Thursday, 22 September 2011

Equality Across the World, and yes, we still need it.

Dear All Following the discussions held in many of my A2 classes this week, don't worry I shalln't name and shame, I felt it was time for an imaprtial assessment of how closs to true equality we are across the globe, and a reasoned, written response as to why it is. in fact, considered to be one of the driving forces behind development, and on of the largest challenges we face. Don't worry, this is not a feminist rant, merely a subjective (well, mostly) review of the current statistics, and an explanation as to why so many of the MDG's focus on equality for women. The womens rights movement, started in developed countries in the late 19th century, and most of you will have heard the term "Suffragette", whilst "Suffrage" means the civil right to vote, it is a term that has become linked to the granting of votes to women. New Zealand, was in fact the first country to afford women the vote in 1893, whilst in the UK, the "National Union of Womens Suffrage Societies", founded in 1897, and spearheaded by Millicent Fawcett led over 20 years of peaceful political campaigns, (Wo)mannedlargely by the UK Middle class. It is worth noting, that the Womens Social and Political Union, was a separate, and more Militant offshoot of this organisation, who wanted more action on womens votes, and was headed by Emmeline Pankhurst.

The suffragette movement has attracted much speculation over its course of action, but the sacrifices made by these women should not be underestimated. Pankhurst was arrested 8 times, and staged hunger strikes in Royal Holloway with other WSPU leaders, which led to the practice of forced feeding of women prisoners in 1912. She continued to campaign, and support the policy of property destruction and activism, which led to many fo the original members of the WSPU leaving the organisation

To start, we have had legislation in the UK for 41 years, making it illegal to give preferential treatment to either one of the sexes. Ms. Fawcett said in a speech in 1911 that their movement was "like a glacier; slow moving but unstoppable".

So, how does any of this affect development? Quite simply, it is the "Girl Effect" and here is a video from the charity promoting the issue, which sums up the problem far better than I can:

In terms of factors that affect fertility and mortality, we have covered the idea that the more control and education a woman has, and importantly the more access to family planning and contraceptive materials we have, the later they will have their first child, the more they contribute to the workforce, the tax base and the politics of their country.

This leads us to the question, which countries are leading the way, and who is falling behind with regards to Gender Equality. Here is one of my favourite images, a complex graph, but one that relates the ratio of earnings, and the percentage of seats held in parliament:


According to the 2006 statistics, Sweden is the country with the highest degree of equality, women earn 85% of male earnings, and occupy just under 50% of the seats in parliament. In contrast, Oman, the UAE, the Sudan, Eqypt and Morroco have under 25% of their parliamentary seats held by women, and they earn on average, 25% of equivalent male salaries. There are some suprises here, and of course some significant uprisings since this graphic was produced. Kenya has few female politicians, but women earn 80% of a typical male salary, whereas in Rwanda, over 5% of places are held by women, and the earnings ratio is 0.70.

Fascinating stuff, but in a country like the UK, where it is illegal to discriminate, and we were one of the first to give women the vote, and legally, a woman can do the same as any man, why are we in the middle of the pack? Women in the UK earn less than 70% of their male equivalents, and hold 15% of parliamentary seats. I wonder what Emeline Pankhurst would think of this?

No comments:

Post a Comment