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Women at Risk

Women and Work | Division Of Labour | Schools For Survival | Infant Mortality
Governments and international bodies discuss " The World's Problems"… without noticing that at least half of those who suffer from "The World's Problems " are women who, in addition, are not consulted about possible solutions.

Sisterhood is Global

For women, there are no developed countries. Ten of the eleven oldest democracies in the world waited until the 20th century to give women the right to vote: although they comprise 50% of the world's enfranchised population, women hold no more than 10% of the seats in national legislatures.

women hold up half the sky


Women in the World Atlas

The unpaid labor of women in the household, if given economic value, would add an estimated one-third , or $4,000,000,000,000 to the world's annual economic product. Women…a world survey

Worldwide, women work twice as many hours as men. Their dual role - as both mothers and breadwinners - interacts with major social and economic trends, systematically to women's disadvantage.
State of the World's Women Report, 1985


Women and Work


A Woman's Work Is Never Done

A day in the life of a typical rural African woman.
A day in the life of a typical rural African woman.



Division Of Labour

Women of Africa do up to three quarters of all agricultural work in addition to their domestic responsibilities. Women of Africa do up to three quarters of all agricultural work in addition to their domestic responsibilities.

As development programs introduce crops grown for profit, the newly mechanized work is taken over by men. Profit from these crops rarely goes to the women to use for feeding the family. Women are left with unmechanized parts of new type of farming - weeding, carrying water - as well as continued work on subsistence plots to feed the family.


Women, Bread & Babies

In Kenya where 38% of the farms are run by women, those women manage to harvest the same amount per hectare(2.47 acres) as men , despite men's greater access to loans, advice, fertilizers, hybrid seeds, insecticides. And when women were given the same level of help , they were found to be more efficient than men, and produced bigger harvests. Women: A World Report

Schools For Survival

Good news - many countries that considered girls' education a waste of time have changed their minds. Since the 1960s , there has been a huge increase in government spending on getting girls into school. At primary school level, the boy-girl gap has been narrowing rapidly. But at secondary level, the gap remains wide . In 76 countries, less than half the eligible girls are enrolled in secondary school. And even when they do enroll, girls, in Saudi Arabia, only 30% of pupils at secondary schools are girls. And in North Yemen, only 21% are. Education girls extends a girl's options in life. And it has another, unexpected benefit: it will dramatically improve the survival chances of any babies she decides to have.

A child's best guarantee for survival is a confident, self-respecting mother. And education can pave the way to maternal confidence. 'The single most important correlate of child survival is not, as might be expected, the family's wealth or the availability of medical facilities, but the mother's educational level.'
International Centre for diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, 1984
A child's best guarantee for survival is a confident, self-respecting mother. And education can pave the way to maternal confidence.


Infant Mortality

Women begin life with a greater chance of survival than men, but lose it quickly.


Women begin life with a greater chance of survival than men, but lose it quickly. Overall mortality rates at birth for girls are lower than those for boys, and equal to those of boys between the ages of one and two. But by the time they reach five, girls' infant mortality rates run double those of boys. Why? Because in allocation of food and health care, boys get most of the attention.


Over half a million women die in childbirth every year in Africa and Asia, and the world total is probably very much higher. In Latin America, for instance, 3 of every 1,000 mothers in Ecuador and up to 20 of every 1,000 in Honduras die before they can look into their new baby's face or hold it in their arms …

  • An estimated 25 million women each year are seriously ill after childbirth.
  • 2/3 of all women in Asia, 1/2 of African women, and 1/6 of women in Latin America are anaemic, caused simply by a lack of the right kind of food.
  • 1/6 of all babies weigh under 5 pounds when they are born and 95% of these are in the poor world, where they account for 1/3 of all infant deaths.

Women : A World Report

Women who start bearing children too early in their lives can put their own health at risk - and that of their children.

  • Nearly 1/2 of all Indonesian women have had their first child by the time they are 17.
  • Maternal mortality in some countries is a leading cause of death between ages of 15-19.
  • Babies of young mothers are only half as likely to be born healthy as those born to physically mature women. The most common problem for these newborns is low birth weight, and this is usually a result of the mother's own inadequate diet.
  • Pregnant girls leaving school almost never open a textbook again. In the Third World, less than 1/4 of the girls - pregnant or not - go to secondary school at all. This perpetuates the young woman's low status and traps her into a cycle of poverty.

Women & Development, DESI/UNU

When women are able to profit directly from their work…they are not the only ones to benefit. Studies in Burkina Faso and Bangladesh have indicated that, when women do have time or money to spare, they use it to improve the health and well-being of their children. UN World Conference on Women, 1985. SOURCES:

  • Boulding, Elise,"Women, Bread & babies: Directing Aid to Fifth World Farmers." From Women in the Twentieth Century, 1977, Halsted Press, John Wiley and Son , New York.
  • Morgan, Robin, ed., Sisterhood is Global, Anchor Books, Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1984.
  • New Internationalist, No. 149m July 1985 and No. 150m August 1985, No. 164, October 1086, New Internationalist Publications , Ltd., 175 Carlton St., Toronto, Ontario, M5A 2K3; for subscription enquiries: P.O. Box 1143, Lewiston, NY 14092.
  • Seager, Joni and Olson, Ann, Women in the World Atlas, Pluto Press Project, Simon & Schuster, Inc ., New York City 1986.
  • Sivard, Ruth Leger, Women … a world survey, World Priorities, Washington, DC, 1985; International Center for Research on Women, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington , DC 20036.
  • The State of the World's Women Report, 11985, New Internationalist Publications Cooperative and the United Nations, New Internationalist Publications, 42 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford, OXI 2EP, united Kingdom.
  • UNICEF News, Issue 122, 1985, UNICEF, Editorial and Publications Service, 866, UN Plaza, (A-IC), New York, NY 10017. Women and Development, 1985, DESI/UNU, United Nations, Room DCI-559 New York, NY 10017.
  • Women, Health and Development, Development Education Centre, UNICEF Office for Europe, Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10.
  • Women in Touch, Church World Service , PO Box 968 Elkhart, Indiana 465 15-0968.
  • Women : A World Report, 1985, New Internationalist Publications , Ltd., 42 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford, OXI 2EP, united Kingdom.

Title Graphic: Sr. Eunice Cudzewicz, Medical Mission Sisters

Produced by the Office on Global Education, National Council of Churches, 2115 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218-5755
A program of the Divisions of Education and Ministry, and Church World Service


updated: 4 March, 2016

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