No country in the world treats its women as well as its men

March 8, 2006. There is not a single country in the world today where women have the same opportunities as men, and although progress has been made in some areas in recent years, women are still disadvantaged in economic and political life.

Gender equity is far from being achieved. The opportunities available to men and women are unequal in every country in the world. Almost 70% of the world's poor are women.
The most obvious inequities are seen in the economic and political spheres. The exclusion of women is clearly visible in the political sphere. Although they account for more than half of the world's population, women occupy only 15% percent of seats in the world's parliaments on average. According to international studies, in order for women to exercise real influence on political processes, they would have to hold at least 30% of political positions. But there are a few countries that exceed this rate, and most of them are all in northern Europe: Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. In fact, the presence of women in the centres of decision-making power is the only indicator of gender equity that does not correlate to a country's level of poverty. In some of the world's wealthiest countries, like France and Japan, women occupy only 10% to 12% of seats in parliament or congress, which is less than the rate of 13% seen in sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest region of the planet. At the same time, however, women hold only 6% of the positions in national government cabinets worldwide, and it is only in countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland that women occupy more than 40 percent of ministerial posts. Overall, national political decision-makers continue to be overwhelmingly male, and this is often reflected in a failure to address issues that concern women. There are 47 U.N.
member nations that have still not signed or ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted in 1979, while another 43 countries have only done so with reservations, the report notes.

When it comes to economic participation, women face varying degrees of labour discrimination throughout the world. They have more limited access to the labour market, and the average pay for women is lower than it is for men. The greatest inequities in both of these regards are seen in the Middle East, North Africa, and some Latin American countries, like Chile, Mexico and Peru. Contrary to what many might assume, countries do not need high levels of income to eliminate gender disparities and offer equal opportunities to women and men. There are some nations facing severe poverty that have nonetheless made significant progress in achieving greater gender equity.

We invite you to read the Gender Equity Index (GEI), developed by Social Watch, which classifies 134 countries on a scale from 1 to 12. The countries that scored the highest were Australia, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Nordic countries generally perform well with regard to gender equity, because they have implemented active gender policies for a relatively long time, and these have led to an increase in women's power and participation. Most of the countries in the second-highest ranking group, with 11 points, were also European, including some eastern European nations like Moldova, Latvia and Lithuania, alongside Canada, Colombia, the United States, the Russian Federation, France and the United Kingdom. The countries with the worst GEI performance were Yemen (3 points), Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Pakistan and Togo (4 points), and Algeria, Guatemala, India, Lebanon, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Turkey (5 points).

The GEI developed by Social Watch measures gender equity by evaluating the dimensions of education, economic activity and participation in political and economic decision-making ("empowerment"). It is a tool that will serve as a first step towards combining these different dimensions in a single index.