Women’s rights around the world is an important indicator to understand global well-being.
A major global women’s rights treaty was ratified by the majority of the world’s nations a few decades ago.
Yet, despite many successes in empowering women, numerous issues still exist in all areas of life, ranging from the cultural, political to the economic. For example, women often work more than men, yet are paid less; gender discrimination affects girls and women throughout their lifetime; and women and girls are often are the ones that suffer the most poverty.
Reading this report about the United Nation’s Women’s Treaty and how a variety of countries have lodged reservations to various parts of it shows we still have a long way to go to achieve universal gender equality.
Gender equality furthers the cause of child survival and development for all of society, so the importance of women’s rights and gender equality should not be underestimated.
As Amnesty International also points out, “Governments are not living up to their promises under the Women’s Convention to protect women from discrimination and violence such as rape and female genital mutilation.” There are many governments who have also not ratified the Convention, including the U.S. Many countries that have ratified it do so with many reservations.
(There are different types of problems all over the world that women face, from the wealthiest countries to the poorest, and it isn’t the scope or ability of this site to be able to document them all here, but just provide some examples. Links to other sites on this page document more thoroughly the actual instances, cases and situations around the world.)
According to Inter Press Service, “On a global scale, women cultivate more than half of all the food that is grown. In sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, they produce up to 80 percent of basic foodstuffs. In Asia, they account for around 50 percent of food production. In Latin America, they are mainly engaged in subsistence farming, horticulture, poultry and raising small livestock.”
Yet women often get little recognition for that. In fact, many go unpaid. It is very difficult for these women to get the financial resources required to buy equipment etc, as many societies still do not accept, or realize, that there is a change in the “traditional” roles.
The lending strategies to developing countries by institutions such as the IMF and World Bank have affected many women in those countries.
Poverty, trade and economic issues are very much related to women’s rights issues due to the impacts they can have. Tackling these issues as well also helps to tackle women’s rights issues. And, tackling gender issues helps tackle poverty-related issues. See also the Asia Pacific online network of women web site for more about issues relating to globalization and its impacts on women.
As seen in the population section of this web site, tackling many population related causes involves tackling many women’s issues such as increased knowledge and access to better health care, family planning and education for women. The beneficial results of these get passed along to the children and eventually the society. In fact, as PANOS shows in a report, providing women reproductive rights is part of their human rights.
And as Amnesty International shows, when basic health care infrastructure is lacking, the poorest suffer the most. For example, in the case of pregnant women giving birth comes with the real risk of death, which affects the rest of the family and community too:
In other cases, the roles of women presented in the media, from talk shows, to entertainment shows as well as news reporting can often end up reinforcing the status quo and the cultural stereotypes, which influence other women to follow suit. This happens in all nations, from the wealthiest to the poorest (and happens with men as well as children). It can have positive aspects, such as providing guidance and sharing issues etc. but it can also have a negative effect of continuing inherent prejudices etc.
(For more on this perspective, see this collection of articles from MediaChannel.org on Women’s Media)
From June 5 to June 9 2000, there was a conference at the United Nations, New York, continuing on 5 years from a similar conference in Beijing, 1995. (The formal name of the conference was “Women: 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-First Century.”)
In 1985 there was a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, to formulate strategies for advancing women’s rights. This was followed by a “plan of action” defined in 1995, in Beijing.
Leading up to, and during the conference, many organizations had numerous issues to bring to the fore, including:
Women’s reproductive rights
Abduction of girls
Child soldiers and armed conflict
Poverty and Economy
Education and Training
According to a UN report, the international community had fallen far short of its commitments to empower women and achieve gender equality and that only eight out of 188 member states had certain global agreements for this.
In fact, some were even opposed to moving forward on such important issues, such as Holy See (the Vatican), Nicaragua, Sudan and Libya and sometimes Iraq and various other nations on particular issues such as reproductive rights, even freedom of expression (Libya and the Vatican opposed this). The Vatican, Iran and some other delegations even wanted to delete references to sexual and reproductive rights and health in the Current Challenges section of the review document.
Regarding the Vatican (the Holy See), there was growing concern at their role as permanent observer, where they are considered to be more than a non-governmental organization (NGO), but less than a nation. They therefore have some influence and have been criticized at the way they have affected some UN decisions regarding gender-related issues to be more effectively pushed forward. As part of some of the criticisms, there is the suggestion to challenge the Holy See’s power by demanding that the Vatican should be classified as an NGO instead.
Some NGOs and organizations from the third world trying to fight for women’s rights also felt they were left out of the conference.
For more in-depth discussion of the issues you can also look at
The Women Watch web site, the “UN Internet Gateway on the Advancement and Empowerment of Women.”
Various links regarding women’s issues, related to human rights.
This section from UNICEF’s Progress of Nations, 1998 report. The report is a compilation of information and statistics that measure how developed a nation is with regards to the state of the children rather than the state of the economy.
The Population Fund, UNFPA, web site. Many population-related issues are applicable to women. This site has a lot of information. (The Population section on this web site also shows the importance of the role and education of women to help tackle some population issues.)
Womankind is a development agency supporting women from the developing world tackling issues such as poverty and sexual or political oppression. They have a good web site with more information.
The Girls Global Education Fund is an impressive web site that tackles the important issue of girls education, especially where traditionally girls grow up not having the same access to education as boys.
MADRE, as they say in their own words, “is an international women’s human rights organization that works in partnership with women’s community-based groups worldwide to address issues of health, economic development and other human rights.”
Third World Network provides a collection of articles on Women’s rights and gender issues, also looking at the relationship with other issues such as globalization, poverty, economics, health, violence, sexual exploitation, gender equity, culture and more.