So sorry to bring quizzes outside of school, but this one is important: what day of note just passed us by?
The answer? International Day of the Girl.
The United Nations declared October 11 International Day of the Girl in 2011. The Day is used to draw attention to the numerous issues facing women, particularly young girls, across the globe today.
So my feminist friends (NOTE FOR ANYONE WHO IS UNCLEAR ON THIS: FEMINISM = GENDER EQUALITY, NOT MAN-HATING OR MISANDRY), I thought I would dedicate this post to girls all over the world and to shining the spotlight on the problems they face as a result of their being female.
The United Nations has made 17 sustainable development goals to make the world a better place; they are set to be achieved over the next 15 years, some sooner than others. One of those goals is gender equality. However, by looking at some of the other goals, we can see that the world still has a long way to go before reaching Goal #5.
First, let’s look at Goal #1, ending poverty. The stats aren’t good. Women in America are more likely to be poor than men, and that fact doesn’t change meaningfully if you change ethnic/racial groups. However, this is particularly true for black and Latina women, who twice as likely as white women to live in poverty. If you are a retired woman, the poverty margin increases as well.
This is a troubling statistic on its own, but it’s even more alarming when you consider how it affects children, especially young girls – in 2014, over half of children living below the poverty line were living in households headed by women.
Next, let’s go to hunger, Goal #2. According to the World Food Programme, “Yields for women farmers are 20-30 percent lower than for men. This is because women have less access to improved seeds, fertilisers and equipment”. According to UN Women, “Less than 20 percent of the world’s landholders are women. Women represent fewer than 5 percent of all agricultural landholders in North Africa and West Asia, while in sub-Saharan Africa they make up an average of 15 percent.” Worldwide, 60% of people without enough food to eat are women and young girls.
The third goal is good health and well-being, and just like the previous two, this one is harder for women to achieve than men. For example, in Saudi Arabia, girls are prohibited from doing sports in public schools. The country only sent female athletes to the Olympics in 2012. This is a problem for Saudi women and girls; they have one of the highest obesity rates in the world. One in 3 Saudi women is obese. This study says the obvious, “Preventive programmes for weight control and a healthy lifestyle among Saudi females should be emphasised from young adulthood or perhaps earlier”. However, conservative Saudi Arabia isn’t doing anything to help that as of right now.
Now we take a look at the fourth goal of quality education. The numbers on this goal are grim for girls too. Girls lag behind boys in worldwide literacy, and two-thirds of illiterate adults are women. UNICEF says that in South and West Asia,”80 per cent of out-of-school girls are unlikely to ever start school compared to 16 per cent of out-of-school boys”. In sub-Saharan Africa, over half of children not in school are girls. However, there is some good news: in 2010, over half of all American college graduates were female, and the global ratio of men to women in universities is now 93 to 100.
Now that I’ve given you some positive factoids, lets go back to all the bad stuff. Goal #6 is to provide clean water and adequate sanitation for everyone on the planet. This is a tall order; 780 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water. If there are 7 billion people on the planet that means that… approximately 11% of people don’t have access to clean drinking water? Correct my math if I’m wrong. Either way, that’s a ton of people who don’t have water, and a disproportionate amount of the people affected by this issue are women and girls.
In developing countries, 2/3 of the time those of use with two X chromosomes are the ones responsible for acquiring water. On average, girls walk almost 4 miles to get water, and carry up to 5 gallons per trip. To get enough water to feed my family – 6 people – I would have to haul water for 3 hours a day. This obviously changes what opportunities are available to girls; most notably, they might have to drop out of school so their families don’t die of thirst. There are consequences to women’s’ health, too – 70% of the blind in the world are women infected with trachoma, a bacteria that spreads through unsanitary water.
We are now going to skip to goal #8: decent work and economic growth. You’ve heard of the wage gap, right? Well if you haven’t, here’s a fun fact for you: in the United States, women earn, on average, 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. If that woman is black, she earns 63 cents. If she is Latina, she earns 54 cents. And yes, I know this is a controversial claim for some; that’s why I have sources at the bottom of the page. And though the United States is by no means ahead in closing the gender pay gap, it’s way worse for women in countries like Estonia, Japan, Israel, the Netherlands, Finland, South Korea, Turkey, and even our beloved Canada (hey! something the U.S. is better than Canada at!), where women are all paid 37 cents or less for every dollar a man earns.
This ties in to the next two goals, industry, innovation, and infrastructure and reduced inequalities. As you all know, considering this is an online blog, the tech industry is widely regarded as the way to the future. Yet less than a quarter of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) jobs are held by women. Outside of the sciences, women make up only 4% of CEOs in fortune 500 companies. There are only 14 female billionaires in the world right now who earned their wealth themselves instead of inheriting it from a male relative. To put that in perspective, there are 1,810 total billionaires in the world as of 2016. Women are clearly having to deal with obstacles their male counterparts aren’t in the world of business, technology, and innovation.
One of the final goals, goal #16, is to achieve peace, justice, and strong institutions. Yet women are consistently at a disadvantage in our global justice systems. There are many examples of this, but I want to focus on rape. In the United States, only 7% of reported rapes result in convictions. Marital rape is still legal in over 30 countries, and in 50 countries, the age of consent is lower for women than men. Heck, just look at the Brock Turner case at Stanford University recently, or any of the other numerous rape cases in the news! Girls aren’t facing a level playing field in our courts.
So yeah, girls today are facing a ton of obstacles their brothers won’t have to simply because of whether or not their legal forms have an F or an M. But even though I know this is depressing, I’d like to point something out – these goals are by no means stupid or impossible. Humanity is making great progress – in Rwanda, over half of all seats in parliament are held by women! The point of this post is to remind us that in positions of privilege, it is easy to forget that we still have a long way to go before we reach global gender equality. My hope is that this inspires you to do something, even if it’s only a change in how you think about certain issues. Yes, these stats are upsetting, but they don’t have to be. We cannot forget that those numbers aren’t moved by pencil-pushing; they’re moved by people. 🙂 We have the power to create the change we want to see.
Work and Economic Growth:
Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure/Reduced Inequalities: