By: Nawal Samdani
Women are a vital part of our world; they represent the greatest source of untapped potential in the global world and yet too often their voices, experiences and contributions are overlooked and undervalued. They are underrepresented in areas of power, and barriers – gender-based violence and lack of opportunities – block the path of progress.
These are key issues women are facing around the world:
Despite the improved resources in North and South America, Africa, Asia and beyond, some cultures still believe that women are less worthy of the same educational opportunities provided to men. In developing countries, many families who are in poverty often favor their sons when investing in education.
This feeds the message that men should have the power and women should hold a subordinate position. This outdated view fuels educational inequality and many other disparities. According to UNICEF, worldwide, 129 million girls are out of school. Only 49 percent of countries have achieved gender equality in primary education. In secondary education, this gap widens.
Gender-equitable education systems empower girls and boys to promote the development of life skills. They also close skill gaps that perpetuate pay disparities, which can build wealth for many countries.
Caregiver role disproportionately burdens women
In many developing and middle-income countries, women are still forced to be legally and socially dependent on men, with no means of gaining financial or social independence.
Stereotypes insist that men are breadwinners, whilst women are homemakers and caregivers. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), women across the world spend up to ten times more time on caregiving than men.
Research shows that in India and Nepal, 84 percent of family caregivers are female. The role of caregiver, dominated by women, contributes to inequalities between the genders, with women having fewer opportunities outside the home than men. This also relates to how families prefer to educate their son rather than their daughter. In developing countries, young women are often required to give round-the-clock care.
Violence against women and girls
Internationally, abuse against women and girls – including rape, murder, acid attacks, domestic violence and forced marriage – remains a serious problem. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 47,000 women and girls worldwide were killed by a family member or intimate partner in 2020.
Data from domestic violence helplines indicates that cases of domestic violence increased 200 percent in 2020. According to a Human Rights Ministry report, it was found that women in prison receive inadequate medical care and live in poor conditions; officials routinely ignore laws meant to protect women prisoners. Child marriage also remains a problem globally. According to Human Rights Watch, one in seven girls in developing countries will be married before their 15th birthday.
Poor medical care and access to health information
In developing countries, women suffer more from illnesses and disease because they lack access to vital healthcare, information and resources. Mortality rates for women are significantly higher than the rates for men in many developing countries simply because these countries discriminate against women by failing to provide their medical needs.
Women face health inequities because of their specific needs around sexual and reproductive health care; they often lack adequate resources to pay for care, which further contributes to gender inequality. According to Partners in Health, in the developing world, women without access to modern medicine accounted for 63.2 million unintended pregnancies.
India partners with the Healing Fields Foundation to equip low-income women to become community health facilitators to promote health in poverty-stricken areas. Their health education covers topics such as first aid, menstrual hygiene, sanitation and nutrition.