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Women Losing Ground in Economic, Political Equality

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 2, 2011 (IPS) - While gender equality ratios have improved in 85 percent of countries over the past six years, economic participation and political empowerment for women has failed to match the steady progress of health and education, says a new report by the World Economic Forum.

The report, Global Gender Gap", PDF compiled by Ricardo Hausmann from Harvard University, Laura Tyson from University of California, Berkeley and Saadia Zahidi from the World Economic Forum, illustrates the gender-disparity gap between men and women across 135 countries.

Using an international index and data from several organisations such as the International Labour Organisation, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organisation, the report measures the percentage of the gap between men and women across economic, political, educational and health-based criteria.

On average, health and education had the strongest rate of progress, with 96 percent of the health gap closed and 93 percent of the education gap closed. But economic participation only closed 59 percent of the gap and political empowerment closed a mere 18 percent of the gap.

"While it is heartening to note that education and health gaps between the sexes seem to be getting overcome, the same is not true for gaps in economic and political participation and it is important to note that equal access to education does not in itself solve the problems of gender inequality," Yasmeen Hassan, global director at Equality Now in New York, told the IPS.

"In fact, education systems may perpetuate and further entrench gender stereotypes and practices that promote gender inequality," she said. "I'm not surprised that many countries have regressed on gender equality. The global economic recession and rising fundamentalisms has resulted in a feeling of insecurity that manifests itself in a resurgence of patriarchal values and systems and a cutback of women's rights and freedoms." MORE


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