A new report from the United Nations, “Turning Promises Into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” looks at how women around the world are faring in several key areas.

But the results aren’t great.

According to the report — pegged to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — women are poorer, more hungry and more discriminated against than men.


The report says there are 122 women ages 25 to 34 who live in extreme poverty for every 100 men in that age group. The percentage of women living in poor households hovers at about 12.8 percent. For men, it is 12.3 percent, which means about 5 million more women are struggling.

It is harder for women to escape poverty, the report’s authors say, because women have less access to jobs and economic opportunities. In many places, the laws make it impossible for women to inherit wealth, own land and access credit. Even when women do find jobs, they are often paid less than men. Women have less time to work, too, because they do a disproportionate share of the housework, cooking and child care.

Food insecurity

Women are also more vulnerable to food insecurity in nearly two-thirds of all countries. When a crisis hits, the report finds, women are more likely than men to go hungry. The highest percentage of women who face this challenge is in sub-Saharan Africa, though it is a problem worldwide.

Maternal deaths

Maternal death continues to be a major problem.

Globally, 303,000 women died from pregnancy-related causes in 2015. Nearly two-thirds of those deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, the report’s authors say. Low-income women are particularly vulnerable. This is a challenge in the United States, too, the only developed country where the rate of maternal deaths is growing.

Physical or sexual violence

Women are vulnerable in other ways, too. According to the United Nations, 1 in 5 women and girls ages 15 to 49 reported experiencing physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner in the past 12 months.

The report’s authors also surveyed national laws around the world and found that women are more likely to face legalized discrimination.


There are bright spots. Around the world, more women are going to school than ever before, and many are staying in school longer. Worldwide, 90.3 percent of primary school-age girls were enrolled in school in 2015, compared with 82.2 percent in 2000. (For boys, the number is slightly higher — 91.9 percent of primary school-age boys were enrolled in 2015.) Even so, the report estimates 15 million girls will never get the chance to learn to read or write.

It is a particularly acute challenge in places such as Africa, where 48.1 percent of adolescent girls are kept from school, along with 25.7 percent of girls who are of primary-school age. (For boys, the numbers are 43.6 percent and 21.7 percent, respectively.)

One issue schools still need to grapple with is providing adequate sanitation facilities for menstruating girls.

U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said, “This report’s new data and analysis underlines that, unless progress on gender equality is significantly accelerated, the global community will not be able to keep its promise. This is an urgent signal for action, and the report recommends the directions to follow.”

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