Across Women’s Lives: Major Issues Facing Females Globally
“Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act.” Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary – General
UN: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Worldwide, women live an average four years longer than men. In 2011, women’s life expectancy at birth was more than 80 years in 46 countries, but only 58 years in the WHO African Region. Girls are far more likely than boys to suffer sexual abuse. Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Almost all (99%) of the approximate 287 000 maternal deaths every year occur in developing countries. Globally, cardiovascular disease, often thought to be a “male” problem, is the number one killer of women. Breast cancer is the leading cancer killer among women aged 20–59 years worldwide WHO factsheet
In February of this year, a group of bloggers joined forces with Public Radio International (PRI) and SheKnows Media, BlogHer’s parent company, to bring a closer focus on the wide range of issues that impact women’s lives. The key goal of this initiative – #womenslives – remains to encourage us all to initiate dialogue and contribute stories about women’s issues; women’s rights, health, education, wealth, economic development and more. As a Mother of twin girls, a sister, daughter, aunt, girlfriend, and a member of the female gender, I am always aware of the many issues my kindred sisters struggle with on a daily basis. While there is a school of thought that prefers to believe that gender equity is a non-topic, many of us would rather see and live in a world that treats all of its members with fairness, dignity and respect. I have taken the liberty to share statistics and videos (including some from TEDWomen 2015: Momentum and TEDWOMEN) that will help elucidate the issues that continue to face us as girls/women globally. As shown, above and below, health remains a powerful point of impact and flows into other facets of our lives.
“I know how important good mental health care can be because I personally benefited from it.” Tipper Gore
Critical Issues in International Women’s Health
Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% among men. Leading mental health problems of the older adults are depression, organic brain syndromes and dementias. A majority are women. An estimated 80% of 50 million people affected by violent conflicts, civil wars, disasters, and displacement are women and children. Lifetime prevalence rate of violence against women ranges from 16% to 50%. At least one in five women suffer rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.
Health Related issues: If we stop to consider the statistics above, it can become overwhelming but we must not stop there. Did you know that there are 2 billion malnourished people globally and most are women and children? Did you know that there are 35 million people with hiv/aids of which half are women? I know some of you have read my posts on this subject but, let me say it again; heart disease remains the #1 killer of women – cardiovascular/heart disease is an insidious killer of women and getting regular checkups isn’t always available to many around the world. What are you doing about it? Start where you are and spread the word in your community. According to curated data from the World Health Organization WHO, Abortion rights, Reproductive health, Mental health, Malnutrition, Hunger, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS are also high on the list of health related issues that have a negative impact on women’s lives.
— TED News (@TEDNews) May 28, 2015
When we add the one (1) billion women living in poverty and lack of education to the mix, and we begin to understand that these issues are both endemic and enervating. Although a recent UN Report on Hunger via the New York Times shows that Hunger numbers have dropped from 1 billion to 795 million, we are still dealing with massive numbers of women, men and children who go hungry every day. Since women tend to give up their share to their children, it is no surprise that the percentage of women who go hungry and become malnourished remains high. Since our brains need fuel to function effectively, hunger has a tremendous impact on education outcomes; a hungry child will have difficulty concentrating in a classroom and eventually will flunk or drop out.
If you are eager to explore the vast women’s issues subject, there are so many resources available; PRI has done a superb job of reporting and curating fascinating and heart-wrenching topics for your perusal. I’ve added links above/below for you to visit and read up, and also will continue to update this post by adding links to specific topics that moved me. Many of them reminded me that our work will never be completed until all of us, men and women, join the movement for gender equity. Throughout this post, take some time to read the UN Reports, TEDWomen 2015: Momentum, PRI posts, and other great sources of information that will help shed light on the subject. Knowledge is power; the more informed we are, the more empowered we will be.
“The growing understanding of the detrimental impact of violence on women and society as a whole needs to be translated into investment in the implementation of strategies for the promotion of gender equality and the prevention of violence.” Carmen Moreno, with Hilary Anderson and Renske Hoekstra (Inter-American Commission of Women, Organization of American State) via Open Square Compendium on Research-Evaluations-Analysis-Data (READ) for SAFE PASSAGE: Gender-Based Violence and Global Education
Breaking it down: The economics of a sex worker in Thailand | The World
…”Prevalence of two forms of violence against women: violence by an intimate partner (intimate partner violence) and sexual violence by someone other than a partner (non-partner sexual violence). Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data.
Domestic & All Forms of Violence against Females: “Honor killing,” Dowry Murder, Sexual harassment, Female Genital Mutilation, Violence during pregnancy, Rape/Assault/Violence in Situations of Crisis/Sexual violence in conflict. When we think of Violence against women/girls, it is shocking to learn that 35% of women globally experience violence in their lifetimes. We can’t help but look at our neighbors and friends who might have been victims of domestic violence and were fortunate enough to survive. If 1 in 3 women experience an act of violence, it is an alarming number and one that we must do everything in our power to address and combat. We can start with the way we raise our sons and daughters and the messages we feed them.
We can start by reaching out to our legislators and demanding more laws and funding to fight it. We can do more by joining organizations as volunteers and donors to ensure that those on the forefront of the fight get maximum support. Each of us can make a difference even in the smallest way. We just have to choose the path that works for us and follow through on it. While domestic violence might not impact some of us directly, it does have a far reaching impact in that we are co-workers, friends, parents, commuters, or even patients of the abused/abuser, and we’ve read enough news reports to learn that such exposure can put us in the crossfire of an act of violence.
“I have watched women go from victims to survivors after receiving services that the agencies funded by the legislation on domestic violence have been able to offer … And I believe we will see the same kind of impact from addressing sex trafficking among our foster youth.” Rep. Louise Slaughter
The underage victims of Thailand’s sex industry
The most widely cited definition of human trafficking is in the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons(1):‘[T]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.’
Human/Sex Trafficking & Exploitation: Did you know that about 2.5 million people are forced into human/sex trafficking annually and 80% are female? While some of us might feel that this is happening in other parts of the world, the truth is that it is happening in every country in the world. Human/Sex trafficking is in the USA too and we often walk by victims unaware of their desperate situation. For more homegrown insight, Read: The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight for Justice by Kathryn Bolkovac and Cari Lynn Kathryn’s story will shock and inspire you to stop being complacent. As writer, Lori Foster, aptly said, “We tend to think of human trafficking as a foreign issue, not something that could happen here in our own backyards. But it’s a fast-growing problem in the United States, in every area, with no real defined demographic.” It is in every developed and developing country.
The day workers you meet at Nail shops (Read New York Times articles on: Nails and Nails), and similar industries, are often recruited and brought in to work for little or no wages and the abuse that follows makes it difficult for them to speak out and report it. The pornography industry is a $billion dollar conglomerate that feeds the taste and desires of a growing client population, and those who can’t get it locally, travel to nations with lower restrictions to feed their frenzy. While some women/girls fall into sex trafficking/ slavery/prostitution because of poverty, (over 1 billion poor women in the world today) others are forced into this situation and can’t get out. We need to keep our focus on asking governments globally to end it.
“The Incheon Declaration rightly commits us to non-discriminatory education that recognizes the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment for sustainable development. This is a crucial opportunity for us to work together, across sectors, towards the fulfilment of the Education for All promise of peaceful, just and equal societies. A world where people are equal can only be achieved if our education also universally teaches this.” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary-General.
Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders
— TED Talks (@TEDTalks) May 28, 2015
Globally women make up 40% of the paid workforce (2). In developed countries, such as the United States of America (USA), women now account for nearly half of all workers (3) but, in many developing countries that proportion is much smaller. In Pakistan, for instance, women represent 21% of paid workers (4). This gender gap is gradually shrinking as the share of women in paid work increases and the share of men in paid work decreases (2). Despite women’s increasing presence in paid employment, they continue to be under-represented in high-level and decision-making positions and often face barriers to their advancement (the “glass ceiling”). In addition, women on average continue to earn less than men, even for the same job (5) WHO – Gender Work and Health
Work/Health/Education/Gender Bias/Inequality: When we think of gender bias, what comes to mind are topics on job bias and education inequity. Yet, gender bias flows into every area of our lives. The woman who earns less wages than her male colleague might not always have a working partner to make up the difference, and so that old logic of men as supreme heads of households ought to be buried with that equally archaic belief that women are cut out for only certain types of jobs. As Sheryl points out above, there are fewer women leaders because of societal expectations and our acceptance of them. We can work to change this by taking actions that empower us and by aligning ourselves with others who will encourage us. If pay equity issues remain a hot button topic in the USA and globally, it is for good reason. When we are compensated fairly for equal work, we experience the power of financial independence, and are able to put our energies into fighting for our rights on other issues that contribute to global inequity.
One of the insidious side effects of any form of bias is the stress, and the mental and physical strain it places on all affected by it. I look forward to the day when all of us would feel that our efforts are being addressed and rewarded fairly. Once the matter of gender inequity is resolved, we will find that its impact was/is far reaching. Then, our attention can shift to other pressing areas of global concern. As a woman, I support this initiative on women’s lives because many of my life decisions have been influenced by some of these issues. What about you?
As the daily prompt on Baggage Check asked: We all have complicated histories. When was the last time your past experiences informed a major decision you’ve made?
Positive Motivation Tip: The lives of all humans matter. Girls and women matter. They are us and we are connected to many of them. Silence is death. Women’s lives matter.
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