Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Woman’s Progress

The Newsweek/Daily Beast annual report on the progress of women’s rights around the world is worth paying attention to in a world where such rights are not automatic.
by Charlie Leck

I have four daughters. They are all strong-minded and strong-willed and incredibly independent. They believe in themselves and in their possibilities. A father could not be more proud of his daughters than I am of them.

So, it was with a great deal of interest that I read Naomi Wolf’s story in Nation Magazine about the Newsweek/Daily Beast report on the best nations in which women could live. I think you might want to read it as well, especially after you read the following.

Newsweek/Daily Beast listed the following countries as “the best place to be a woman”… Iceland, the Scandinavian countries, Netherland, Switzerland and Canada. The rankings are based on a survey of five categories: justice, health, education, economics and politics.

“Women are out-earning men in college degrees (United States), domestic abusers are being banned from their homes and tracked with electronic monitors (Turkey), and female prime ministers are being elected (Denmark and Australia).”

The Newsweek/Daily Beast article also takes a look at “the worst places in the world to be a woman” as well. It isn’t a pretty account.

“In Chad, the worst of the worst, women have ‘almost no legal rights,’ and girls as young as ten are legally married off, which is also true in Niger, the seventh worst place for a woman. Most women in Mali – the fifth worst – have been traumatized by female genital mutilation. In Democratic Republic of Congo, 1,100 women are raped every day. In Yemen, you are free to beat your wife whenever you like.”

The Newsweek/Daily Beast story makes the case that such treatment of women is both a moral and an economic issue and developing nations may only come to understand the stupidity of their behavior toward women and their treatment of women when they also understand there are serious economic implications.

As Wolff says in her story about the story…

“When poor countries choose to oppress their own women, they are to some extent choosing their own continued poverty. Female oppression is a moral issue; but it also must be seen as a choice that countries make for short-term ‘cultural’ comfort, at the expense of long-term economic and social progress.”

Wolff calls our attention to the economic benefits societies and nations receive when they strongly educate women. The decision to extend justice to women in some countries has been made for these economic reasons and not because those nations particularly believe that women deserve equal treatment. That is both bad and sad! She points to some of those nations where economies are booming: “China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, South Korea, and Turkey.”

Yet, there are nations who have a long way to go. In Pakistan marital rape is not illegal. Newsweek/Daily Beast pointed out that there are still as many as 800 honor killings a year in that nation.

My own examination of the Newsweek/Daily Beast story revealed that the top three countries for women are Iceland, Sweden and Canada. (Do you think there’s any correlation between their attitudes toward women and their cold climates? Not likely, but note that Norway and Denmark were also in the top-ten list.)

If you want to read further good stuff about this list of the best places for women to live, you can go also to the Daily Beast account of this information.

The United States finished in eighth place according to Newsweek/Daily Beast. Not bad, but I wish we were on top.


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