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‘Bending the Curve’ - Countries moving backwards on key women rights

March 10th, 2020
topic:Women's rights
by:Shadi Khan Saif
tags:Africa, COVID-19 coronavirus, Europe, Gates Foundation, ONE Campaign, Plan International, Women Deliver, women's rights

A top global gender coalition reveals some countries are stagnating or even moving backwards on key women's rights such as family planning, secondary education completion, ministerial roles, laws on workplace equality and women’s experiences f safety at night.

In this in-depth annual report ‘Bending the Curve Towards Gender Equality by 2030’ and an open letter to world leaders, the ‘EqualMeasures2030’ – has said the world is not even close to being on track to reaching these five key gender equality targets by 2030.

This comes as the organising committee of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a major UN conference scheduled to take place in March, decided to cut the event down to a one-day meeting, citing current concerns surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

As per the research report, half of countries studied (67 out of 129 countries) – home to 2.1 billion girls and women – won’t achieve any of five key gender equality targets by 2030 if their current pace continues.

Family planning

It suggests progress on access to family planning needs to accelerate globally by three times to reach the target so over 400 million more girls and women have access to contraception to plan if and when they have children than if the current pace continued to 2030.

"Access to modern methods of family planning increased slowly between 2000 and 2018, from 56 per cent of girls and women globally to 68 per cent", it said, adding Europe and North America had the highest levels of access, but Sub-Saharan Africa saw the strongest gains.

Secondary education completion

''The world also needs to move three times faster than it has over the past 10 to 15 years to ensure that every girl completes secondary school by 2030", the report warned. It said 85 million more girls would complete secondary school by 2030 if countries moved at this accelerated pace than if the current pace continues.
Completing secondary education is a fundamental right for girls.

"It has a profound impact on a girl’s individual opportunities but also positively affects broader society".

According to the report, 14 countries saw rates of upper secondary completion go in the wrong direction over the past 10 to 20 years among women 20–24 years-old. "These were mostly small declines but significant in the cases of Russia, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Bulgaria". High-income countries making progress included Germany, Hungary and Saudi Arabia.

Ministerial roles

Based on the report, just 23 per cent of government minister posts globally are held by women and 77 million girls and women live in countries that do not have a single female minister.

"More than 650 million girls and women in 64 countries have never had an elected or appointed female head of state or government". Progress on this issue has slowed in recent years and 40 countries have moved backwards since 2001.

Progress needs to accelerate by nearly two times to ensure women are equally represented in the most powerful political positions by 2030, it noted.

"Women’s political participation is essential for gender equality and genuine democracy", said the report, adding the pace of progress on gender parity in political leadership is slowing: the pace of change from 2008 onwards is slower than between 2000–2008, and 40 countries have slid backwards since 2001.

"Worldwide, only Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Rwanda, South Africa, and Sweden have reached parity in both parliaments and cabinets", it said, adding Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East and North Africa have lower numbers of women in parliaments and cabinets compared to all other regions.

Laws on workplace equality

In 2009, just 16 countries (all in Europe and North America) received a top score of 100 (based on data from the World Bank) for their workplace equality laws, the research stated.

"Changes in workplace laws in the last decade have meant that 215 million more women are now entitled, in principle, to 14+ weeks paid maternity leave, among other benefits", said the report.

It lamented that in many countries, legal systems do not protect women against discrimination in the workforce. "The indicator that captures the extent to that countries have laws mandating gender equality in the workplace comprises seven laws (including anti-discrimination, equal pay, paid leave, treatment of pregnant workers, and laws that put restrictions on the types of jobs women can do) assessed by the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law (WBL) research.

It said 93 more countries must change laws to meet the target by 2030.

Women’s experiences of safety at night

Nearly half of women globally don’t feel safe walking at night. This figure has barely changed since 2006. In fact, perceptions of safety worsened in nearly half of countries studied between 2006–2018.

"At the current rate of progress we wouldn’t reach the target of all girls and women saying they feel safe walking at night until the year 2179 – more than six generations from now".

Progress needs to accelerate by nearly 13 times times – the greatest acceleration needed across the five issues studied – to ensure that by 2030 every girl and woman reports feeling safe, said the report.

The study found gender-based violence is persistent in all countries of the world and the impact of such violence on women’s physical and mental health is profound. "

Globally there has been virtually no progress on ensuring women feel safe – the trend is almost flat-lining. If current rates continue, it will take more than six generations for all girls and women to feel safe walking at night".

Ironically, perceptions of safety walking at night worsened in nearly half (43 per cent) of countries studied between 2006 and 2020. In over half of the countries where perceptions of safety declined most, no legislation exists to address domestic violence.

"More than 500 million women worldwide live in countries where less than half of women feel safe. Yet higher proportions of women in Latin America and the Caribbean consistently report feeling unsafe than women in all other regions", said the report.

The coalition behind the report is led by Gates Foundation, PLAN International, ONE Campaign, Women Deliver and 6 other groups.

Article written by:
Shadi-Khan-Saif-1
Shadi Khan Saif
Author, Contributing Editor
The world also needs to move three times faster than it has over the past 10 to 15 years to ensure that every girl completes secondary school by 2030.
In 2009, just 16 countries (all in Europe and North America) received a top score of 100 (based on data from the World Bank) for their workplace equality laws.
Progress on access to family planning needs to accelerate globally by three times to reach the target so over 400 million more girls and women have access to contraception to plan if and when they have children
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