Women: Did You Know?
What exactly is women’s empowerment? It is simply the giving of power to the world’s women. This can be done by providing access to education, giving a political voice, ensuring safety, and protecting human and civil rights. Though half of the world is made up of women, it is that half of the world that has the least amount of power.
There are many barriers that prevent women from having power. Some of the main areas include violence against women, such as domestic abuse and rape; female poverty; and gender equality in areas such as government and the workforce. All of these issues stem from basic human rights, and much of the barriers stem from discrimination against women.
In 1979, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Also known as the Bill of Rights for Women, it has served to help increase the rights of women worldwide by defining exactly what discrimination against women is and creating standards for women around the world. However, some countries have not adopted CEDAW, and there are some countries that have but do not abide by its mandates. In fact, more than 45 countries have actual laws that discriminate against women — yet many of them have adopted CEDAW!
So how do we as a people make women equal? How do those of us who are women get ahead? It is not easy, but we know it can be done. Women have been struggling for freedom and succeeding for centuries. Because of their courage and unwavering dedication to obtain their freedom, many women can now vote, hold public office, own property, and receive an education, and have hundreds of other liberties that were not available to them before.
By providing women with the tools they need to succeed — such as adequate health care, education, fair pay for their work, child care, and safety — and working together internationally to change the way women are viewed worldwide, we can ensure these freedoms for all women. Discrimination must end, and women must be seen as equals to be treated as such. The adoption and enforcement of CEDAW is an important step.
Visit the other pages in this section to learn more about empowering women — discover how to help young girls, mothers, women of all ages — even you can create a better way of life so that women worldwide will not simply survive but thrive. As a global community, we can build a world of equality together.
Lesser Known Facts
Women make up half of the global population, but 1 billion women — or one-fifth of the population — are the poorest people on the planet.
One in three women will either be abused or raped in her lifetime. One out of every seven married women will even be raped by her own husband.
Educated women are more likely to earn higher wages, and have healthier and educated children. Just one extra year of school can increase a woman’s work wages by 15% to 25%. But of all the children in the world not attending school, 70% are girls, and 75% of the 1 billion people who cannot read in the world are women.
Every year, 5,000 women are killed by their own family members in honor killings.
One in every seven girls in developing countries will get married before the age of 15; 38% marry before the age of 18. Two million girls are forced into marriage worldwide every year; between 25% to half of all girls in developing countries will become mothers before the age of 18.
Only one-half of every U.S. cent of aid spent in developing countries is set aside for just girls.
When women and girls receive income, they invest 90% of it into their families — as opposed to 30% to 40% by men.
While women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and make half of the world’s food, they only earn 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property.
In Russia alone, a woman is killed every hour due to domestic violence. Domestic violence kills more women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, war, malaria, and traffic accidents; and it is the largest cause of death and injury to women around the world.
Ten years from now, 80% of women in industrialized countries and 70% of women globally will work outside the home.
Four million women and girls are kidnapped, or trafficked, and made into sex slaves or servants every year. Another 60 million girls are “missing” worldwide because of infanticide — or the killing of a baby because of her gender.
Women can face many threats at work, including: sexual harassment, discrimination, physical abuse, and mandated pregnancy exams as a condition to work (or being denied work if pregnant and/or having children).
Each year, 500,000 women die in childbirth. A woman dies every minute from pregnancy-related causes — but most of these causes are preventable.
75% of war fatalities are women and children.
Of all the world’s assets, only 1% are in the name of women.
Globally, 15% of parliament seats belong to women. The following countries have all had women as their President, Prime Minister, or Premier at least once in the last century: Argentina, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Canada, Chile, Dominica, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Malta, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia.
While some countries balk at the idea of women rulers, the idea is not new; kingdoms and tribes have had their share of women rulers for centuries. In fact, some groups, called matriarchies, were ruled mostly or completely by women. Some of these still exist today.
In some countries like Qatar where women wear the burqa, it can be difficult to run for public office since these women cannot use photos of themselves during their campaign.
Commonplace cultural violence against women in some countries is a horror to other nations. In India, an estimated 5,000 women are killed each year because their in-laws think that their dowries are not enough.
More than 90 million African girls and women have been victims of female circumcision or female genital mutilation; while 6,000 more undergo the “operation” every day. These “operations” are especially difficult to combat because of the cultural setting and local beliefs.
Some countries support mothers by helping with expenses or child care, providing tax credits for children, and even offering money to women who adopt healthy habits while pregnant, such as quitting smoking.
A woman’s menstrual cycle can be a barrier to empowerment. Girls without access to sanitary napkins or clean facilities are unable to attend school during menstruation.
Women can be attacked or killed in some countries for acts that men would not be punished for, some examples include: adultery, refusing a man’s attentions, or even being raped. In fact, some countries have little or no laws that protect these women from being attacked with acid, stoned to death, or punished in other horrific ways.
Women in the United States make 79% of the amount of money that working men make; this is called the “gender wage gap.” Worldwide, the gender wage gap is about 16%; this means that the average woman earns 16% less than the average man. No country in the world has equal wages between men and women.
Abortion is completely outlawed in some countries, allowed in some countries, and restricted in others; 78,000 women die each year from unsafe abortions.
Typically, women in industrialized areas have less than two children, while women in sub-Saharan Africa and west Asia have five or six children.