“Women are half the world’s population, yet they do two-thirds of the world’s work, earn one-tenth of the world’s income, and own less than one per cent of the world’s property. They are among the poorest of the world’s poor”.
Barber Conable, former President of World Bank
Women on an unequal footing
Gender inequality starts early and keeps women at a disadvantage throughout their lives. In some countries, infant girls are less likely to survive than infant boys because their parents favour the boys and neglect the girls.
Girls often receive less food than boys do. They are more likely to drop out of school and to receive less education than boys.
Historically women have been seen as less important than men socially, economically, politically and culturally.
So what is a gender footprint ?Put simply, this is the environmental, economic, social and political impact men and women have purely as a result of whether they are male or female. In most cultures men have a much larger footprint than women. This gives men much greater power. This power is often used over women and leaves them disempowered. When women have a larger and stronger gender footprint families, communities and societies at large tend to benefit.
Gender inequality: how it measures up
- Of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty around the world, 70% are women
- 130 million primary school age children do not attend school; 60% of these are girls.
- By age 18, girls have received an average of 4.4 years less education than boys.
- Pregnancies and childbirth-related health problems take the lives of around 500,000 women each year; that’s one woman every minute.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman faces a 1 in 13 chance of dying in childbirth. In Western Europe, the risk is 1 in 3,200.
- Women do about 66% of the world's work in return for less than 5% of its income
- At least one in three girls and women worldwide has been beaten or abused in her lifetime.
- Of every 10 people killed or wounded during armed conflict 8 are women or children
- Only around 6 in every 100 government ministers in the world are women.
Gender inequality and human rights
From the beginning, the United Nations has always had the goal of equality between men and women. In 1945 the UN Charter stated the importance of equal rights for men and women. Then in 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
This convention stated that all forms of discrimination against women were human-rights abuses. By 2005, 180 nations had signed up to CEDAW and these nations are legally responsible for eliminating all discrimination against women in their societies.
All the rights enshrined under the Convention on the Rights of the Child – rights related to education, health, play and relaxation, protection from danger and the right to have your say – apply equally to boys and girls. Therefore under this convention, which has been signed by almost every nation, all discrimination against girls is banned and governments have a duty to promote equality.
For further information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child click here
At the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, most of the world’s governments agreed to improve the lives of women and girls. Government representatives agreed that development and progress aren't possible if half of a country's population is not considered equal. Yet despite this agreement, more than 40 countries have laws which discriminate against women.
In many countries, women face violence, which governments do nothing to stop because other laws support customs like ’honour’ killings, where a woman is killed by a family member if she does something which is thought to bring shame on the family. In some countries women are legally their husband's property, while in others, women cannot leave the house or get a job without a man's permission.
In several countries laws also make it more difficult for women to own property or land or gain employment. So women end up legally and economically dependent upon their husbands or other male relatives, despite commitments their governments have made to ensure they are on an equal footing with men.