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Status of Women

Status of Women

UN Department of Public Information

Document: DPI/1862/Rev.2 -- May 1997
Status of Women
 Women have not achieved equality with men in any country.
 Of the world's 1.3 billion poor people, it is estimated that nearly 70 per cent are women.
 Between 75 and 80 per cent of the world's 27 million refugees are women and children.
 Women's life expectancy, educational attainment and income are highest in Sweden, Canada, Norway, USA and Finland.
 The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China from 4-15 September 1995, resulted in agreement by 189 delegations on a five-year plan to enhance the social, economic and political empowerment of women, improve their health, advance their education and promote their reproductive rights.
 Over 100 countries have announced new initiatives to further the advancement of women as a result of the Beijing Women's Conference.
 The 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, often described as a Bill of Rights for Women, has now been ratified by 160 countries.

Political Participation
 The first country to grant women the right to vote was New Zealand in 1893.
 Only 28 women have been elected heads of state or government in this century.
 Women hold 11.7 per cent of the seats in the world's parliaments.
 In early 1995, Sweden formed the world's first cabinet to have equal numbers of men and women.
 Of the 185 highest-ranking diplomats to the United Nations, seven are women.
 The percentage of female cabinet ministers worldwide has risen from 3.4 in 1987 to 6.8 per cent in 1996.

Women and Education
 Of the world's nearly one billion illiterate adults, two-thirds are women.
 Two-thirds of the 130 million children worldwide who are not in school are girls.
 During the past two decades the combined primary and secondary enrollment ratio for girls in developing countries increased from 38 per cent to 78 per cent.

Women and Labour
 The majority of women earn on average about three-fourths of the pay of males for the same work, outside of the agricultural sector, in both developed and developing countries.
 In most countries, women work approximately twice the unpaid time men do.
 Women make up 31 per cent of the official labour force in developing countries and 46.7 per cent worldwide.

 Rural women produce more than 55 per cent of all food grown in developing countries.
 The value of women's unpaid housework and community work is estimated at between 10-35 per cent of GDP worldwide, amounting to $11 trillion in 1993.
 Women hold 35.5 per cent of professional posts in the United Nations Secretariat including 18.5 per cent in senior management.
 By the year 2000, there will be as many women employees as men in many industrialized nations.

Women and Population
 Women outlive men in almost every country.
 There are slightly fewer women than men in the world -- 98.6 women for every 100 men.
 Out-of-marriage births have increased more than 50 per cent in the last 20 years in developed countries.
 One in every four households in the world is now headed by a woman.
 The life expectancy of women has gone up. In 1992, the average woman lived to be 62.9 years in developing countries compared to 53.7 years in 1970. In industrialized countries, women's average life expectancy in 1992 was 79.4 years, up from 74.2 in 1970.

 By 2025, the proportion of women aged 60 or older will almost double in East and South-East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North Africa.

Women and Health
 Women are becoming increasingly affected by HIV. Today about 42 per cent of estimated cases are women, and the number of infected women is expected to reach 15 million by the year 2000.
 An estimated 20 million unsafe abortions are performed worldwide every year, resulting in the deaths of 70,000 women.
 Approximately 585,000 women die every year, over 1,600 every day, from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 13 women will die from pregnancy or childbirth related causes, compared to 1 in 3,300 women in the United States.
 Globally, 43 per cent of all women and 51 per cent of pregnant women suffer from iron-deficiency anemia.

Women and Violence
 Each year an estimated two million girls suffer the practice of female genital mutilation.
 Worldwide, 20 to 50 per cent of women experience some degree of domestic violence during marriage.
 The primary victims of today's wars are civilian women and their children, not soldiers.
 The use of rape as a weapon of war has become more evident. In Rwanda from April 1994 to April 1995, estimates of the number of women and girls raped range from 15,700 to over 250,000.
 Rapes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda are being investigated with a view to prosecution by International Tribunals established by the United Nations.
Statistics are culled from a variety of sources and are valid as of May 1997.

For more information, contact:
UN Department of Public Information, Room S-1040, United Nations, New York, NY 10017
tel.:(212) 963-3771, fax: (212) 963-1186, Email:

Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information -- DPI/1862/Rev.2 -- May 1997


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