September 28, 2012 - TrustLaw, a legal news service run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation conducted a global poll run by 370 gender specialists and voted Canada as the best G20 country to be a woman among the world's biggest economies largely due to policies that promote gender equality, safeguards against violence and exploitation, and access to healthcare. Germany, Britain, Australia, and France rounded out the top five. Countries were ranked in six categories:
- Quality of health
- Freedom from violence
- Participation in politics
- Work place opportunities
- Access to educational resources and property rights
- Freedom from trafficking and slavery
TrustLaw invited aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists with expertise in gender issues. Respondents came from 63 countries on five continents and included experts from United Nations Women, the International Rescue Committee, Plan International, Amnesty USA, and Oxfam International, as well as prominent academic institutions, campaigning organizations and faith-based organizations.
Due to strong concerns about contraception and abortion and women continuing to suffer disproportionately from a lack of access to affordable healthcare, the United States placed sixth.
Women in Saudi Arabia are well educated but banned from driving and only recently won the right to vote in 2011. They came in second last place, and were preceded by Indonesia, South Africa and Mexico. Saudi Arabia ranked the absolute worst in the Gender Inequality Index (GII) for reproductive health, the labour market and empowerment of women through education and politics, followed closely behind by India. Women's rights are under attack in Mexico due to a strong culture of male chauvinism, high rates of physical and sexual violence, and healthcare is no better than the most overlooked villages of Africa.
India came in last place because of infanticide, child marriage and slavery. Women and girls continue to be subjugated as human chattel – married off at the age of 10, burned alive for dowry related disputes, and young girls continue to be exploited and abused as domestic slave labour.
Despite the introduction of laws and treaties such as the progressive 'Domestic Violence Act' enacted in 2005, which outlaws all forms of violence against women and girls, the reality for many women in many countries remains grim. While the poll was based on perceptions and not statistical information, the United Nations data supports the experts' views.
"Having an understanding of Canadian culture and tracking the work they're doing around violence against women and gender equality, I believe that Canada really has been emerging as a model for what most countries should aspire to for a long time," said Jimmie Briggs, a journalist, author and founder of the 'Man Up Campaign', an organization that works to engage youth to stop violence against women and girls.
Canada Ranks 19th Place to be a 'Mom'
'Save the Children', an aid organization, has released it's annual 'State of the World's Mothers' report which encompasses 165 countries and ranks the best and worst locations to be a mom. The report is based on criteria including mother's health, women's education, women's economic status, access to medical care, infant mortality, breastfeeding rates, and children's health and nutrition. 'Save the Children' turned its focus on mothers because “the quality of children’s lives depends on the health, security, and well-being of their mothers,” the organization cited in a statement.
At the forefront of the annual ranking, the 2012 report focused on children's nutrition. One in four of the world's children are chronically malnourished or stunted and because they have limited access to proper nutrients, their brains and/or bodies are underdeveloped.
According to the report, malnutrition kills as many as 2.6 million children and 100,000 mothers annually, and millions of other children and mothers are left struggling with the physical and mental injuries of stunting. The stunting rate in Afghanistan, Burundi, and Yemen is at a staggering 60%.
Norway tops the list again largely due to its contraceptive use, female education, political representation and generous maternity leave policies. Norway's under-5 mortality rate is half that of Canada's - 3 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to 6 deaths per 1,000 live births in Canada. 72% of Canadian women use 'modern methods' of birth control compared to 82% of Norwegian women. Norway received the highest score for breastfeeding. Mothers can take up to 36 weeks off work after giving birth with 100% of their pay, or 46 weeks with 80% pay. 99% of babies in Norway are breastfed initially and 70% are breastfed exclusively at 3 months.
Niger ranked the lowest citing life expectancy for women at 56 years of age. The country is currently suffering from a hunger crisis, which threatens the lives of a million children. Less than one third of births in Niger are attended by skilled health personnel, compared to almost 100% attended births in Canada. The risk of dying during pregnancy or birth is 1 in 5,600 in Canada while in Niger 1 woman in 16 will die from pregnancy-related causes.
Afghanistan ranked lowest on the list in 2010 and 2011 but has recently had significant improvements in life expectancy, child mortality and educational opportunities. In 2000, 20% of children in Afghanistan were enrolled in school and today that number has exponentially increased to 97%.
The United States performed lower than average placing 25th specifically in areas such as lifetime risk of dying from childbirth where moms face a 1 in 2,100 risk of maternal death – the highest rating of any industrialized nation. A child in the United States is 4 times as likely to die before the age of five, than a child in Iceland. The U.S. ranking is slotted between the Czech Republic and Belarus. United States ranked 41st in child mortality. Women in U.S. have relatively low political status, and children are not enrolled in preschool as often as in other countries. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that does not guarantee working mothers paid leave.
Canada moved up one notch this year to place 19th mainly due to an increased percentage of women members of parliament and the inclusion of parental leave along with maternity leave. Compared to Norway, Canada needs to improve in areas of women's education and economic success, as well as parental benefits. Patricia Erb of Save the Children stated that Canada rated only a "fair" grade in an analysis of how developed countries promote breastfeeding.
Save the Children’s recommendations is to help more women in developing nations breast feed. “Our research shows that a mother’s breast milk — one single nutrition intervention — can save a million children’s lives a year,” said Carolyn Miles, Chief Executive of Save the Children. She went on to say that, "Policies and programs must be promoted in all countries to ensure all mothers have the support they need if they choose to breastfeed. Acting now not only saves lives, but saves dollars as well."
Canadian Moms – you are doing a fantastic job raising your children! What can improve according to 'Save the Children' is not what you can provide for yourself and your children; rather what your country can improve in providing for you while you raise your children.
Canada is 6th Best Country to Raise a Child
The Child Development Index 2012 ranked Canada 6th in the world as the best place to raise a child based on opportunities for health, education, and nutrition. Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy and France placed 1st to 5th respectively. Following Canada were Switzerland, Norway, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Chad, Nigeria and Somalia ranked the lowest due to the high mortality rate.
"During the last decade, the world witnessed unprecedented progress in child survival and children's well-being. Millions of children were able to go to school for the first time, and many more were given a chance at life as mortality rates in most countries dropped dramatically," a spokesperson for the Child Development Index stated.
'The Human League', a breakfast program stationed in Sudbury, Ontario supplies 4,000 breakfasts a day to 22 local elementary schools during the academic year providing every child an equal opportunity to learn.
The '2011 Vital Signs' reported, "The city supports early childhood education through funding more regulated spaces and providing more child care subsidies than most other cities."