WEF REPORT SHOWS LITTLE IMPROVEMENT IN WOMEN’S LOT IN THE MIDDLE EAST, NORTH AFRICA
LONDON, Oct 26 — The gap between men and women has narrowed slightly in the past year in most countries. According to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report, Iceland, Finland and Norway top the list of 136 nations, based on political participation, economic equality and rights like education and health.
The Middle East and North Africa are the only regions not to improve in the past year, with Yemen at the bottom.
The Philippines and Nicaragua both feature in the top 10. The WEF has produced the report annually for the past eight years.
Iceland’s position at the top of the WEF rankings was the fifth year in a row the country has been named the world’s most equal.
Report founder and coauthor Saadia Zahidi told the BBC that since the WEF began compiling the index in 2006, 80 percent of countries had made progress.
“What’s worrying though is that percent of countries have made no progress or are falling behind,” she said.
Nadia Al-Sakkaf, editor of the English-language Yemen Times, in London for the 100 Women conference, told the BBC that she had stopped counting the years her country had languished at the bottom of the equality list.
“It comes down to everyday life. We had three women running for president in 2006. We have lots of women in senior positions,” she said.
“But our levels of maternal mortality are very high, and 35 percent of girls aged 6-14 years old are not in school.”
Saadia Zahidi of the WEF said that by contrast many sub-Saharan countries had not invested in women, but through necessity they played a major role in the economy.
Nordic countries continued to lead the way because they had a long history of investing in people, she said.
“They are small economies with small populations; they recognize that talent matters, and that talent has to be men and women. The highest-ranked Asian nation is the Philippines (fifth), praised for its success in health, education and economic participation.
“Women make up one half of the human capital available to any economy and any company; if that talent isn’t integrated, that is going to be a loss for both women and men,” Zahidi said.–Agencies