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How Commonwealthcountries fare on women’s rights

By Vision Reporter

Added 11th June 2007 03:00 AM

Among the 53 Commonwealth countries assembled at Speke Resort Munyonyo today, there are huge differences in gender balance.

By Vision Reporter

Among the 53 Commonwealth countries assembled at Speke Resort Munyonyo today, there are huge differences in gender balance.

The industrialised countries — Australia, Canada and the UK – rank among the best places for women to live, while African countries, notably Sierra Leone and Mozambique and Malawi, come at the bottom of the 2006 Human Development Index. But there are some surprises when looking at specific women issues.

In terms of female life expectancy, the gap between the rich and the poor countries is enormous. Women in industrialised countries live almost three times longer than women in developing countries.

A woman born in Australia can expect to live on average 83 years, as opposed to 31 for a woman born in Swaziland and 35 for a woman born in Botswana. With an average of almost 49 years, Uganda is in position 31 on the list of 44 Commonwealth countries for which data are available. The ten countries with the lowest life expectancy for women are all in Africa.

On female adult literacy, both African and Asian countries lag behind. Almost 100% of women above the age of 15 in Australia, Canada and UK can read and write. This percentage drops to 24.4% in Sierra Leone, 33% in Bangladesh, 35.6% in Mozambique and 36% in Pakistan.

With 57.7%, Uganda scores higher than India and Papua New Guinea but lower than other East African countries such as Tanzania and Kenya.

The rankings look very different, however, for women representation in Parliament. Of the ten Commonwealth countries with the highest number of seats in Parliament held by women, five are in Africa. Mozambique tops the list with 35% of its MPs female, followed by South Africa (33%). Tanzania is in position five with 30% women MPs. Uganda takes the seventh place with 29% and Namibia the tenth place with 27%.

Two Commonwealth countries have no women in Parliament at all. They are the Solomon Islands and Saint Kitts and Nevis. Kenya also scores poorly, with only 7.3% of their women represented in the House. But even advanced countries like the UK and India are relatively low on the list. Only 18.5% of British legislators are female, while only 9.2% of Indian MPs.

In terms of income equality, women earn less than men in all Commonwealth countries. But the gap differs considerably from country to country. Five African countries do better than their developed counterparts in the Commonwealth.

Kenya and Mozambique top the list. Their women earn on average four fifths of their men’s income. They are followed by Malawi and Tanzania, where women get about three quarters of what their men earn. With a ratio of female to male income of 0.70, Uganda shares position 7 with New Zealand and Australia.

The UK comes after Uganda on the list. British women earn on average only two thirds of what their men earn. The worst countries in terms of income inequality are Pakistan, Swaziland and India. Their women earn less than one third of their men.

In real terms, women in the richest member state earn 70 times more than women in the poorest member state. An average Australian woman can expect to earn about $25,000 (sh42.5m) a year. In comparison, her counterpart in Sierra Leone has an average income of only $353 (sh600,000) and in Mozambique $482 (sh820,000).

Ugandan women are a bit better off. Their estimated earned income stands at $1,216 (sh2m), which is higher than other countries in East Africa. Kenyan women earn $1,037 (sh1.7m), and Tanzanian women $569 (sh970,000).

South African women have the highest income on the continent. They can expect to pocket $7,000 a year (sh12m). However, this is less than half what their men earn, which is $15,521 (sh26m) a year.

How Commonwealthcountries fare on women’s rights

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