some things don’t add upPosted: January 19, 2015
With the world awash with opinions, the facts speak for themselves. Don’t they?
Anyone who follows Nicaragua will know that, despite steady progress for women under the Sandinista government, it can still be a very macho society (but then again, which societies aren’t, despite the gloss of breaking glass ceilings?). In Nicaragua there are still huge problems to overcome. Therapeutic abortion still remains illegal. Violence against women is rife, and the recent excellent law dealing with it was weakened with an amendment making mediation compulsory (see here for a past post on the subject). Teenage pregnancies are amongst the highest in the region.
Against this has to be set improvements made under the current government. Political representation for women has increased, health has improved, social programmes have targeted women, and despite the violence highlighted above, Nicaragua is still far safer for women (and for men) than their near neighbours.
With these two tendencies in mind, a recent piece in the Guardian (see here) had another go at Nicaragua. According to the UNDP’s 2014 Gender Inequality Index, Nicaragua ranks 132 out of 187 countries. Fair enough you might think. But there’s no mention that this might be contested territory. In the autumn Nicaragua ranked 6th in the world for gender equality according to the World Economic Forum (see here). So what is going on? Are they using vastly different criteria? Or did one of these international organisations fail their statistics course?
The WEF uses the following to rank the countries:
- economic participation and opportunity including salaries, participation and leadership
- education including access to basic and higher levels of education
- political empowerment including representation in decision-making structures
- health and survival including life expectancy and ratio of women to men
The United Nations Development Programme uses these criteria:
- maternal mortality
- adolescent birthrate
- shares of seats in parliament
- secondary education rate
- participation in employment rate
These do not seem wildly different, so something does not add up. At least that bastion of women’s empowerment, Saudi Arabia, will be glad to hear that they rank 34th in the world according to the UNDP.
On a more positive note, the article describes the work of SOPPEXCCA, the co-op from which the Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign sources its coffee, tecafé. We will travel to Nicaragua next month, to interview the producers, to help to promote the coffee to a wider audience.
Nicaragua is not some sort of feminist paradise. 6th in the world for gender equality is probably too high. But it reached this figure because of the changes made to governmental policies since 2007. Women’s struggles in Nicaragua need to be supported. As do the strides made towards equality in recent years.