- Rwanda has emerged as the top sub-Saharan African gender equity nation, ranking behind only Sweden and Finland in the world, Social Watch's Gender Equity Index reveals.
The three top countries register the least inequality between women and men, a good performance achieved by the application of affirmative action policies, particularly for political quota legislation and labour market equity.
“This demonstrates that it is not necessary to achieve high levels of economic growth or industrialization to implement effective policies to promote greater equity,” said Karina Batthyány, the Social Watch Research Team Coordinator.
Social Watch is an international network of more than 400 citizens’ organizations committed to social, economic and gender justice. It is committed to eradicating poverty and its root causes and ensuring an equitable distribution of wealth and the realisation of human rights, with an emphasis on the right of all people not to be poor.
The index presents information on 154 countries in the world, including 40 sub-Saharan countries.
Created in 2004, the current index present trends between 2004 and 2007.
Ironically, the new study discovered that "countries do not need to be rich to treat women fairly", arguing that Rwanda , one of the poorest countries, has greater gender equity than the United States [67%], where the "status of women has significantly regressed."
“The GEI for 2007 clearly shows that you do not have to be rich to be equitable,” stressed Social Watch Coordinator Roberto Bissio. Numerous high-income countries have low scores in the GEI. This is the case of Italy [63%], Japan [60%], Luxembourg [60%], Kuwait [49%], Qatar [48%] and Saudi Arabia [42%].
Obviously, the modification of inequitable situations does not fundamentally depend on economic development but rather on the transformation of cultural patterns and power distribution, Bissio said.
The study also discovered the persistence of gender gap in all countries and that the trend is either very slow progress or no progress at all towards equality between women and men.
Besides Sweden, Finland, Rwanda and Norway, the 10 countries with the best GEI performance also include Germany [80%], Barbados [80%], Denmark [79%], Iceland [79%], New Zealand [78%] and the Netherlands [77%].
Rwanda has top the list of the countries that progressed the most during the period followed by Ecuador, Cape Verde and Guatemala - all of them developing nations.
Benin, Central African Republic, Togo, Chad, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire have recorded the worst index perfornance.
However, Angola [21%] and Turkey [13%] have become the most regressed during the period.
The economic dimension of the index measures gaps in women's participation in the labour market and gaps in the salaries earned by women as compared to men. In education, the GEI looks at enrolment gaps between boys and girls.
Gender-based inequity is a phenomenon that transcends borders, cultures, religions, and income levels, stressed Batthyány, describing the achievement of gender equity as a challenge for the entire modern world.
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