Tuesday, 8 March 2011

International Womens Day

Dear All,

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women's day, a day designed to celebrate the equal status of the sexes and promote equality in those regions where women still do not have equal rights to men. It is a well known ideal that development cannot be achieved in full without granting equal status and rights, and under the UN Millennium Development Goals set to be achieved for 2015, many of the 8 distinct regions for these targets focus on improving the status and living conditions for women worldwide.

How do we go about measuring this in geography? The answer is in many different ways, one of the goals is to ensure that in primary and secondary education, both girls and boys are enrolled and studying to achieve a universal literacy rate. This map, reproduced from the UN website (Ref:Gender equality and empowerment of women: education status. (2005). In UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics Library. Retrieved 12:47, March 8, 2011 from http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/gender_equality_and_empowerment_of_women_education_status.) is an excellent example of how much has been achieved, and maps the number of girls per 100 boys enrolled in primary and secondary schools within each country.

The trends are clear here, America, South America, Europe and China have achieved equality by ensuring over 97 girls to 100 boys in schools. The regions where women are not educated are Africa, parts of the Middle East and Asia. There are however different ways of looking at mapping equality:

Along the Y axis, we have the percentage of seats in the countries parliament held by women, clearly, Rwanda and Sweden leading the way here, on the X axis, we have ration of male:female earnings, and the size of the bubble depicts the GDP per capita. Quite a busy graph. There are a few interesting points here, the first is that there is no country depicted that has true equality of pay for women. Sweden (0.84), Kenya (0.82)and Mozambique (0.81) are closest to it, but a general trend is that women are earning between 25 and 75% of male incomes. The Middle East is trailing behind on earnings with Palestinian Territories at 0.12, Oman at 0.2 and Saudi Arabia at 0.17, as in women are earning less than a quarter of what men earn.

The only country in the world where there are more men than women in parliament is Rwanda, where 30% of the seats are reserved for women as part of a national scheme, based on the notion that women understand women's issues the best, and hence should have a significant stake in the countries leadership.

Interestingly, being a wealthy country does not mean that the genders have equal pay. The US is far behind Angola and Rwanda in terms of seats in Parliament, and further behind the UK, Mozambique, Cambodia and Chad in terms of equality of pay.
This too can be mapped on a chloropleth:

There are some suprises here too, the Republic of Ireland trails behin the UK and much of Europe, being in the 0.5 - 0.6 category, Venezuela comes out as the highest in South America at 0.6 - 0.7, and the most equal places for womens earnings are eastern Africa, Australia and Scandinavia.

So, there is clearly a long way to go, why do women continue to earn less than men? Is equality truly a necesity for development or can it be achieved without? How long will it take for women to have worldwide equal rights and is this even possible? All possible questions for further research or perhaps a summer EPQ in geography - ask me if you want a hand with the topic!

1 comment:

  1. The question, is equality truly a necessity for development, is an interesting one. When I first considered it, I believed that equality was a necessity for development because, for a country to reach the latter stages of the DTM a stable population is required where both the CBR and CDR are low. In the second Al Gore book (honestly it covers loads!) it mentions how experts in demography have concluded that two of the key factors that allow for this to occur (they have isolated four) are the widespread education of girls and the social and political empowerment of women to participate in the decisions of their families, communities and nations. However on further reflection, whilst referring back to the statistics you provided, how can it be a necessity for development if countries, like the USA who we consider to be very developed, possibly have less equality in their society than in countries like Rwanda?
    I have been thinking about this for a while and it wasn’t until I replied to your comment on my blog, in relation to changing the globally perception of development, that I managed to start to come up with an initial response to this question. So, do I think that equality is a necessity for development – well the statistics you provided suggest that it is not necessarily a necessity but perhaps only at the currently accepted definition of development. Like I mentioned in my reply, the definitions of development and many of the measurements used to calculate it are based on the economy and you can have a developed economy without equality existing in a country. The global view of development seems to lack in how socially developed a country is and so how can equality, which is or should at least be a sign of social development, be a necessity for the perception we currently have of development? Although I don’t think equality is perhaps a necessity, I think it aids and accelerates development as equal opportunities for women in both education and careers lower the CBR, which is a key characteristic associated with development and so, perhaps, a certain level of equality is required.