Gender equality: ‘More than a Goal in itself’
“Gender Equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.” — Kofi Annan
As pointed out by the United Nations, gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a prosperous and sustainable world. However, at the present moment, 1 in 5 women and girls still experience physical or sexual violence by partners or relatives and 49 countries have no laws protecting them from domestic violence. Significant progress brought many communities closer to ending abusive practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation, which have declined by 30 percent in the past decade. However, completely eliminating these practices requires more efforts. Women around the world, even in the most developed countries, still face disparities when it comes to, for example, political empowerment and professional leadership.
Citing the Global Gender Gap Report, it is possible to form a better idea about the current situation and the progress achieved in the direction of Gender Equality over the new millennium. The report was established in 2006 by the World Economic Forum as a framework for reporting disparities and raising global awareness about the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created after reducing them. The most recent edition of the report, dated October 2018, benchmarks 149 countries on their progress toward Goal 5 across four thematic dimension: political empowerment, economic participation, educational attainment, and health and survival.
According to the report, although improvements have been achieved in 89 of the 144 countries covered both in 2017 and 2018, the global average distance to parity last year was at 68 percent. Across all four subindexes, on average, the largest gender disparity exists in political empowerment, which maintains today a gap of 77.1 percent. The economic participation gap is the second largest at 41.9 percent, while the educational attainment and health and survival gaps are significantly lower at 4.4 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively. Concerning the first aspect, across the 149 countries assessed, only 17 currently have women as heads of state, while just 18 percent of ministers and 24 percent of parliamentarians globally are women. Likewise, women hold just 34 percent of managerial positions across the considered countries, and less than 7 percent are in the four worst performing countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Pakistan. However, there are bright spots of relevant progress: Full parity on this indicator is already a reality in the Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica, Laos, and the Philippines. In terms of broader economic power, gaps in control of financial assets and in time spent on unpaid tasks continue to prove economic disparities between men and women. Women have as much access to financial services as men in just 60 percent of the countries assessed.
Although average progress on gender parity in education is relatively more advanced, there are still 44 countries where over 20 percent of women are illiterate.
The report found that the most gender-equal country is Iceland, which closed over 85 percent of its overall gender gap. It is followed by fellow Nordic countries Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The top 10 also features Nicaragua (fifth), two Sub-Saharan African countries, Rwanda (sixth) and Namibia (10th), and the Philippines (eighth). In the top 10 are also New Zealand (seventh) and Ireland (ninth). All eight geographical regions assessed have achieved at least 60 percent gender parity. In particular, Western Europe is the region with the highest level of gender parity (75.8 percent), followed by North America (72.5 percent), Latin America (70.8 percent), Eastern Europe and Central Asia (70.7 percent), East Asia and the Pacific (68.3 percent), Sub-Saharan Africa (66.3 percent), South Asia (65.8 percent), and the Middle East and North Africa (60.2 percent).
As highlighted in the report, which also projects trends into the future, the overall global gender gap will close in 108 years across the 106 countries covered since the first edition of the report. The most challenging gender gaps to close will be in the economic and political empowerment dimensions, which will take 202 and 107 years to close, respectively. The education-specific gender gap is on track to be reduced to parity within the next 14 years, while the health gender gap is nearly closed worldwide.
According to the U.N., in order to reach Goal 5 and create action toward gender equality, countries around the world should put into practice several targets that can be found here.
As highlighted in the “UN 2030 Agenda”: “By denying women equal rights, we deny half the population a chance to live life at its fullest. It is a tremendous waste of the world’s human potential. Political, economic and social equality for women will benefit all the world’s citizens.”
As millennials, we should lay the foundation for a better, more equal future by joining forces to eradicate prejudice and working together for equal rights and respect for all.
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