Sixty-two million girls worldwide are not in school (Let Girls Learn). This disadvantage prevents the advancements and uprisings of women in socioeconomic settings. Statistics do not falter as the rights of women globally are often overlooked. When women are provided with the same opportunities for success that men enjoy, they, their families, and their communities make strides towards brighter and healthier futures.
According to recent data, 49% of Yemeni women and just 40% of Pakistani women are literate, compared to 82% and 69% of their respective male counterparts (USA Today). However, it is not just third-world countries that experience extreme gender inequality. According to the 2013 World Economic Forum (WEF) report, the USA ranked only 23rd in the world for gender equality, behind countries notorious for inequality including South Africa and Cuba. To understand why extreme gender inequality continues to exist even in present times, we must first get to the root of it.
When women challenge a patriarchy, they often experience a form of systematic oppression and hostile sexism (Glick, Fiske). Women are frequently characterized as affectionate, delicate, and sensitive. When they do not fit into these gender roles, they are sharply criticized, causing many women to remain mute about the sexism they face. Benevolent sexism, a form of misogyny women succumb to, oppresses them. "Those who hold benevolent sexist beliefs conceptualize women as weak individuals who need to be protected and cared for," explains Jacqueline Yi, an informant from NYU's Department of Applied Psychology. Yi continues, "Because those who accept benevolent sexist ideas typically perceive women as incompetent outside of domestic roles, men will see themselves as superior to women and will treat them in a patronizing manner. Women do not interpret these condescending behaviors as acts of prejudice, but as protective and caring actions." The responses of both genders are major culprits in modern sexism as the motivation to rework an unjust system is diminished (Jacqueline Yi).
Benevolent sexism leads to the objectification of women globally. In Middle Eastern and Asian countries, pre-pubescent girls are often sold as brides to men three times their ages, and are forced to bear children as soon as they are able. As one in seven girls in these regions are married by the age of 15, they often never attend school (Let Girls Learn). They often die during labor due to the intense trauma experienced by their small size, lack of maternal care, and lack of knowledge on how to care for themselves and their children (UNICEF). Death as a result of child birth could significantly decline if girls were given the right to an education (UNICEF).
Girls who have attended secondary school experience lower maternal and infant mortality rates, lower birth rates, three times lower rates of HIV/Aids, and better child nutrition (Let Girls Learn). While many societies restrict females from attending a place of formal education, even those that allow it still manage to discourage the attendance of women as many families prefer to use their limited funds to pay for the school tuition of their sons rather than their daughters. Girls who do attend school, risk being beaten and raped as they make their journeys to the classroom every day. Female genital mutilation and sexual exploitation are common experiences for girls attempting to study (Let Girls Learn). Governments and other groups in many Middle Eastern countries have threatened or participated in gender-related attacks on schools through means including bombing and destroying schools, as well as tossing acid onto the faces of girls (UNICEF). Even after obtaining an education, women face brutal discrimination in the workforce.
According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the global gender pay gap ranges from 3% to 51%, with a global average of 17%. In the U.S., women are paid only 78 cents to every man's dollar for the same amount of work. Supporters of the inequality claim that this is because women work less than men, or not as hard as men. However, this opinion has been rebutted by a UNICEF study which declared that women work around 60 to 90 hours a week, largely out-performing men (these hours do include housework). The study also claimed that women spend 35 hours on average on household tasks and caring for children, the sick, and the elderly, against only four hours for men (UNICEF). Despite being assigned the domestic duties, 60% of women in the U.S. in 2000 participated in the workforce (UNICEF). As women make strides in career opportunities, they still do not balance with those of men. Just 24% of US CEOs in 2009 were women, and they made only 74.5% as much money as males (ITUC). Even though their presence in the workforce remains clearly substantial, women are still expected to take on the majority of the housework and childcare, creating greater stress and more distractions for women hoping to advance careers. This increased stress has led to mental health risks for women around the world (UNICEF).
The World Health Organization (WHO) states, "Gender specific risk factors for common mental disorders that disproportionately affect women include gender-based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage, low income and income inequality, low or subordinate social status and rank, and unremitting responsibility for the care of others." Women are more likely to fall victim to depression, anxiety, psychological distress, sexual violence, domestic violence and escalating rates of substance abuse simply due to the discrimination they face. Statistics for many mental disorders, such as PTSD, would be higher for women if they weren't as reluctant to disclose a history of violent victimization (WHO). At least one in five women experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes (WHO), but many do not disclose this to their physicians due to the belief of society that women should be able to prevent their rapes.
In order to defer the mistreatment of women around the world, foundations have begun in order to provide them with the knowledge and opportunities to rise out of their disparity. The National Organization for Women, the Let Girls Learn campaign, and the Malala Fund continue to raise awareness and donations to provide women with pens, paper, books, and security so that they may learn how to provide independently for themselves and their families. As a woman becomes educated she gains the ability to think for herself and arise against the mistreatment endowed upon her in patriarchic systems. As Nelson Mandela famously stated, "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use in which to change the world." When women are educated, the future generations of nations will have a healthier, safer, and equal society in which to live.
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