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International Issues
W O M E N  : S T A T I S T I C S
Number of women?!? Uhh ohh
Horrors! 121 countries out of 204 surveyed by UN don't have population data segregated by age and sex

   "The world, it seems, belongs to roughly 50% of human population. For the rest, that comprises of the so called weaker sex, the regime of deficiency and deprivation works with utmost efficiency.” This anonymous statement finds coherent support when weighed against every touch-stone available to assess women development. Way back in 1995, the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing had presented to countries across the globe a charter – the Platform of Action – which was to be emulated by governments in over 150 countries. Unfortunately, women’s realities, that is, their concerns, trauma, experiences and their perspectives, have all been relegated to the dustbins of abstract and amnesic governmental reports. Far from considering women as agents of change, governments across the globe have seldom trudged beyond playing to the gallery. The Beijing Platform, Cairo Programme of Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) have all been either ignored or been sidelined.

In this light, the United Nations’ newest issue of The World’s Women 2005: Progress in Statistics has then been an eye opener for the concerned citizens of the world. It must be recalled that as early as 1975, during the World Conference of the International Women’s Year in Mexico, national governments had recognized the importance of statistics on women for their development. The insensitiveness of the countries can simply be gauged from the fact that a significant number of those countries fell far short of creating sex-disaggregated official statistics. The UN report points out that statistics on births, deaths and economic activity are not as widely reported, with – in some cases – only 100 out of the 204 odd countries spending resources to assess ground realities. The situation gets replicated in Africa where almost 50% of the countries are stated to have not reported the in-built gender anomaly.

Almost no reporting gets done on violence against women, percentage of economically active population and participation of women in informal sector. Similarly, crucial information related to women’s sexual and reproductive health has been sidelined in several sub-Saharan countries where the effect of HIV has been cataclysmic. While in Africa, 22 of 55 odd countries failed to report women specific data, in the Oceania region, 8 out of 17 failed to report the data. Among the least developed countries, only 17 of the 50 heavily indebted countries segregated their population on the basis of age and sex during the last three decades. Pathetically so, forget getting statistics on the ills befalling women, in all, only a dismal 83 of the 204 countries even reported their population by age and sex. Women’s empowerment? Oh please...

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