Last week the World Economic Forum published the 2013 Gender Gap report. The report began in 2006 and since then has attempted to annual review the accessibility of each nation’s resources to men and women. The report focusses on 4 areas of equality – health and survival, educational attainment, political empowerment and economic participation and opportunities. The scores are then averaged to create an overall ranking of countries.
In Latin America, a relatively small region of the world with closely neighboring countries, there is a large discrepancy in the WEF report’s finding. While Nicaragua just slips in to the highest ranking countries in the world at overall 10th place, Guatemala ranks 114th – the lowest in the entire Western Hemisphere after Suriname in 110th. Nicaragua’s 10th place ranking has made national news and earned it a place on many summary reports such as this one from the BBC on par with the European countries at the very top of the list – like Iceland, Norway, and Ireland. But a glance at the breakdown by area shows that Nicaragua’s scores are disparate: While a law passed two years ago requiring all political parties to support 50% women candidates in local and national elections is most likely responsible for the 5th place rank in political empowerment, the country lags behind in other areas, most notably in Economic Participation and Opportunities where it ranks 91st. In these productive yet still resource-tight countries, there’s no question that closing the gender gap every year overall marks important advancements in the quality of life for its citizens. But there’s still a lot of work to be done, which is why this report supports the relevancy of Social Business’s work with economic empowerment like the Recognition of the Unpaid Work of Women. In fact, across Latin America the rankings for equality of Economic Participation and Opportunities fall in the 90th and 110th percentile, yet another reason to support equitable trade and trading organizations like cooperatives that uphold gender equality as central principles in their work.