Progress Made, But a Long Road Ahead

July 7, 2011 | Paula Neudorf

Yesterday U.N. Women, a newly formed division of the United Nations, released its first report, Progress of the World’s Women. The 168-page publication gives a thorough overview of where women stand in all aspects of society around the world, and comes packed with case studies, charts, timelines and direct recommendations.

The group’s flagship report arrives during a month of troubling news from around the world relating to women’s rights, from the breaking story that U.N.-backed rape trials in the Democratic Republic of Congo were called off because of reprisals against victims, to the investigation into rape as a weapon of war in Libya, to the persistently fragile state of women in Afghanistan, designated the world’s “most dangerous country for women” just days before President Obama announced an aggressive military exit strategy from the region.

Some salient points:

Women are still paid 10 to 30 percent less than men for equal work — when they are paid at all. 53 percent of working women are in what the report refers to as “vulnerable or informal employment” — often as unpaid workers on family farms.

Currently, there are only 19 women serving as heads of state. Rwanda is leading the pack in terms of women’s representation in government with 51 percent female parliamentarians (an impressive accomplishment born from a terrible legacy — the population as a whole was 70 percent female after the genocide). Around the world, 19 percent of parliamentarians are women.

Up to 60 percent of women have been victims of physical or sexual assault, according to surveys from 70 countries. In the developing world, a third of girls are married off by their 18th birthday.

For good summaries of the report, check out stories on New York Times and Forbes.

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