Women of the World 2020: Southern and Central Asian Women in Focus

Humming the stanzas of Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal woman” simply takes you to some other world but actually, it is the same old world we all live in with some negligence and lack of acceptance. Things have been changed and some of them are still changing. A woman is not just a mother, wife, sister or daughter but she is a magnanimous entity who can bear enormous pressure and remain poised and graceful. While having a glimpse of the condition of women of Asia in 2020 with a focus of southern and central Asia, there are many aspects to consider. The potential for women in Asia to lift their economic position is huge, but presently there are many unique challenges for women in the workforce. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres rightly said that “Twenty-five years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, progress towards equal power and equal rights for women remains elusive. No country has achieved gender equality, and the COVID-19 crisis threatens to erode the limited gains that have been made.

The Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and efforts to recover better from the pandemic offer a chance to transform the lives of women and girls, today and tomorrow.” According to the UN’s statistics, in Central and Southern Asia the share of women among the population aged 65 and older is 51% in. The percentage of women among older people aged 80 and older is yet higher with a percentage of 55 per cent. The share of women among the total population of older persons indicates us of the mortality rates of women and men until higher ages. Therefore, a study of their livelihood provides information on several aspects. For instance, whom they live with, whether they are living alone or jointly with someone.

The utter purpose is to get information about the kind of support they are getting from their families or elsewhere. The health of women is also an imperative aspect to consider. In Southern Asia between 2000 and 2017, the maximum overall decrease in maternal mortality was achieved with a reduction of 59% in the number of deaths (from 384 to 157 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births). Unfortunately under the current statistics, Central and Southern Asia are the only regions to have a gender difference in the top foremost cause of death among people aged 15-49 which is self-harm for women and road injury for men. This is also depicting that less importance is given to issues related to the mental health of a woman. World’s women 2020 showed that worldwide, women researchers comprised of only 30% of the total researchers. The reason is very much evident.

A few parts of the world lack of resources and facilities to women aren’t enough to accomplish the requirements. Research and development play an essential role in evolving societies, economies and environment in general. While further specifying the percentage of women researchers among different regions the highest number of female researchers are from Latin America and the Caribbean region. Only three regions, Latin America and the Caribbean, Northern Africa, and Central Asia, have almost attained gender equality. The percentage of women researchers was also fairly high in Northern Africa (45%), Central Asia (45%) and South-Eastern Asia (41%), whereas it was lowest in Southern Asia (23%) and Eastern Asia (21%).


As per the agenda of sustainable development goals, Sustainable Development Goal 9 indicates that it is imperative for countries worldwide to construct resilient infrastructure as well as encourages comprehensive and sustainable industrialization and promote innovation. To achieve the targets of this particular SDG 9, the countries need to augment the scientific research so to further advance technological potentials. Therefore, To encourage innovation, the role of research and development is far-reaching and pivotal. The accomplishment of this target is impossible without addressing gender disparities in the field of research. On the other hand gender equality in primary education has been phenomenal worldwide even though disparities at regional level persevere. In 2018 the global GPI of gross enrolment ratios (GER) in primary education was 1.00. It indicated that at the global level both girls and boys were equally attaining the primary Education or should say they were equally enrolled at the primary level. But as compared with the worldwide average the regions showed different averages with most of them attained gender equality.

In the same year in Northern America and Europe, Northern Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Central Asia, South-Eastern Asia, Eastern Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, the GPI for each region was inside the range of equivalence. In sub-Saharan Africa GPI was 0.96, in Oceania (exclusive of Australia and New Zealand) GPI was 0.93; in Western Asia, GPI was 0.94. These GPI values were low to attain gender equality with regards to enrolment. Unfortunately in Southern Asia, the GPI fell outside the range of equality with a percentage of 1.07. But the interesting fact was that the girls in this particular region were more participating in primary education with regards to enrollment. According to the given statistics in the report, the maximum level of female teachers was found in Central Asia with a percentage of 54%.

Whereas in Southern Asia, the share of female teachers raised by double digits: by 15 percentage points. Furthermore, from 1990 to 2018, Central Asia was the only region to achieve gender equivalence among teachers at the primary level of education. The report also covered the area of gender parity in secondary level education with regards to enrolment. The GPI in secondary education based on gross enrolment ratios increased from a value of 0.84 in 1990 to 0.99 in 2018. It showed that the gender gap at the secondary level of education has narrowed at the global level. In 1990 the GPI was low in Southern Asia with a percentage of 0.59. In 2018 the situation improved, the gender gap narrowed and that too at the fastest rate.

Northern America and Europe and Central Asia were the only regions that have accomplished and preserved the equal right of entry to secondary education for both girls and boys throughout the given period. Unfortunately, Gender inequalities in literacy seemed to be relatively common in Southern Asia, mainly in adult populations with 81% for men against 65% for women. In Central Asian countries worldwide primary education goals have been achieved. Therefore the shares of women and men with no schooling or less attainment at primary level are small. Whereas the highest attainment is at the secondary level and this is quite substantial. In dissimilarity, in Southern Asia, where unfortunately the goal of universal primary education has not yet been attained, the shares of women and men without schooling, or whose highest educational attainment is at the primary level, are significant with over 50% for both women and men. While fewer than 50% of women and men have finished either secondary or primary level education. Gender dissimilarity in the educational attainment is also huge in Southern Asia, where, on average, 48% of women have no schooling with contrast to 28% of men. Primary level education or just passing of first three grades is the most common educational achievement in Central Asia where about 6 in 10 women and men have attended or completed their primary education. In Southern Asia, primary education is slightest common, with women constituting a minority of the small proportion of the population that has accomplished or completed primary education. When it comes to economic empowerment of women huge differences are found in women’s reach to the labour market. In 2019, the gender gap in labour force contribution was prevalent in Southern Asia with 54 per cent, Northern Africa with 47 per cent and Western Asia with 47 per cent. Unfortunately in these regions, women’s labour strength involvement rates were underneath 30%.

In 2019, agriculture remained the major sector for women’s employment with over 50% in three regions which included Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania apart from Australia and New Zealand. Inequitable attitudes towards women in paid employment were most common both among women and men in Central and Southern Asia, where women’s labour force contribution rate was also significantly low. As of 2020, all countries in Central Asia are offering at least 14 weeks of maternity leave. In contrast, less than a quarter of countries with obtainable data in Southern Asia (14%) offer 14 weeks or more of maternity leave. The constitutional role of women is really important yet it’s been given less importance. At the same time, decision making is another important aspect within a professional setup. The 2020 statistics by the UN showed that in Central and Southern Asia women hardly reached 13% of managerial positions which is fewer than half the global average. Over the last 20 years, female managers in Central and Southern Asian countries have remained in the minority.

Women’s representation in local government remained uppermost in Central and Southern Asian countries with a percentage of 41. Violence against women and girls is an apparent sign of gender disparity and unfortunately, it is one of the most common types of violence faced by women and girls universally. According to the refereed report, the situation in this regard is quite alarming in the southern Asian region. Apart from the mentioned report, it is pertinent to mention that BBC’s 100 women of 2020 list contained name of women belongs to southern Asian region which is indeed an achievement. Women from the same region made their place in the list issued by Forbes named world’s 100 powerful women. Women empowerment is becoming the most common practice worldwide. To attain such empowerment in the Asian region, it is necessary to emulate the contemporary trends of development.






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