Infinite. At least as far as our lives are concerned. According to the latest United Nations report, «Progress in Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals: Gender Snapshot 2022,» we have 286 years to parity at the current rate of progress to eliminate discriminatory laws and close the legal gap for women and girls. According to the World Economic Forum, in its «Global Gender Gap Report 2022», we have 132 years to reach parity in all fields on a global scale; and in certain other areas, even more, such as in Political Empowerment (155 years), Economic Participation and Opportunity (151 years) and in Health and Survival, it is not even possible to define it, since its progress towards parity is stagnant. These indices measure specific indicators for 145 countries.
According to the World Bank’s report «Women, Business and the Law 2022», the very high number of 178 countries maintain legal barriers for women, which prevent their full participation in the economic environment; for example, by restricting some form of work, or without guaranteeing equal pay for equal work. Measured in aggregate, women only have three quarters of legal rights compared to men: the index that measures this parity is 76.5 out of 100.
Worldwide, more than one in ten women and girls aged 15-49 were subjected to sexual or physical violence inflicted by their partners in the past year. In 2021, nearly one in five women aged 20-24 had been married before the age of 18. One in four girls and women aged 15-49 has undergone female genital mutilation in sub-Saharan Africa, a staggering 25%. And even more terribly, a girl or woman dies at the hands of a member of their own family every 11 minutes, a statistic that cannot leave anyone indifferent. If we stop to think a little about each of these data, you can hardly sleep.
The list is endless. In addition, recent and terrible conflicts such as those in Iran, with the well-known death of Mahsa Amini at the age of 22 for simply wearing the veil badly, or the abuses and elimination of the rights of Afghan women with the return of the Taliban to power, bring these horrible scenarios to us more vividly through continuous updated news.
Two days ago I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with Afghan refugee women in Spain, organized by the International Women Forum and the support organizations Save the Children and the NGO Rescate. These women, judges, journalists, computer scientists, jurists, told us in their native language, because they have not had access to learn another, the fight they have been carrying out in their country for many years for, not just the equality of women, but for rights as basic as going to school, university, or accessing a job. They told us, with a need to talk and share their stories that was both moving and telling, how they were threatened with death for trying to go to university; how they were rejected again and again in the public or private organizations where they went to ask for a job; and if, at some time, they got it, how they suffered continuous discrimination and emptiness of management. Until they have had to leave their country. And even if they are safe now here in Spain, their situation is still very hard; they do not know languages, they do not have legal papers, it is not very clear how they can economically sustain themselves and of course they are so far away from their families, friends and anything that is familiar for them.
How can we help from here? Of course we can collaborate with these organizations that have open channels and projects established to help women and girls in these nations; through economic support, knowledge sharing, involvement and for the most daring, direct presence to a greater or lesser extent. But we can also pay attention, listen, understand; or sign humanitarian pleas promoted by professional international organizations. From our smallness, we can share these situations with society in general and push, contributing to social pressure, that these countries improve, even a little, the situation of women in terms of equality. This is possible; and there have been very important advances, such as 4,475 communities publicly committing to abandon female genital mutilation last year; 23 countries having progressed in their legislation towards a more equal status of both sexes in 2021; or, through the actions of NGOs committed to the defense of women’s equality, the commutation of several death sentences, and even obtaining pardon, for women who have had to defend themselves against shocking situations of violence and injustice.
Despite all this, this International Women’s Day must be celebrated; although we can only say it is a ‘happy’ day in the twelve countries, all of the OECD, which, according to the World Bank, have total gender parity in terms of legality. Let us push for the next year seeing more progress and really celebrate in more places.
Managing Partner, Promising Women