Publication: The News International
Date: October 26, 2013
Pakistan ranks 135th in the Global Gender Gap Report and occupies the last place in the regional rankings.
“Pakistan has moved down from 134th to 135th due to worsening political empowerment [of women] and occupies the last spot in the Asia and Pacific region,” said Liliana Corrieri, the author of the comprehensive report released by the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Friday.
Corrieri is an Italian and a graduate in cultural studies currently working at the AHRC as assistant to the Urgent Appeals Programme. Her interests include gender issues, migration and sustainable development.
“What can be measured can be addressed, that’s the point of the Global Gender Gap Index.” With these words Saadia Zahidi, report founder and co-author of The Global Gender Gap Report launched the 2013 report.
“We are trying to understand how countries are empowering women economically, politically; how much access they have to health; what kind of education they are receiving. Regardless of how rich the country is or how poor the country is, (we are trying to understand) how equitably they are distributing the wealth and opportunities that they do have between women and men.”
First launched in 2006 by the World Economic Forum, the index has, for this year, confirmed Pakistan as one of the worst-performing countries in the world in terms of gender inequality.
Pakistan ranks 135th followed only by Yemen at the very bottom of the index, which this year covers 136 countries. Other Asian countries which fared badly are Nepal (121), South Korea (111), India (101) and Indonesia (95).
The annual report addresses gender inequality given by the uneven distribution of resources and limited access to opportunities such as education, labour market and political engagement. Consequently, the main disparities in focus are related to the national gender gaps from the economic and political perspective.
Iceland lead the index for the fifth consecutive year followed by three Scandinavian countries, confirming therefore that despite their low population density, Nordic countries extensively invest in people and equally value the talents of both men and women.
Looking at the top 20 countries which include Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, it is easy to see the strong correlation between gender equality, access to secondary and tertiary education, entry into the job market, inclusiveness and international competitiveness in the long term.
Within the Asian scenario, it is important to appreciate the performance of the Philippines, which ranks fifth in the global index soon after Sweden and much before other developed countries such as France (45) and Italy (71).
The country also ranks much higher than two of Asia’s major economies, China (69) and Japan (105), where evidently the space given to women in terms of economic leadership and political decision making processes is still limited.
The numbers confirm that despite lower national wealth and an overall lower level of education and healthcare per capita, the Philippines guarantees its female population much more equal access to resources regardless of the comprehensive level of such resources, thereby making its national gender gaps smaller in comparison to many other richer and more developed countries.
The position of each country in the report is essentially given by the country’s performance in terms of equality, and it should not be seen as the measurement of the concrete amount of national resources available or the overall level of industrialisation and development.
The so-called “four pillars” taken into consideration by the report for the investigation of the existing gender gaps are: economic participation and opportunity (including remuneration and advancement); educational attainment; health and survival (including the gender-biased phenomenon of sex selection and son preference); and political empowerment, which estimates the level of political decision-making accomplished by women within public institutions, in ministerial and parliamentary positions.
With regards to Asia and the Pacific region, the report states: “Philippines moves up three places this year due to small improvements in the economic participation and opportunity sub-indexes. The Philippines ranks 10th on the political empowerment sub-index and is the highest-ranking country from Asia in the index. It is the only country in Asia and the Pacific that has fully closed the gender gap in both education and health.”
Speaking to the BBC, Zahidi stated that since the first global gender gap index in 2006, about 80 percent of the countries investigated have managed to reduce their gender gaps. There still are countries, however, that have either made no progress or that are even falling behind.
The most challenging 20 percent is represented by African countries as well as the Middle East and South Asia.
Women are half of the global population, hence half of the world’s talents and potentials. They are a resource of human capital. Denying women education, access to resources, as well as integration in the civil, economic and political life of their communities, automatically implies delaying the advancement of their country.
“Closing gender gaps is thus not only a matter of human rights and equity; it is also one of efficiency.”