A NEW ranking of 144 countries based on an analysis of issues that affect girls and young women has placed Sweden at the top of the list. But Australia is far from second place.
According to a new report by international children’s rights group Save the Children, Australia has come in at number 21, falling behind countries such as Serbia and Slovenia.
Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium round out the top five.
A number of high-income countries have performed considerably worse than may be expected, with the UK coming in at 15, Canada at 19 and the US ranked 32.
Niger is at the bottom of the list, with Somalia, Mali, the Central African Republic and Chad rounding out the bottom five.
The ‘Every Last Girl’ report, published on the International Day of the Girl Child and based on 2015 figures, measures countries against five indicators: early marriage, adolescent pregnancy, maternal mortality, women in parliament, and secondary school completion.
The report said the two major factors contributing to Australia’s poor rating were the low proportion of women in parliament and a relatively high teen pregnancy rate.
Save the Children spokeswoman Sarah Carter said Australia had a long way to go when it came to having equal representation of men and women in politics.
“Presently there are only 39 women in Australia’s House of Representatives,” she told Pro Bono Australia. “That’s just over a quarter — 26 per cent to be exact. We can and must do better especially when so-called developing countries like Rwanda have achieved 64 per cent female representation.”
Despite being the world’s biggest economy, the US ranked 32 out of 144 countries, coming in lower than Algeria and Kazakhstan, and 17 places behind the UK.
“Fourteen women died per 100,000 live births in the USA in 2015; a similar number to Uruguay and Lebanon, and far higher than the three deaths per 100,000 in Poland, Greece and Finland,” the report states.
“One of the most shocking aspects of this report is the discovery that some of the developed countries have the worst cases of women being under-represented in government,” CEO and president of Save the Children, Carolyn Miles told Newsweek.
“It is so incredibly important to have women in these positions, fighting for women’s issues and standing as role models for future generations. Also, in the case of the United States, it’s women of colour who have such high mortality rates. This is huge racial inequality and injustice.”
The Save the Children report comes as another not-for-profit report, also released Tuesday, has found that Australian girls think sexism is preventing them from fulfilling their potential.
The key finding in a survey of 600 Australian girls aged 15 to 19 years commissioned by women’s anti-violence group Our Watch and child rights’ agency Plan International Australia (PIA) found that nine in 10 Australian girls are not treated equally to boys.
Less than one in 10 girls (8 per cent) feel they are always treated equally to boys and only one in six girls (14 per cent) say they always receive the same opportunities to succeed as boys.
Many of those surveyed feel held back by their gender. One in three girls said they always did more housework than their brothers, while one in three also believe that it would be easier to pursue their dream career if they were male.
More than half responded they were sometimes, seldom or never “valued for their brains and ability more than their looks”.
Only one girl out of six said they were always respected for their talents rather than their physical appearance.
PIA youth ambassador Sherry-Rose Watts, 20, says she was disappointed but not shocked by the results as they reflect her own experience of “not being given a fair go” as a young woman.
“When I hear someone say something to me on the street, when I see women in government or media being shamed and ridiculed because of their appearance, that is all affecting the way my sisters, my cousins and my peers see themselves, and that’s a problem,” Ms Watts told AAP.