Women’s Status Worldwide: Best and Worst Places

Celebrate Women's History MonthIn honor of the 101 st International Women's Day on Thursday, March 8, The Independent analyzed women's status around the world based on 20 criteria. Some of the results are brutal: in South Sudan, the worst place to give birth, there are fewer than 20 midwives to serve the entire country. Other statistics offer hope for women as they advance in the 21st Century. Women's literacy in Lesotho outpaces men's and women have served as head of state in Sri Lanka for 23 years.

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At the 2011 session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, Michelle Bachelet, the head of UN Women, pointed out in her closing remarks: "Education and equal access and participation in science and technology for women of all ages are not only imperative for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women -- they are also an economic necessity, providing women with the knowledge and understanding necessary for lifelong learning, employment, better physical and mental health, as well as full participation in social, economic and political development." More than that, the status of women and girls is, at its heart, a moral issue that mirrors the progress of human rights within society in general.

Below are 10 key findings.

1. Best place to be a politician: Rwanda. Women hold 45 out of 80 parliamentary seats in Rwanda -- the only place in the world where women hold the majority. Neither Belize, Oman, Qatar, nor Saudi Arabia have female members in their parliaments. In the United States, women hold 93 out of 539 seats in Congress.

2. Best place to give birth: Greece boasts the lowest rate maternal death in childbirth (one out of 31,800). South Sudan is the highest. The U.S. ranks 40 out of 181 countries and has not improved its maternal mortality rate (as many as 17 per 100,000) in the last 100 years.

3. Best place to break the glass ceiling: Boasting 45% senior managers, Thailand has the most women "top dogs." It is estimated that about 20% of American women hold senior management jobs, while in Japan it's only 8%.

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4. Best place for a longevity: On the bright side, women in Japan have a life expectancy of 87 years (men's life expectancy is 80). Women in Lesotho only live about 48 years on average. American women's average life expectancy is 81.3 years but has declined in international rank over the last five years due to obesity, smoking, and other risk factors.

5. Best place to be an athlete: Topping the list with five out of the ten top paid female athletes in the world, is the US. Saudi Arabia is the worst and has never sent a woman to the Olympics.

6. Best place for reproductive rights: Sweden has no consent requirements for abortions and allows women to have abortions without restrictions up to 18 weeks. Nicaragua, Philippines, and El Salvador have complete bans on abortion. In the U.S., it's a hot-button issue with restrictions and availability varying from state to state.

7. Best place for high-skilled jobs: Almost 60% of high-skilled jobs in Jamaica are filled by women, compared to 2% of similar jobs in Yemen.

8. Best place to be an artist: In Sweden, the government mandates that film grants be distributed equally between men and women, and the Arts Council promotes equity in general. While not the worst place to be a woman artist, in 2011, only 5% of the 250 top grossing films were made by women.

9. Best place for women's literacy (compared to men's): Lesotho ranks number one with 95% female literacy. Men's literacy is 83%. In Ethiopia, only 18% of women can read and write.

10. Best place to be a woman: Based political participation, education, health, and employment statistics, The Independent ranks Iceland as the number-one country for women worldwide.

The entire list can be found here.

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

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