How does gender inequality affect multiple facets of a women's life?
Updated: May 22
Gender equality is a human right, but our world faces a persistent gap in access to opportunities and decision-making power for women more so than men.
Globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation.
Guaranteeing the rights of women and giving them opportunities to reach their full potential is critical not only for attaining gender equality but also for meeting a wide range of international development goals.
Empowered women and girls contribute to the health and productivity of their families, communities, and countries, creating a ripple effect that benefits everyone.
Facts about Global Gender Inequality
Poverty and Hunger:
1. Gender inequality is a major cause and effect of hunger and poverty: It is estimated that 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls.
2. On average, women make up about 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries.
Evidence indicates that if these women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent, raising total agricultural output in these countries by 2.5 to 4 percent.
This would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by around 12 to 17 percent.
3. Almost 70 percent of employed women in South Asia work in agriculture, as do more than 60 percent of employed women in sub-Saharan Africa.
This highlights the importance of developing policies and programs that address their needs, interests, and constraints.
4. Less than 20 percent of the world's landholders are women.
Women represent fewer than 5 percent of all agricultural landholders in North Africa and West Asia, while in sub-Saharan Africa, they make up an average of 15 percent.
5. Women in sub-Saharan Africa collectively spend about 40 billion hours a year collecting water.
Per week, women in Guinea collect water for 5.7 hours, compared to 2.3 hours for men; in Sierra Leone, women spend 7.3 compared to 4.5 hours for men; and in Malawi, this figure is 9.1 compared to 1.1 hours.
This significantly impacts women's employment opportunities.
1. Women make up more than two-thirds of the world's 796 million illiterate people.
2. According to global statistics, just 39 percent of rural girls attend secondary school. This is far fewer than rural boys (45 percent), urban girls (59 percent), and urban boys (60 percent).
3. Every additional year of primary school increases girls' eventual wages by 10-20 percent. It also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children and leaves them less vulnerable to violence.
4. While progress has been made in reducing the gender gap in urban primary school enrolment, data from 42 countries shows that rural girls are twice as likely as urban girls to be out of school.
5. In Pakistan, a half-kilometer increase in the distance to school will decrease girls' enrolment by 20 percent.
In Egypt, Indonesia, and several African countries, building local schools in rural communities increased girls' enrolment.
6. In Cambodia, 48 percent of rural women are illiterate, compared to 14 percent of rural men.
7. Rural women's deficits in education have long-term implications for family well-being and poverty reduction.
Vast improvements have been seen in the mortality rates of children less than 5 years old since 1990, but rural rates are usually much higher than urban ones.
1. In most countries, women in rural areas who work for wages are more likely than men to hold seasonal, part-time, and low-wage jobs.
Women also receive lower wages for the same work.
2. Men's average wages are higher than women's in both rural and urban areas.
Rural women typically work longer hours than men due to additional reproductive, domestic, and care responsibilities.
3. A large gender gap remains in women's access to decision-making and leadership.
4. Women make up fewer elected representatives in most rural councils.
5. Women's participation as chairs or heads in rural councils is also much lower than men.
6. Educated women are more likely to have greater decision-making power within their households.
1. Between 1990 and 2008, the proportion of rural women receiving prenatal care at least once during pregnancy grew from 55 to 66 percent.
2. However, only one-third of rural women receive prenatal care compared to 50 percent in developing regions as a whole.
HIV and AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases:
1. Rural women understand less about how HIV spreads compared to urban women; WHO figures from 25 countries indicate the margins of understanding between the two to be between 20 and 50 percent.
Bolivia, Egypt, Indonesia, and India are among the countries with the wider of such gaps.
2. HIV exacerbates property insecurity, especially for widows whose husbands have died from AIDS-related causes, but who may not have the rights to inherit or own their land.
3. The burden of care is also carried by women. Women and girls account for 66 to 90 percent of all AIDS caregivers; conditions are most difficult for women and girls in rural areas, and this can increase their vulnerability to infection.
Countries with the Highest and lowest Inequality gap
The WEF's annual Global Gender Gap Report compares attitudes towards gender equality around the world.
It considered factors such as educational opportunities available to each gender, life expectancy, literacy rates, the number of women in professional positions, and positions of power in each country.
The WEF surveyed men and women in 149 countries to compile the list.
According to the World Economic Forum's report,
"Stagnation in the proportion of women in the workplace and women’s declining representation in politics, coupled with greater inequality in access to health and education, offset improvements in wage equality and the number of women in professional positions, leaving the global gender gap only slightly reduced in 2018"
Each nation is given a score out of 1, with higher scores indicating a greater level of gender equality. The USA was right in the middle of the pack with a score of 0.72, ranking 51st out of 149 nations.
Check out the best and worst countries for gender equality, as well as the global averages, below:
Ways to Fight Gender Inequality
1. Give girls access to education:
There are 130 million girls in the world who are not in school. Although there has been a significant boost in girls’ enrollment in schools, there is still much progress to be made.
Girls are more likely than boys to never receive an education. There are 15 million girls in the world of primary-school-age who will never enter a classroom, compared to about 10 million boys.
Although there are countless boys and girls worldwide who face barriers when trying to receive an education, there are several specific forms of discrimination that only affect girls.
These include forced marriages at a young age, gender-based violence in school settings, and certain cultural or religious norms that restrict girls’ access to education.
2. Give women platforms to be in power and achieve economic success:
Globally, women have less political representation than men.
Around the world, 62 percent of countries have never had a female head of government or state for at least one year in the past half-century, including the United States.
The number of women in political positions compared to men is alarmingly disproportionate.
In global legislatures, women are outnumbered four to one.
Gender equality in political positions is a rarity as only three countries have 50 percent or more women in parliament in single or lower houses.
By having an equal presence of women in politics or leadership positions, the interests and values of females will be better represented on the political level.
3. End violence and sexual assault against women:
An unprecedented number of countries have laws against domestic violence and sexual assault.
However, these laws often go ignored, jeopardizing women and girls’ rights to their safety and justice.
Every day, 137 women across the world are killed by a family member or intimate partner.
This statistic is a disturbing example of the severity of violence toward women.
Females are more likely to experience sexual violence than men.
Approximately 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide have been raped at some point in their lives.
Beyond sexual harassment, women and girls are vulnerable to human trafficking as they account for 71 percent of all human trafficking victims.
In many cases, females are trafficked as child brides and/or sold as sex slaves.
4. Assure girls and women have access to menstrual health facilities:
Menstrual hygiene management is necessary for girls and young women to attend school and participate in their daily lives, however, this necessity is not always guaranteed.
The women most affected by ineffective menstrual care live in poverty.
Often, girls will stay home from school when on their periods because they do not have access to sanitary products and/or their schools lack the necessary facilities.
Dangerous ignorance and societal judgments about menstruation exist worldwide.
Some cultures believe a menstruating girl causes harm to everything she touches.
For instance, in rural Nepal, girls on their periods are sometimes forced out of their homes, forbidden from being in contact with people, animals, and even plants.
These girls are forced to stay in “menstrual huts,” which can be harmful and potentially fatal.
5. End child marriage:
In some cultures, it is acceptable if not expected for girls to marry at a young age.
Every year, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18 worldwide.
Child marriage most affects girls and is mainly fueled by gender inequality and poverty.
This practice is a violation of human rights as it prohibits women from making decisions about their own lives.
It deprives young girls of a childhood and an education, but it also has other disturbing effects.
Girls who are forced into marriage may be sexually harassed by their partner and have an increased risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria, and death from childbirth.
These ways to fight gender inequality are crucial to help women and girls around the world reach their full potential and ultimately attain gender equality.
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Abdul-Qudus Oyekanmi is a Nigeria-based full-stack digital marketer and activist at the International Youth Organization for Peace and Sustainability.
Inputs and Edits by Aswin Raghav R.