Maxine Frith’s article in the Independent/UK is one of the most salient articles I’ve seen, although the title is deceptively narrow, in quite some time on the status of women and its impact on the state of the world in regard to peace and every matter.
I usually do not reprint articles in their entirity, but in this instance, this article, UN: Women Denied Representation, Making War on Poverty Hard to Win says it all, about women, peace and society.
Millions of women around the world, including those in the UK and other Western countries, are being denied effective representation because of the low numbers of female politicians, judges and employers, the United Nations has warned.
Campaigners say that unless urgent action is taken on the status of women, the Millennium Development Goals on reducing poverty, infant deaths and standards of education will not be met.
To mark International Women’s Day, the UN has published a report that says rates of female participation in governments across the developed and developing world are still appallingly low. The report says that for women to be adequately represented in their country, at least 30 per cent of parliamentary seats should have a female representative.
In Britain, only 18 per cent of MPs are women, while only 8 per cent of MPs in Arab countries are female. Just 20 nations – including Rwanda, Mozambique, Guyana and Burundi – have reached or exceeded the 30 per cent mark and only three countries (Chile, Spain and Sweden) have complete gender parity in government.
Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, said: “The rate of progress overall is slow. Women are every bit as affected as any man by the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century – in economic and social development, as well as in peace and security – often they are more affected.”
He added: “The world is starting to grasp that there is no policy more effective in promoting development, health and education than the empowerment of women and girls, and no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended.”
United Nations figures also show that 70 per cent of the world’s 1.2 billion people who are estimated to live in poverty are women and children. A woman dies every minute from complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth, and HIV rates are now rising faster among women than men. Charities say that 700 million women are living without adequate food, water, sanitation and education.
Even in the developed world, women face endemic discrimination. Full-time female workers in Japan earn just 51 per cent of the wages of their male counterparts, while only one in five managers in Italy is a woman and just 14 per cent of the seats in the US Congress are taken by women.
In a speech to mark International Women’s Day in Britain, Lady Barbara Thomas Judge, who chairs the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said that girls still suffered from discrimination in schools and work. She told a conference organised by the Aurora Network for women in business that 30 years after the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act in the United Kingdom, women account for half of the working population but for just one in four managers, 9 per cent of the judiciary and 10 per cent of senior police officers.
Lady Judge highlighted the fact that only 14.5 per cent of people employed in the fields of technology and engineering are women, despite evidence that when they do enter the professions, female engineers earn more than men. “Research indicates that those girls that are interested in maths and science are channelled into medicine, nursing and veterinary science because these are perceived as “caring” professions,” she said.
“Girls have few role models that show that women can be engineers and there are few companies that provide work experience for women in engineering. If we are to survive as a leading nation in this global- ised world, we must utilise this country’s intellectual capability to the fullest extent.”
Julia Häusermann, the president of the human rights charity Rights and Humanity, said: “We have much to celebrate on International Women’s Day.
“All over the world, women are making progress in political participation, economic empowerment and increased access to education. But wherever we turn, poverty, violence and Aids have a woman’s face.
“The empowerment of women is the single most effective tool for development. There is increasing evidence that securing women’s rights benefits not just women and their immediate families, but the wider society and national economies.”
For several U.N. publications on this and closely related subjects, go to this U.N. web page.