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Top 10 myths about women by aid group CARE

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 8 Mar 2011 15:14 GMT
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LONDON (TrustLaw) - Did you know women and girls account for 70 percent of the world's poorest billion people? Or that women work two-thirds of the world's working hours but only earn 10 percent of the world's income? And that they own a paltry one percent of the world's property?

For those feeling a bit glum about the state of women on the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, CARE International's list of top 10 myths about women (and the heroes who bust them) should raise your spirits.

Using data and research, the aid group's report turns notions such as "girls can't do math", "women can't lead" and “women's empowerment comes at the expense of men" on their head.

"Today, there are more women than ever who demonstrate that it is time to put these myths where they belong - into the historical rubbish bin," said CARE International Secretary General Robert Glasser.

"This is important because myths yank girls out of school. Myths cause hunger. Myths prevent women from getting the health care they need. Myths kill," he said in the report.

It profiles figures such as Clara Lemlich, the 23-year-old Yiddish-speaking immigrant from Ukraine who launched the "Uprising of 20,000" in New York to protest against unsafe working conditions and low pay in the garment factories; Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win two; as well as Afghanistan's King Amanullah Khan who raised the minimum age for marriage to 18 and is remembered as a moderniser who was inspired by his wife Queen Soraya to improve women's rights.

 Here's the list:

1. "A woman's place is in the home"

Reality check:

* Women do two-thirds of the work globally, according to the United Nations. In the United States, women now account for nearly half the labour force.

* Knowledge of opportunities for women outside the home can lead to greater investments in girls. When researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research led a study that actively recruited young women in randomly selected villages to work in India's outsourcing industry, they found that young girls in those villages were more likely to be kept in school and have better nutrition.

2. "Girls can't do mathematics or science"

Reality check:

* Forty women have been awarded the Nobel Prize between 1901 and 2001. They include 16 women in the scientific categories of physics, chemistry, economics and medicine of physiology.

* Data from 1990 to 2005 show that U.S. girls slightly outperform boys in mathematics and science. By eighth grade, however, girls show less interest and report less confidence in those subjects than boys according to a 2010 study from the American Association of University Women.

3. "It's a man's world"

Reality check:

* A recent survey in Brazil, Chile, Croatia, India, Mexico and Rwanda found that both men and women benefit from greater gender equity. Men with attitudes that embraced gender equity were more likely to be happy, talk to their partners and have better sex lives. Women with partners who participate in daily care work report higher levels of relationship and sexual satisfaction.

* A 2009 study by the Girl Scout Research Institute found that 82 percent of teenage girls compared with 72 percent of teenage boys agree that girls and boys are equally good at being leaders. A separate 2008 study by the institute found that girls prefer a social-change orientated definition of leadership. Many girls emphasise what leadership should be used for, rather than focus on specific roles or positions.

4. "Women crack under pressure"

Reality check:

* The debut of women's boxing in the 2012 London Olympics may finally close the gender gap on one of the world's brightest stages. Women are expected to account for roughly half of the 10,500 athletes. Compare that with the 1908 London Olympics, when 37 women took part alongside 1,971 men.

* People who thrive under high-pressure situations share certain qualities and backgrounds - none of which directly relate to gender. Psychologists suggest that how an individual functions under stress can be attributed to a mix of genetics, personality and upbringing. Some people dive deeper into their work when things get challenging rather than crumbling under the added strain.

5. "She asked for it"

Reality check:

* Violence against women is not confined to a specific culture, region or country. The United Nations estimates that one in five women worldwide will be a victim of a rape or attempted rape during their lifetimes. Women aged 15 to 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than cancer, car accidents, war and malaria.

* Research shows aggression and propensity for violence are not immutable male traits. They are learned behaviours. And a 2007 analysis of data from 58 separate studies show men and boys change their attitudes and behaviour related to violence given the right type of interventions.

 6. "Women can't be trusted with money"

Reality check:

* CARE's microsavings groups in Africa have nearly 1.9 million members, 74 percent of whom are women. Loan repayment rates are extremely high. In Uganda, for example, 98 percent of loans are paid back on time and default rates are near zero.

* Women-owned businesses contribute nearly $3 trillion to the U.S. economy and create or maintain 23 million jobs, according to a 2009 study by the Center for Women's Business Research.

7. "Girls belong in marriage, not school"

Reality check:

* In Mozambique, nearly 60 percent of girls with no education are married by age 18, compared to 10 percent of girls with secondary education and less than 1 percent with higher education.

* A 2010 study of women age 20 to 24 in five Indian states found that those who married before the age of 18 were more likely to have had a stillbirth or miscarriage and experience violence at the hands of their husbands. They were less likely to have delayed birth using contraception or give birth in a medical facility.

8. "Women can't lead"

Reality check:

* In a 2006-2007 study of 495 villages in India, affiliated professors from MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab found that in villages where the chief village councillor seat had never been reserved for a woman, both men and women exhibited bias against female leadership. But in places where chief councillor seats were reserved for women under Indian law, bias towards female leaders was reduced within just two election cycles, and voters were more likely to support women candidates in the future.

* Eighteen women are now either presidents or prime ministers in the world, a new record. A dozen were elected. Three were appointed. Two were appointed and then elected. One -President Rosa Otunbayeva of Kyrgyzstan - reached the presidency through a coup.

9. "A woman's health is not a man's concern"

Reality check:

* Men can change their gender-related attitudes and behaviour in a relatively short period, according to a 2007 World Health Organization review of 57 intervention programmes with men in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health, gender-based violence, fatherhood and HIV/AIDS. The most effective programmes relied on positive and affirmative messages.

10. "Women's empowerment comes at the expense of men"

Reality check:

* China’s rapid economic growth coincides with the mass entry of Chinese women into the workplace. In China, 70 percent of women have paying jobs. The global average is 53 percent.

* Nations with small gender gaps tend to have higher overall economic competitiveness. In fact, the 10 nations with the highest gender inequality rank at the bottom of the United Nations Development Programme’s overall Human Development Index survey. The 10 nations with the lowest gender inequality rank at the top.

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