Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

These are the countries where it's best to be a woman

Women carry firewood in al-Mazraq refugee camp near the northwestern Yemeni province of Saada November 12, 2009. Around 8,000 people live in the camp near the Saudi border, after they fled battles raging between the army and Shi'ite rebels in northern Yemen for the past three months. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah (YEMEN CONFLICT POLITICS) - GM1E5BC1U2O01

While life for women has improved in some 60 countries, it has deteriorated in war-torn nations. Image: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Ellen Wulfhorst
Writer, Thomson Reuters Foundation
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Education, Gender and Work

Norway and Switzerland are the best countries to be a woman and Yemen and Afghanistan the worst, said research on Tuesday which found the state of women's rights is not "all doom and gloom" around the world.

While life for women has improved in some 60 countries, it has deteriorated in Yemen and other war-torn nations, research organizations Georgetown University's Institute for Women, Peace and Security and Peace Research Institute Oslo concluded.

The researchers looked at 167 countries since 2017 when the first Women, Peace and Security Index was compiled, weighing variables such as access to bank accounts, jobs and security.

Image: Georgetown University

Rounding out the top of the list were Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Austria, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Sweden and Netherlands tied for ninth place, followed by Canada.

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At the bottom were Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, South Sudan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Mali and Libya.

"There are important areas of progress. It's not all doom and gloom," said Jeni Klugman, managing director of the Georgetown Institute and lead author of the index.

Gains were strongest in women's access to financial accounts, either mobile or at conventional banks, in fewer discriminatory laws and through increasing legislative representation.

"A national election can bring about big changes, both positive and negative," Klugman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We have a number of countries which boosted the share of women in their national legislatures. We also had several countries which went the other way," she added.

Iceland lost its top spot from 2017 after elections brought a drop in the number of women in parliament.

The United States inched up to No. 19 from No. 22 two years ago, in part due to 2018 elections when a record number of women were elected to Congress. But Klugman said the United States continues to lag in the area of domestic violence.

The research is intended to inform and inspire action, Klugman said, noting that the factors it weighed are integral to the global development goals adopted unanimously by the United Nations in 2015.

"It's not like it's something we invented out of thin air. It's something which is grounded in those long, hard-negotiated agreements, so we're holding them to account for that."

The U.N. adopted 17 goals, including gender equality and an end to hunger, poverty and other ills, to be achieved by 2030.

The new research found deterioration in women's lives was often linked to security, which worsened in almost 50 countries.

As to legal reforms, Moldova moved up 22 places owing to changes in its sexual assault laws.

Saudi Arabia persisted in having the most extensive legal discrimination against women, followed by Yemen, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Syria.

The report said legal discrimination means about 2.7 billion women globally are restricted from working in the same jobs as men.

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