Bahrain ranks poorly in report measuring gender equality http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/07/11/10/10166351.html

11/11/2007 12:20 AM | By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: Bahrain, the only Arab and Muslim country to have had a woman as president of a United Nations General Assembly, has ranked 115 in this year's report measuring equality between women and men.

Bahrain's ranking, out of 128 countries representing 93 per cent of the world's population, is bound to reinvigorate campaigns pressing for more rights and better employment opportunities for women.

The Global Gender Gap Report released on Thursday by the World Economic Forum showed that Nordic countries remained at the top of the list and Muslim countries at the bottom.

Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland came closest to achieving equality between men and women in education, employment, health and politics, but Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Yemen had some of the worst scores.

Women in Bahrain fared well in health and education where they outperformed men in secondary and higher learning, but scored badly on political involvement despite the election of the nation's first female deputy to the Lower House of Parliament and in holding advanced positions in the economic sector.

"Most Arab world countries not only continue to perform far below the global average, but also do not show much improvement over the last year or have deteriorated," said the report. However, the Switzerland-based forum said that some of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries were the exceptions in the general Arab trend.

"These economies have invested large amounts of resources in increasing women's education levels over the last decade and will now need to better integrate these women into the economy to reap the benefits of this investment," the report said.

Improvements

"The United Arab Emirates had significant improvements on both economic participation and political empowerment subindexes. Wage inequality for similar work decreased and the gap between women and men's estimated earned income also diminished. Furthermore, both women and men stood for election and voted for the first time in that country's history. Nine women entered Parliament gaining 22.5 per cent of the seats," the report said.

Kuwait held the top spot in the Arab countries, but was 96 internationally. It was followed by Tunisia (102), Syria (103), Jordan (104), the United Arab Emirates (105), Algeria (108), Qatar (109), Bahrain (115), Oman (119), Egypt (120), Morocco (122), Saudi Arabia (124) and Yemen (128).