The status of girls and women: The good, the bad and the ugly

gender equality

Last week, I attended “What IS the Status of Women and Girls Around the World?,” a gender roundtable here in Washington D.C.

During the Q&A, panelists from organizations like Women Thrive Worldwide, the World Bank and Save the Children answered questions on the status of women and girls globally.

Are we are making progress on closing the global gender gap? Why is the gap is so difficult to close? Here are their answers in a nutshell, and I’ve taken the liberty of organizing them into some interesting categories: the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s start with the ugly news, first.

The Ugly:

A manifestation of women’s underrepresented voice is domestic violence. The incidences of domestic violence differ within countries, and while frequency tends to rise with socioeconomic deficiencies, violence has no boundaries in the home. Karen Craggs of Plan Canada made the insightful remark that just telling women domestic violence is a lack of freedom and human rights is not enough; the international community and agencies must persist to discover the social and cultural origin of the partners’ violence.

The Bad

While vast improvements have been made in the lives of women and girls over the past quarter century, women continue to lack representation in society and the household. In many parts of the world, women have less input in decision-making in their own home, community and politics. In formal politics, the share of women parliamentarians increased only from 10 to 17 percent between 1995 and 2009.

Women’s ability to own, control and dispose of property is still very limited as well as their input in household spending. For example, as many as one-third of married women in Malawi are not involved in household spending decisions, even if it’s their personal income.

The Good

Progress in women’s education and gender disparity in the classroom has experienced steady and sustained levels; this includes primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Two-thirds of all countries have reached gender equality in primary enrollment, and in secondary enrollment, girls significantly outnumber boys in secondary education in one-third of countries.

Additionally, more women than men attend university, globally. In many countries, we are seeing fewer men pursue higher education. It should be noted that male disadvantages do emerge; however, girl disadvantages tend to emerge earlier and have deeper impacts on their lives.

As you can see, there is still much to be done for women, girls and the fight for gender equality around the world. But, in the last few decades, the pace of change, especially in developing countries, has been astonishing. We must continue to press on and keep the momentum toward the good.