Evaluating gender gaps in countries around the world must include a combination of issues. When we look at a society and how living within it must be for women, we should look at the following categories and ask the following questions. Some of these standards are to be seen in comparison to men, others are solely examining what is in place for women to meet women’s needs. As you consider them, consider the country in which you live and how it may or may not value women.
1. Choices and Opions. Do the laws and cultural practices in the society permit women to make choices about their lives, relationships, bodies, dress, (examples may include: whether they can say no to sex and have that response be respected, whether they are allowed to drive, whether women who are lesbians must hide their sexual orientation, whether women can make choices about how they dress, whether they want to work outside the home or get an education…)
2. Law. Do laws exist that protect women in all arenas (employment, cases of violence, reproductive rights, healthcare,…)? If they exist, are they upheld? Are there governing bodies in place to assure these laws are upheld; is there quality control?
3.Violence. How prevalent is violence against women? Do the culture and laws try to prevent, stop, and punish violence? Is violence against women being used as an act of war? As an act of marriage? Is it believed violence against women is okay 1. never, 2. always, or 3. in some situations?
4. Money. Can women participate financially in the economy of the society? Can women work and make their own money outside the home? Can women own property? Are women bought or paid for in contracts like dowries? If women can work outside the home, how much money do women make in comparrison to men? Can women hold leadership positions? Are there barriers to women’s entrepreneurship?
(Example: In Russia, often jobs are posted with job descriptions that specifically say as a qualification for the job, that they are looking for a man.)
5. Role. What does the culture believe women’s role is? How does the culture uphold that role versus respect what a woman wants to do with her life? Does the woman in the culture have choices about her life and what she wants to do with it and can she act on those choices?
6. Healthcare and Survival. Do women have access to affordable heath care? Do women survive- infant mortality, female feticide (where female fetuses are killed because they are female)? Do women survive pregnancy and childbirth?
Worldwide, though abortions and abortion related complications kill thousands of women, prenancy and childbirth are actually more dangerous for women than abortions, more women die in childbirth each year than from abortions, which leaves many children motherless. Findings also show that in countries where contraception is limited, there are more abortions (usually illegal) and they are often more dangerous for the woman. So then the questions become: Do women have access to contraception? Do they have access to legal abortion?
7. Childcare. Are there childcare options? Can women access childcare and pay for it while they work outside the home? Is it women’s sole responsibility to care for children? Do men also play an important role in raising children?
8. Education. Do women have access to education? Can girls and women go to school? Do girls drop out of school or are kept from continuing at a certain age? Is it seen as necessary that girls have education in the same way it is considered necessary for boys to receive education?
9. Participation. How much do women participate in the runnings of the society? Does the society make accommodations for women to participate, by providing childcare, by holding spots for women to fill in business, government, and religious governing bodies?
10. Home. Is the home considered to be equally cared for with care-taking and homemaking responsibilities shared by men and women?
Consider the U.S. or other country where you live. Consider other countries you have traveled to. Consider that change needs to be made and know that together we can make it. Together we can close the gap.
Grrl Code: How do you think women’s standard of life measures up with these questions? Know that we deserve to have safer, healthier, more equitable lives. Believe that and help other women believe it.