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Globally, women in different regions face similar issues on different scales of intensity. Prominent issues include how the HIV/AIDS pandemic affects women, including their disease status, along with the varying levels of household, economic, and social power they hold. When greater inequality exists between men and women, countries are hindered in their full potential to develop economically. Multiple reasons exist for these problems, including gender inequality, and while there is not one that can be pinpointed as the sole reason, these issues are strongly related to women’s access to reproductive healthcare. This includes contraception that protects women from diseases such as HIV/AIDS, such as condoms, which helps women take an assertive role in their economic status.
Typically, women in less-developed and middle-income countries experience these problems to a greater extent than women who live in developed nations. The lack of access to reproductive healthcare negatively impacts the level of gender equality in countries with lower levels of economic development; including stagnated cultural and economic empowerment of women and consequences of disease.
Due to these problems, public health workers, social workers, government, non-profit organizations, and other entities must strive to globally provide women both education about and access to disease-protecting contraceptives and other options of reproductive healthcare. An effective way to do so is through countries giving global aid and funding to help support women’s reproductive healthcare. In addition to the health costs associated with lack of contraception, such as exposure to HIV, economic consequences are evident for countries in which gender inequality is high. Countries who have higher levels of inequality will not be able to achieve greater economic development. If access to contraception were made a priority, perhaps some negative consequences that governments face could be minimized. Health costs could decrease, the level of economic development per country could increase, and women could experience further cultural and economic empowerment.
The United Nations studies levels of development of every country and categorizes them based on their Human Development Index or HDI. The HDI measures the level of development for a country through income, education, and life expectancy. The nine development regions that the United Nations studies are: North America, Europe, Latin America, East Asia, Southwest Asia & North Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Of these nine regions, the UN classifies two as developed regions (North America and Europe) and the other seven as developing regions.
The United Nations also specifically studies issues related to gender inequality and economic development. Gender inequality is a prominent issue in most societies today. According to the UN Gender Inequality Index, there is not one country in the world where women are treated as well as men. Women experience lack of access to decent employment, education, and healthcare. They are not as evenly represented in political and economic processes as men are. The United Nations argues that inequality between men and women is a major factor that keeps a country from achieving a higher level of development. Therefore, the United Nations has continued to work to address these issues and try to combat gender inequality in order to improve development within countries.
In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly adopted The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Convention defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion, or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field.” The UN has also established the Commission on the Status of Women, which has become the main global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
In addition to forming various conventions and commissions that are committed to promoting gender equality, the United Nations studies two main indexes to categorize countries on a continuum in regards to gender inequality: The Gender-Related Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Inequality Index (GII). The GDI measures inequality for the same three factors that are studied for HDI. The GDI measures the extent of each country’s gender inequality in terms of income, education, and life expectancy.
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