.

Four times as many malnourished children are female and their mortality rate is 40% higher.


Every minute, a woman somewhere dies in pregnancy or childbirth. This adds up to 1,400 women dying each day–an estimated 529,000 each year-from pregnancy-related causes. Almost half of births in developing countries take place without the help of a skilled birth attendant.



Feticide and infanticide still exist, especially in China and India, leading to more single men than women.


Domestic violence is a problem everywhere. Up to 21% of kids are the victims of sexual violence (World Health Organization). Three to four million women are battered each year. About one-third of wives in developing countries are physically abused. . More than 1,000 women are burned in dowry related incidents in one state in India (Gujarat). At least 45 countries have legislation against domestic violence, although implementation can be problematic.


Estimates are that over 130 million girls suffered genital mutilation.

Thailand has 200,000–500,000 prostitutes. Forced sterilizations and abortions occur in China. An estimated 1.8 million children are involved in commercial sex work.


During armed conflict, rape and sexual assault used as weapons. Women and children are an estimated 80% of civilian casualties.



Two-thirds of children denied primary education are girls, and 75% of the world’s 876 million illiterate adults are women. (Source:  AskWoman) 45% of the world’s 771 million illiterate adults live in India and China (34% and 11% respectively).


46% of girls in the world’s poorest countries have no access to primary education. (Source:ActionAid) Out of an estimated 137 million illiterate youths, 61% are girls. UNICEF estimates only 43% of girls in the developing countries attend secondary school. Globally 36% of women aged 20-24 were married before age 18.


Universal primary education would cost $10 billion a year; half of what Americans spend on ice cream. (Source:ActionAid) School fees need to be eliminated: in 2005 UNICEF and the World Bank began the School Fee Abolition Initiative. School curriculum must include gender equality and discuss sexism.



The 7 female Presidents are in Chile, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Liberia, The Philippines and Switzerland. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s parents were tortured and imprisoned. “Violence entered my life, destroying what I loved. Because I was a victim of hate, I have dedicated my life to turn that hate into understanding, into tolerance, and why not say it, into love.”

The 6 woman Prime Ministers are in Germany, Jamaica, New Zealand, Mozambique, South Korea and The Netherlands Antilles.


Worldwide, fewer than 17% of parliamentarians were women in 2006. Ten countries have no women reps. Nordic countries have the highest, around 40% and the Arab States have the lowest. In 2005, women were only 14% of the ministers and 9% of mayors. 85% of the 20 countries with the most women in parliament use a quota system.


After the 2006 election only 17% of Congress is female, though having a woman as Speaker of the House is historic. Many Americans don’t vote; we’re 139th out of 172 nations that hold elections.


Activist Models

Women’s Groups

In Mozambique, women’s organizations are fighting the 1997 Land Law that denies them the right to own and sell land, and are working against child marriage.


Mother Centres began in Germany in the 1980s and spread (around 750) to other countries to help women organize, including services such as second-hand shops, meals, toy libraries, classes, and job retraining programs. UNICEF helps fund them in Africa for income-generating projects such as gardening, crafts, chickens, and milling machines. With the income, moms pay for school fees, uniforms and shoes for girls and provide interest-free loans to other women.


Over 200 women’s organizations met in 1996 met to create the first female dominated political party, the Northern Ireland women’s Coalition.



Women are 80% of the world’s 70 million micro-borrowers, as in BRAC an NGO in Bangladesh.


Men’s Awareness

In Brazil, an NGO, Instituto Promundo’s Program H uses radio announcements, billboards and dances to promote the idea that it’s cool to respect women, avoid violence, and take precautions to avoid HIV. The program spread to other countries, including India.



Supplement quality childcare so parents can work outside the home, as in poor areas of Rio de Janeiro, Russia, and Kenya. In the Netherlands, the Childcare Act puts the responsibility for funding childcare on parents, employers and the government. In Sweden, working families have a right to a year of paid parental leave.


Some countries have legislative quotas, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Ministries of Women’s Affairs.


Over 50 countries have gender-responsive budgets (and some have child budgets) which show how spending benefits women, as in South Africa, Morocco, Rwanda (which also has a Ministry of Gender), and Chile—where gender is one of the areas on which ministries must report.


Implement the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015. www.millenniumcampaign.org. www.un.org/millenniumgoals


Support the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (1979, described as the international bill of rights for women, the only human rights treaty including gender roles). It requires national reports every four years. This was preceded by the establishment of the Commission on the status on Women in 1946 and the Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women adopted at the Nairobi Conference 1985. The first conference was held in Mexico City in 1975 as part of the International Women’s Year, then Copenhagen in 1980, and Beijing in 1995.

The United Nations platform for action was proposed for three decades in four UN Conferences on Women (Mexico City, Copenhagen, Nairobi, and Beijing). The proposal about girls aimed to eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls, ensure their equal access to education and health care, protect them from violence and economic exploitation (such as prostitution), and ensure that they develop a positive self-image.


Circulate more research and data on the status of women and children.



Give money to UNICEF, Oxfam, etc.

Educate others, lobby government reps.






UN Millennium project- work on women


Oxfam gender work and statistics


UNESCO- statistics on women’s progress



Oxfam International, ActonAid International, Education International

www.oxfam.org www.socialwatch.org www.actionaid.org www.whiteband.org

International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW | Suite 302 | Washington, D.C. 20036

Business and Professional Women’s Foundation 101 Facts on the Status of

Working Women

Women’s Action Coalition. WAC Stats: The Facts About Women. NY:  New Press, 1995.

The World’s Women: Trends and Statistics. Bernan, 2000. http://www.bernan.com

From Nora in Africa: As for the status of women, I think it varies by country and region in Africa. When I was in West Africa, women have a very high status in society and within households, such as the Ashanti, who is perhaps the dominant tribe in Ghana and is matrilineal. I was quite taken aback with how strong women were within society there, and found it very refreshing to see women be outspoken leaders. I wouldn’t say that they had equal proportions in top management positions, but I would not say that they were undereducated or had a poor status is society, relative to other developing countries. I met many female doctors, women with master’s degrees, most women I knew had jobs.


Here in Tanzania, the culture is almost opposite. Tanzania is much poorer and less educated than Ghana, and culturally, women have a far lower status in society. In TZ, unemployment is 60%, and with many tribes, women are mere possessions to men. A Maasai man can go into another person’s household and have sex with the other man’s wife. Muslim men are allowed to have 4 wives. I think in general, the status of women is improving, but it is nowhere near that of West Africa. In terms of decorum, Tanzanians are very passive people, and women more so than men. There are more women becoming professionals, but at a population level, it is quite small because the populace is so undereducated. I think that because of globalization, and the fact that there are so many people from all over the world who have come here to work, the majority women, it is starting to spill over to the upper eschelons of TZ society. However, the majority of TZ still does not have running water, they do not have electricity, and are uneducated.

Share of female lawmakers hits new global high

Thu Mar 1, 2007 3:20 PM ET



By Michelle Nichols


UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The share of female politicians around the world reached a record of high of almost 17 percent in 2006 — up nearly 6 percentage points during the past decade — a global parliamentary group said on Thursday.


The Inter-Parliamentary Union also found women presided over 35 of the world’s 262 parliaments — another record high — with females elected to the position for the first time in Gambia, Israel, Swaziland, Turkmenistan and the United States, where Nancy Pelosi is now House speaker.


But the rate of increase in female legislators has slowed, the group said.


“The bad news is that the increase in the number of women is slower than it was in the preceding year and if we are aiming for equality in parliament … then we will wait until the year 2077 to celebrate that event,” said Anders Johnsson, the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s secretary-general.


In the United States there was 16 percent female representation, in Canada there was 35 percent, and in Britain women held 18.9 percent of seats, while in Rwanda and Sweden women make nearly half of the parliament.


There was a 19.1 percent representation in Europe, 16.8 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa, 16.1 percent in Asia, 14.5 percent in the Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand) and 8.6 percent in the Arab states.


“The Pacific Islands states have registered absolutely zero progress in the past decade, and judging from the past we don’t see much hope for progress in the coming elections,” Johnsson told a news conference.


The Inter-Parliamentary Union found that less than 3 percent of lawmakers in the Pacific Island states were women and no females won seats at elections held in 2006 in the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.


Johnsson also said there had also been a reversal of the successful trends seen in post-conflict countries, with elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti seeing a fall in the number of female politicians.


“One of the reasons we are doing well in some areas is because of quotas,” he said.


The group found that 23 countries used gender quota systems to boost female representation and in those countries women had won nearly 22 percent of seats, while in countries without quotas females held about 12 percent.


“It is quite far from a satisfactory picture that we have and even further from the objective of parity that we would like to achieve,” said Margareth Mensah-Williams, vice-president of the union’s executive committee. “Women change the way politics are made.”





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