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International Literacy Day; September 8

September 8 was proclaimed as the International Literacy Day by UNESCO on November 17th 1965 and first celebrated in 1966 with the sole aim to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.

Today some 793 million adults lack the minimum literacy skills; 1 in 5 adults are not literate and 2/3 is women, 75 million children are not studying in school and many more drop out.

According to UNESCO’s “Global Monitoring Report on Education for All (2008)”, South and West Asia has the lowest regional adult literacy (58,6%), Sub-Saharan Africa (59,7%) and the Arab states (62,7%).

Countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world are Burkina Faso (12,8%), Niger (14,4%) and Mali (19%). The report shows that there is a connection between illiteracy, poverty and prejudice against women.

Why is literacy important?

Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depends on literacy as it is the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. There are good reasons why literacy is at the core of Education for All (EFA).

 

Source; Wikipedia and Unesco.

To see the complete list of countries, visit; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_literacy_rate

Overview of the violence against women around the world

The situation of women and girls, facts and figures all over the world*


Gender and HIV/AIDS:

  • Nearly a third of all adults living with HIV/AIDS are under the age of 25 and 2/3 of them are women.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, girls are getting infected faster and earlier than boys. In the group from 15 to age 24, two girls are infected for every boy. According to surveys that indicate women who have some post primary schooling compared to women with no education are 5 times more likely to lack basic information about HIV/AIDS.
  • In 2002, an estimated 800,000 children under the age of 15 were infected with HIV as a result of parent-to-infant transmission.

Gender and girls education:

  • Over 110 million of the world’s children, 2/3 of them being girls are not attending school.
  • Of the world’s 875 million illiterate adults, 2/3 is women.
  • Half of the girls who live in developing countries (excluding China) will be married before their 20th birthday. Increasing girl’s time in school is one of the best ways for the girls to get married in an older age.

Gender and violence against women and girls and child protection issues:

  • One in every 3 women is a survivor of some form of gender based violence, most often by someone in her family. Between 15 and 76% of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • Girls between 13 and 18 years constitutes the largest group in the sex industry and it is estimated that around 500,000 girls below the age of 18 are victims of trafficking each year.
  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) affects around 130 million girls and women globally and places 2 million at risk but the last decades this problem has improved.
  • In some cultures, the preference for boys results in pre-natal sex selection and death of many girls. In India for example; there are 933 Indian women for every 1000 men resulting in 40 million missing women.

Gender and the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and other health issues:

  • 1,400 women die every day from pregnancy-related causes, 99% of them in developing countries.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, a woman has 1 in 3 chance of dying in child birth. In industrialized countries the risks are 1 in 4,085.
  • Direct obstetric deaths account for about 75% of all maternal deaths in developing countries.

Emergencies

  • More than 80% of the world’s 35 million refugees and displaced people are women and children.
  • Emergencies put women at risk of extreme sexual violence and abuse. In Rwanda, 2,000 women and many of them are being survivors of rape tested positive for HIV during the 5 years following the 1994 genocide.

Femicide

  • In Guatemala, two women are killed every day.
  • In India, 8,093 cases of dowry-related death were reported in 2007 and unknown number of murders of women and young girls were labeled as “suicides” or “accidents”.
  • Between 40 and 70% of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partners in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States.
  • In Chihuahua, Mexico, 66% of murders of women were committed by husbands, boyfriends or other family members.

Violence and young women

  • Up to 50% of sexual assaults worldwide are committed against girls under the age of 16.
  • An estimated 150 million girls under the age of 18 suffered some form of sexual violence in 2002.
  • The first sexual experience of some 30% women was forced and the percentage is even higher among those who were under 15 at the time of their sexual initiation.

Harmful practices

  • Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide have experienced female genital mutilation leaving more than 3 million girls in Africa annually at risk of the practice.
  • Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides and married before the age of 18. The numbers are divided as; South Asia-31, 3 million and Sub-Saharan Africa-14, 1 million. Violence and abuse characterize married life for many of these girls. Women who marry early are more likely to be beaten or threatened, and more likely to believe that a husband might sometimes be justified in beating his wife.
  • Trafficking
  • 80% from the estimated number of 800,000 people being trafficked across the national borders is women and girls.
  • One study in Europe found that 60% of trafficked women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence before being trafficked, pointing to gender-based violence as a push factor in the trafficking of women.

Sexual harassment

  • Between 40 and 50% of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work.
  • Across Asia, studies in Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea show that 30 to 40% of women suffer workplace sexual harassment.
  • In Nairobi, 20% of women have been sexually harassed at work or school.
  • In the United States, 83% of girls aged 12 to 16 experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools.

Rape in the context of conflict

  • Estimates suggest that 20,000 to 50,000 women were raped during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were targeted in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
  • Between 50,000 and 64,000 women in camps for internally displaced people in Sierra Leone were sexually assaulted by combatants between 1991 and 2001.
  • In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence, mostly involving women and girls, have been documented since 1996: the actual numbers are believed to be far higher.

Conservative

  • The following figures are some of the facts of violence done on women compiled by Amnesty International and Feminist.com from various researches done by individuals and/or organizations all over the world;
  • An estimated 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States annually for sexual exploitation or labor (US Central Intelligence Agency, 2000).
  • One in five women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime (WHO 1997).
  • In USA a woman is raped every 90 seconds (US Department of Justice, 2000).
  • Somewhere in America a woman is battered, usually by her intimate partner, every 15 seconds (UN Study on the Status of Women, Year 2000).
  • Up to 70% of female murder victims are killed by their male partners (WHO 2008).
  • In Kenya more than one woman a week was reportedly killed by her male partner while in Zambia, five women a week were murdered by a male partner or family member (Joni Seager, 2003).
  • In the Russian Federation 36,000 women are beaten on a daily basis by their husband or partner, according to Russian non-governmental organizations (OMTC, 2003).
  • More than 135 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation and an additional 2 million girls and women are at risk each year (6,000 everyday) (UN, 2002).
  • 82 million girls who are now aged 10 to 17 will be married before their 18th birthday (UNFP).
  • In India there are close to 15,000 dowry deaths estimated per year. Mostly they are kitchen knives designed to look like accidents (Injustice Studies, Vol. 1, November 1997).
  • 4 million women and girls are trafficked annually.
  • An estimated one million children, mostly girls, enter the sex trade each year (UNICEF).
  • A study in Zaria, Nigeria found out that 16 per cent of hospital patients treated for sexually transmitted infections were younger than five (UNFPA).

Population and families

  • The world’s population tripled between 1950 and 2010 to reach almost 7 billion.
  • There are approximately 57 million more men than women in the world, but in most countries there are more women than men.
  • There is a “gender spiral” with more boys and men in younger age groups and more women in the older age groups.
  • Fertility is steadily declining in all regions of the world but still remains high in some regions of Africa.
  • Life expectancy is steadily rising as women lives longer than men.
  • International migration is increasing and there are more and more women migrants and in certain areas they outnumber men.

Health

  • Women live longer than men in all regions.
  • 2 out of every 5 deaths of both women and men in Africa are still caused by infectious and parasitic diseases.
  • Women are more likely than men to die from cardiovascular diseases, especially in Europe.
  • Breast cancer among women and lung cancer among men tops the list of new cancer cases globally.
  • Women stand for the majority of HIV positive adults in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East.
  • The majority of over half a million maternal deaths in 2005 occurred in developing countries.

Education

  • 2/3 of the 774 million adult illiterates worldwide are women.
  • The global youth literacy rate has increased to 89%.
  • 72 million children of primary school age are not attending school out of which over 39 million (54%) are girls.
  • Women in tertiary education are significantly underrepresented in the fields of science and engineering but remain predominant in education, health and welfare, social sciences, humanities and arts.
  • Worldwide, women account for slightly more than a quarter of all scientific researches that is an increase compared to previous decades.
  • Use of and access to the Internet grew in the past decade as it narrowed the gender digital divide, however, women still don’t have the same level of access as men in most countries whether it is more developed or not.

Work

  • Women are predominantly and increasingly employed in the services sector.
  • Vulnerable employment – own-account work and contributing family work – is prevalent in many countries in Africa and Asia, especially among women.
  • The informal sector is an important source of employment for both women and men in the less developed regions but more so for women.
  • Occupational segregation and gender wage gaps continue to persist in all regions.
  • Part-time employment is common for women in most of the more developed regions and some less developed regions, and it is increasing almost everywhere for both women and men.
  • Women spend at least twice as much time as men on domestic work, and when all work – paid and unpaid – is considered, women work longer hours than men do.
  • Half of the countries worldwide meet the new international standard for minimum duration of maternity leave – and two out of five meet the minimum standard for cash benefits – but there is a gap between law and practice, and many groups of women are not covered by legislation.

Violence against women

  • Women are subjected to different forms of violence – physical, sexual, psychological and economic, both within and outside their homes.
  • Rates of women experiencing physical violence at least once in their lifetime vary from several per cent to over 59% depending on where they live.
  • Current statistical measurements of violence against women provide a limited source of information, and statistical definitions and classifications require more work and harmonization at the international level.
  • Female genital mutilation is the most harmful mass perpetuation of violence against women shows a slight decline.
  • In many regions of the world longstanding customs put considerable pressure on women to accept abuse.

Environment

  • More than half of rural households and about a quarter of urban households in sub-Saharan Africa lack easy access to sources of drinking water, and most of the burden of water collection falls on women.
  • The majority of households in sub-Saharan Africa and South-Eastern Asia use solid fuels for cooking on open fires or traditional stoves with no chimney or hood, disproportionately affecting the health of women.
  • Fewer women than men participate in high-level decision-making related to the environment.

Poverty

  • Households of single mothers with young children are more likely to be poor than households of single fathers with young children.
  • Women are more likely to be poor than men when living in one-person households in many countries from both the more developed and less developed regions.
  • Women are overrepresented among the older poor in the more developed regions.
  • Existing statutory and customary laws limit women’s access to land and other types of property in most countries in Africa and about half the countries in Asia.
  • Fewer women than men have cash income in the less developed regions, and a significant proportion of married women have no say in how their cash earnings are spent.
  • Married women from the less developed regions do not fully participate in intrahousehold decision-making on spending, particularly in African countries and in poorer households.

Harmful tradition practices include;

  • Forced marriage
  • Child marriage
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Honour killings
  • Dowry related violence
  • Female infanticide
  • Trafficking of women and girls

Afghanistan at a glance*

  • Only about 15% of births are attended by trained health workers while more than 90% of the births take place at home. According to UNICEF, the maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan is the second highest in the world with an estimated 15,000 women dying each year from pregnancy related causes.
  • The infant mortality rate is 165 per 1,000 and less than 5 mortality rate is 257 per 1,000 with 1 in 4 children in Afghanistan dying before the age of 5 from preventable diseases.
  • Only 23% of the population has access to safe water, and only 12% have access to adequate sanitation which increases the incidents of diseases. 15,000 Afghans die of tuberculosis every year and of this 64% are women.
  • Malnutrition of women which affects pregnancies negatively is caused by the food scarcity linked to the war and drought.
  • The poor health situation has been aggravated by the lack of basic health services and resources, especially in rural areas because of the small number of trained female doctors, nurses and midwifes that remained in the country after the rise of Taliban.
  • 23 years of war have destroyed the infrastructure of the educational system and increased the illiteracy rate in Afghanistan. Only 10% of women are able to read and write.
  • 54% of girls under the age of 18 are married. Families of girls and young women were forced to marriage for several reasons and often for the purpose of dowry for the family’s survival.
  • *Source; Report of the Secretary-General on Discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan (E/CN.6/2002/5)

Child Marriages – Robbing them of their innocence

Throughout the world, the problem of early, forced marriages of children is considered to be a violation of basic human rights. Child marriage is defined by when a child who is below the legal age (usually below the age 15) is married to an adult. Usually it’s almost a Young girl married to an older man. The second form of marriage is an arranged marriage where the parents of the child(ren) and the other person arrange a future marriage. Here, the two individuals who are promised to each other, does not often meet until the wedding ceremony which happens when they both are considered to be of a marriageable age.

Occurrence

It has been estimated that 49 countries around the world has a significant child bride problem, but the numbers are estimated to be higher because of the unregistered and unofficial marriages. UNICEF survey results of 100 countries shows that in developing countries, over than 60 million women aged between 20 and 24 was married before the age of 18. In the countries of Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Niger, more than 60% were found to have been married before 18. Despite sanctions on child marriage, more than 100 million children were expected to marry between 2005-2015.

Article 16.1 of United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women of 1979 (CEDAW http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm)states that;

a) Men and women have the same right to enter into marriage.

b) The same right to freely choose a spouse and enter that marriage with their free and full consent.

Article 16.2 states: The betrothal and marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage. CEDAW has not been ratified by seven UN member-states; the United States, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Nauru, Palau and Tonga.

Although this practice is banned by many countries, there are still many children who are victims of practice. It is combined with culture and has many purposes. Some cultures use child marriage among different tribes, villages and families to secure political and other ties between them to prevent themselves from being assimilated. Other families use child marriage to gain financial ties with wealthier people to ensure their success. Every women and girl has the right to a healthy and just life but when violence of any kind occurs, the international community has the supreme responsibility to respond and transform norms and behavior that condones these human right violations.

How does child marriage affect girl’s futures?

No matter where child marriage occurs, it is regarded as violation towards the children with tiny voices. Parents choose to marry off their daughters early for a number of reasons. Poor families may regard a young girl as an economic burden and her marriage as a necessary survival strategy for her family and some see no value in girls compared to a boy. Others are concerned of their daughters might lose their virginity or get pregnant before marriage. Changing these views requires education and the right to refuse marriage. The parents think that marrying away the daughters protects them from the risk and danger of sexual assault and the husband cares of her as a male guardian.

In the rural villages of these countries many young girls are rarely allowed out of their homes unless it is to work in the fields or to get married. These uneducated girls are often married off at the young age of 11. Some families allow girls who are only 7 years old to marry. It is very unusual for a girl to reach the age of 16 and not be married.

Child marriage by region

Click at the image for a larger picture.

Europe

In France, 11% of girls are married before the age of 18.

Africa

Because of poverty, culture, tradition and conflicts makes child marriages widespread all over Africa. In many tribal systems, the groom has to pay a bride price to the bride’s family in order to marry her. In many parts of Africa, this payment happens in cash, cattle or other valuables but the amount decreases as the girl gets older. That’s why, the family’s wishes to marry the girl as early as possible, most of the times before puberty. Over half of the girls are sent away for marriage as the parents needs the bride price to clothe, feed and educate the rest of the family while a boy can gain education, employment and get married later.

According to many UN related reports made in Sub-Saharan countries, the incident of child marriages under the age of 15 is very high. This has resulted in health problems such as obstetric fistulae, prematurely, stillbirth, sexually transmitted diseases (STD), cervical cancer and malaria. In parts of Ethiopia and Nigeria, 50% of the girls are married as young as the age of 7. In parts of Mali, 39% of the girls are married before the age of 15 and in Niger and Chad; over 70% of girls are married before the age of 18.

Asia and South Asia

India

The status of the woman has been lower than the men for centuries and she has been regarded as the disrespected element of the society in many places. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh tops list of child marriages by accounting 40% of these incidents a year. A total of 104 cases of child marriage were reported across the country in 2008, which is an 8.3% increase over the previous year’s figure.

The child marriage restraint Act, 1929 was passed during the British rule in pre-partition India that forbade a male younger than 21 and a female younger than 18 to get married. As South-Asia has the highest rate of child marriages in the world, India stands for 40% of the world’s child marriages according to UNICEF’s ”State of the World’s Children -2009”. In an effort to handle this problem, the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, laws has been made and passed to register all marriages in order to make them valid. According to”National Plan of Action for Children 2005,” (published by the Department of Women and Child development of India) a goal was set out to eliminate child marriages by 2010. As for the child restrain act, a child is a person who, if a male, has not completed 21 years of age and if a female, has not completed 18 years of age. In case of such incident, the parent or guardian concerned may be punished with a simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and a fine. Those who solemnize and give consent to the wedding ceremony face the same punishment. A male above 18 years and below 21, entering into wedlock with a child, shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to 15 days or with fine which may extend to Rs1,000 or both. A male above 21 years marrying a child shall be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and shall also be liable to fine.

Afghanistan

It is believed that between 60 and 80% of marriages are forced marriages and occurs mostly in the rural areas. This deprives the girls from education and isolates them further.

Pakistan

Even though the minimum age for marriage is 18 for men and 16 for girls, child marriages are still widespread and still practiced.

Bangladesh

According to the”State of the World’s Children-2009” report, 63% of all women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has been and still is making progress to increase women and girl’s education and employment opportunities. To reach out to those in rural areas, an attempt to speak with the religious leaders and cooperate with them has shown results and is hoped to decrease the practice.

Middel East

In April 2007, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) published a new study on child marriage in the world, “New Insights on Preventing Child Marriage: A Global Analysis of Factors and Programs.” The study included the latest ranking of the countries with the world’s highest incidence of child marriage. The chart included 68 countries and the country first on the list was Niger where 76.6% of women were found to have married before age 18, followed by Chad, at 71.5%. The proportion of child brides was above 60% in Bangladesh, Mali and Guinea and above 50% in Nepal, Mozambique, Uganda, Burkina Faso and India. Afghanistan does not appear on the list only because reliable facts are not available from that country. However, the incidence of child marriage in Afghanistan is believed to be quite high.

Yemen

49% of girls are married by the age of 18.

Saudi Arabia

Several human rights groups have documented high number of child marriages in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi clerics have justified marriage of girls as young as the age of 9 and there is no laws defining the minimum age of marriage. The Saudi Ministry of Health on their side issued an official statement expressing its rejection of the marriage of minors, warning of repercussions, including adverse health and psychological effects on young girls. The statement gave details of related reproductive problems, increased incidences of early osteoporosis, in addition to a higher probability of high blood pressure, possibly leading to kidney failure, emergence of distortions of pelvic bones, also accounting for mental illnesses caused by emotional deprivation suffered by young girls after being taken away from parents, such as hysteria, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and may even lead to addiction as a means of escape, as well as negative effects on children of minors, including delayed mental development.

United States

Laws regarding child marriage vary throughout the United States, though generally children 16 and over may marry with parental consent. Fewer than 16 generally require a court order in addition to the parental consent. The awareness of early forced marriage and sexual abuse of young girls in the United States was increased by the April 2008 rescue of numerous children living on a ranch owned by a polygamist sect in Texas. Children can also be married under the age of 18 with permission from their parents. In Texas, Alabama, South Carolina and Utah, girls can marry at the age of 14, in New Hampshire at 13, in Massachusetts and Kansas, as early as 12.

Until 2008, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints practiced child marriage through the concept ‘spiritual (religious only) marriages,’ as soon as girls are ready to bear children, as part of its polygamy practice and laws have raised the age of legal marriage in response to criticism of the practice. In 2008, the Church changed its policy in the United States to no longer marry individuals younger than the local legal age as the Church leader Warren Jeffs was convicted of being an accomplice to statutory rape of a minor due to arranging a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and a 19-year-old man in 2007. The state of Texas removed all 468 children from the ranch and placed them into temporary state custody. FLDS denied the charges. The charges were eventually dropped in court as there was no solid evidence in support of this, and it was determined that the state entered the ranch illegally.

South America

It is estimated that 29% of women aged between 15-24 were married before the age of 18 in Latin America and the Caribbean with Guatemala and El Salvador with the highest rates at 41% and 38%.

According to a report issued by the United Nations, these early marriage unions violate the basic human rights of these girls by putting them into a life of isolation, service, lack of education, health problems, and abuse. The UNICEF paper also states: “UNICEF believes that, because marriage under the age of 18 may threaten a child’s human rights (including the right to education, leisure, good health, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination), the best way to ensure the protection of children’s rights is to set a minimum age limit of 18 for marriage.

Negative effects on child marriages

Poverty

Girls living in the poorest 20% of households are more likely to get married at an early age than those living in the wealthiest 20%.

Education

Women with primary education are significantly less likely to be married or in union as children than those who received no education. In Zimbabwe for example, 48% of women who had attended primary school had been married by the age of 18, compared to 87% of those who had not attended school. Furthermore, once entering a marriage or union, women are much less likely to receive further education or get divorce.

Health

Premature pregnancies are common with young brides, and these cause higher rates of maternal and infant mortality.

Since many married adolescents are pulled out of school at an early age, they may be unfamiliar with basic reproductive health issues. Despite the large number of married girls, policies and programs often fail to address their vulnerability to HIV, sexual transmitted diseases (STD) or other reproductive health needs. Furthermore, while parents may see early marriage as a way to help keep their daughters from becoming infected with HIV, data indicates that 17-22 percent of 15-19 year old girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV/AIDS as opposed to 3-7% for their male counterparts.

Poor health, early death and lack of education lead the list of major problems related to child marriages. Child brides have a double pregnancy death rate rather than women in their 20s because of their young age. Besides from having children in young age, girls are also exposed for damages and rupture in their reproductive organs and their children will end up being sicker and weaker ending in an early death. These young girls are also at an increased risk of chronic anemia and obesity. Other problems are listed as:

  • Limited social support due to social isolation.
  • Limited educational opportunities or no schooling options.
  • Intense pressure to become pregnant.
  • An increased risk of maternal and infant mortality.
  • Restricted freedom of movement and social mobility.
  • Early marriage that creates a lifetime of poverty
  • Statistically, child brides have a higher risk of becoming victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and murder.

Abuse

Abuse is common in child marriages. Women who get married in a young age are more likely to be beaten or threatened, and more likely to believe that a husband might sometimes be justified in beating his wife. Some women end up being murdered as well for different reasons. In addition, children who refuse to marry or who choose a marriage partner against the wishes of their parents are often punished or even killed by their families in so-called ‘honour’ killings.

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