Women make up half the world, yet we are still a minority in so many ways. We perform almost 66 percent of working hours but only receive 10 percent of global income — and less than one percent of property around the world belongs to us. An even sadder statistic, though, is that less than 20 percent of global decision-makers are women — so it's not highly likely that the inequalities women abroad experience every day will be immediately rectified.
Aside from these economic and political imbalances, most of the world simply doesn't value women as the worthy human beings that we are. We are left unprotected in countless ways: in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, women who have been raped can be charged with a crime; women are still not allowed to vote in Vatican City and Saudi Arabia; and in Yemen, a female is only considered half a witness in court. Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of Equality Now, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women, doesn't sugarcoat it: "There is not one single country where women can feel absolutely safe."
While this stands true, there are definitely some pockets of the world that are much more discriminatory against our gender than others. Sure, it's infuriating that the United States doesn't offer maternity leave at the federal level and our reproductive rights are sub-par compared to other developed countries; but we can still dress however we want, run for political office, and we have access to at least some kind of healthcare. We should never take the freedom we have for granted, especially knowing that there are far too many women across the globe who aren't granted the most fundamental human rights.
Here are six inequalities women in other countries face every day.
1. They're Not Allowed To Drive
Although Saudi Arabian women are highly educated and qualified to hold a career in the workplace, according to Rothna Begum, a researcher of women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa, they are still not allowed to sit behind the wheel of a car. There isn't a specific law that actually bans females from driving, but the nation's extremely conservative culture and strict religious beliefs make it the law of the land in practice. Clerics claim that it would be harmful for society as a whole if women were permitted to drive to and from wherever they please.
In September 2011, Shaima Jastaniya, a 34-year-old woman, refused to comply by this lawless rule; as a result of consistently driving her car without permission, she was sentenced to ten lashes. Fortunately, she was pardoned by the Saudi king from this cruel punishment, and she continued to advocate for the cause, participating in the Women2Drive campaign.
Amazingly enough, Saudi women in the workplace are still managing to get themselves to work. The fact that there are more employed women than ever before, combined with recent activism, has resulted in newly founded support. As of last year, an advisory council called the Shura Council is urging the country to allow some females to drive. Granted, they still want to place ridiculous restrictions on them — only those over 30 who have permission from a man and aren't wearing makeup would be permitted to drive — but it's still progress.
2. They Aren't Allowed To Go To School
In all the developing nations around the world, 60 percent of the 110 million people who remain uneducated are females. Illiteracy is the norm in countries like India, where girls are utilized for family work rather than being sent to school. Pakistan is one of the worst countries when it comes to education for females — 62 percent of girls between ages seven and 16 have never been in a classroom.
The list goes on: just over 15 percent of Guatemalan women have received education up to secondary school (while 21 percent of Guatemalan men have); only three percent of girls have received primary education in Afghanistan; and there are 500,000 girls in Turkey who aren't in school because their parents don't see any point in sending them.
What we don't often realize is that simply building schools and bringing teachers to these regions of the world won't necessarily help raise these numbers. A campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, Cheryl Hotchkiss, told Feministezine that there are "a huge range of barriers" that prevent women from receiving education.
For example, in Bhutan, school is so far away that children have to live out of the home during the week. Since parents can't afford this expense for both their sons and daughters, they only send the former. Hotchkiss also cites that the unregulated commute from home to school could result in the kidnapping and raping of girls.
3. They Are Forced To Marry As Children
According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2011, the average marrying age in the U.S. is 27.
In Afghanistan, more than half of every newly married female is under the age of 16. Half of girls between 15 and 19 in Sudan are married, and some wives are as young as 12. Seventy-five percent of females are married off before they turn 18 in Niger; 68 percent in Chad, and 66 percent in Bangladesh face the same fate.
In these countries, marrying off your young daughter is done as a business exchange. By giving her away as a bride, the family can stand to gain hundreds of cows as a dowry, and they save immense amounts of money in their home on clothing, food, and shelter. Thankfully, more than 500 civil services around the globe have gathered to create Girls Not Brides, an organization that fights to end child marriage and instead provides these girls with the tools to live life on their own terms.
4. They Don't Have Access To Feminine Hygiene Products
We sometimes forget how easy it is to get our hands on a tampon when our period starts earlier than expected. In fact, we don't realize how fortunate we are that we can even talk about our menstrual cycles so freely. Due to the overwhelming stigma in countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Africa, many girls and adult women alike aren't taught how to properly care for themselves when their period arrives, and they have very limited access to the products they desperately need each month.
Every year, 850,000 Kenyan girls miss school for six weeks because they can't afford to buy sanitary pads. Because Indian women can't purchase any kind of feminine hygiene products, whether it's a pad or rags to clean themselves, their rate of cervical cancer is much higher. The cheapest pads in East Africa cost 60 cents a packet, and even that is far too expensive for most of the women there, so they are forced to utilize twigs and old newspapers as substitution for protection.
Femme International is one of the only non-profit organizations committed to teaching women everywhere, especially those in developing countries, about menstrual health and hygiene. They offer menstrual cups as "sustainable solutions" and work hard to eliminate the shame that many females endure around their reproductive systems.
5. They Must Travel With A Male Chaperone
In 2011, a leading Islamic university in India, Darul Uloom Deoband, ruled that women are not allowed to travel more than 48 miles away from their home unless they are accompanied by a "mehram," a male relative whose responsibility is to watch over them. The university is supported by many Muslim countries and communities, including Bangladesh and Pakistan, which means the command is taken very seriously by the leaders of these regions even though there is no established law on the matter.
Saudi women face this issue, as Esra Assery, founder of an online advertising agency called eTree, told NPR. She said that women need to obtain permission from a man and be accompanied by them in order to leave the area in which they reside. Apparently, the Saudi government is considering lifting this ban, but it's ultimately up to the religiously conservative clerics, who are unlikely to change their minds anytime soon.
6. They Can’t Leave The House Without Permission
I doubt any of us even thought twice this morning before we walked out of our apartment door, yet many women dream of possessing this basic right. Wives in Afghanistan are not allowed to go anywhere unless their husband has confirmed that he is in agreement with their outing. In 1992, an act was passed in Yemen stating that a wife must obey her husband and "refrain from disobedience." Under this law, women aren't permitted to leave the home unless they have been granted authorization from their husband.
When she is given permission, her purpose for exiting the home must be for a job that is compliant with Islamic law. There are very few exceptions; for example, if the woman's parents are very ill and they need immediate care, she is allowed to depart without waiting around for her husband to give her the OK.