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Women’s Rights Worldwide: Top 10 Feminist Countries

by Rose Adams Published on 29 September 2017

We all know being a woman is the best thing on earth, but having a womb and a lack of Y-chromosones can make the world a pretty tough place at times, and although things have improved, there's still a hella long way to go before we're totally equal in education, business and beyond. But chin up ladies because I'm here to tell you that it’s not ALL doom and gloom out there for us, and here's why. Who run the world?

Firstly let's all give ourselves a well deserved pat on the back, we females are amazing. From growing actual humans in our bellies, to slaying successful careers, there's nothing we can't do. But with all the prejudice against us it can be easy to believe otherwise.

BUT the world is wising up to the fact that taking care of society means taking care of women and men equally, so to celebrate this fact we’ve done some digging into the nations that do really well by women.

While they may not have perfect policies in every area, these countries are already taking the right steps towards making life as a woman that much better, leading the way for everywhere else to follow. Girl power!

1. Iceland

The fact that Iceland has made our list is hardly surprising; they’re one of the only countries in the world taking a real look at the negative effects of the sex industry and doing something positive about it. Not only did Iceland outlaw strip clubs back in 2010, but it's the only country to do so for support of women rather than religious reasons.

What's more, it was announced that Iceland will be looking into tighter controls on censoring, and even banning, Internet pornography after carrying out extensive research into its negative effects on the women it objects, and the men who are subjected to it. While this might seem pretty out there (some may even consider it a breach of Internet freedom) for a government to recognise the harm of sadistic pornography and put their money where their mouths are to target one of the biggest industries in the world, is actually pretty impressive.

Iceland is one of the many countries that has a woman as it's leader too, plus almost half of the parliamentarians in Iceland are female. We're tempted to move there tbh.

2. Finland

Whoever said good things come into (relatively) small packages must have known about Finland's feminist focus, and for that alone it's just shot straight to the top of our wanderlust list.

It's so advanced in it's stance on equality that in 2016 Finland was voted second (only to Iceland, of course) in the Global Gender Gap Index, and like its Nordic neighbours, is a firm champion for women’s rights. Not only is gender equality enshrined in their constitution, but there is the Equality Act on Equality between Women and Men which enshrines the basic values of equality between the sexes in every aspect of life. On top of this there are four separate bodies working for the promotion of gender equality around the clock. YAS.

Parental leave is 263 days in Finland, with shared responsibilities, public childcare and state-funded school meals, which means that it's a lot easier for women to return to work after pregnancy too! As well as this, education in universities is particularly interesting, with women making up 32% of students studying mathematics and computer science – well above the OECD average.

To top all that off, Finland was also the first country in the world to grant unrestricted rights to the vote and run for parliament in 1906! We salute you.

3. Sweden

Having long been a pin up for women’s education and childcare support across the globe, Sweden is seen by many as one of the most equal societies in the world, and, alongside its neighbour Finland, was named by the United Nations as one of the “exemplary countries” in terms of gender equality.

It also ranked fourth in the world for positions held by women in national parliament due to an unofficial quote system, while 77% of the working population is women. According to the stats, women also generate nearly 60% of value from foreign trades - and why the hell shouldn't they?

Sweden has one of the world’s most flexible and tolerant attitudes to parental leave, with an awesome 69 weeks maternity leave for women. This also goes a step above maternity leave as it can also be shared with your spouse too.
There is also state-subsidised pre-schools and special protection for part-time workers.

On top of all of this there are government run bodies like the Ministry of Integration and Gender Equality and the Secretariat of Gender Research to make sure equality is priority numero uno the entire time. We LOVE.

4. Norway

Everyone knows how spectacular your northern lights are, but we have to say your women’s rights aren't looking too shabby either Norway! Yep, it was the first country in the entire world to pass a law on Gender Equality - way back in the seventies. As part of this law, an ombudsman was appointed to enforce laws on gender equality in business, politics and at home – along with a complaints committee to see issues are dealt with.

The ratio of women’s earnings to men is the highest IN THE WORLD at 77% - still pretty bleak we know, but at least it's a start - and women represent about 40% of the government – there are quotas to meet both.

Norway's policies on childcare are pretty brilliant too; it makes up the handful of Nordic countries that blow the rest of the world’s childcare policies out of the water, being one of the only countries to top the Save The Children’s Mother’s Index for two years running back in 2011. This means that fathers get a whopping 12 weeks of flexible paternity leave to take whenever they want and all citizens get access to Norway’s top state nurseries.

5. New Zealand

Did you know that New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote? We didn’t either! As far back as 1893 women won the right to vote, a whopping 25 years before the UK! In fact, New Zealand has a pretty impressive history of being female friendly. It might sound like a long time ago now, but in 2000 the five most important positions under the NZ Constitution – including the Queen, Governor, Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker and President of the Supreme Court – were all held by women. If that isn't girl power we don't know what is!

Feminist icon Sheryl Sandberg frequently says that New Zealand is one of the best, more forward-thinking countries for equality. In 2012 it ranked 6th in the world in the Global Gender Gap Index, which takes into account everything from education to empowerment. Looks like we could learn a lot from those kiwis.

6. United Kingdom

Ah good old Blighty. There may still be a long way to go with the policies towards women here, but if you look at the wider picture, we do actually have it quite good - starting with the NHS. Not only is the UK one of the few places you can get your health covered by the government – think giving birth and you’ll be grateful immediately – but because of this state-funded superhero we’ve got one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world.

Want an education? No problem! The rate of girls excelling in education is one of the best too with around 55% of undergraduate applications coming from girls! If you look at sexual violence, (although this is still a huge issue in the UK and one that law enforcement can definitely improve on) the rate of conviction is one of the best in the world.

We’ve also got such great feminist organisations having our backs nationally and internationally. Did you know that the UK is one of the biggest backers in the UN program fighting genital mutilation? Being a woman in the UK means that not only can you thrive but you have a greater opportunity to help others internationally too, and that's pretty bloody brilliant.

7. Canada

First off let's get to grips with these slut walks. Back in 2011 Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto police officer, made some pretty misguided statements about the ins and outs of rape, to directly quote him: "Women should avoid dressing like sluts [to avoid rape]". UGH.

To show Sanguinetti just how unbelievably wrong he was, women took to the streets dressed in next to nothing to reinforce the idea that actually it does not matter how you dress, rapists will rape whatever the dress code. It was a roaring success, and the slut walks went global; everywhere from Rio to London to Jerusalem took part to show just how this victim-blaming culture needs to stop. Amber Rose's annual slut walk is just as popular today.

Women make up 37.9% of the upper houses of Canada's government, one of the top Western countries, with its own federal funded tool specifically designed to advance gender equality in Canada – the GBA.

8. USA

Despite the many inequalities of the USA (not to mention Trump as president) like not getting paid maternity leave or access to health care funded by the state, the USA isn’t such a bad place to be if you’re a woman. The average number of women in high achieving jobs is above countries like Sweden and Finland, and women also represent the majority of college graduates and advanced-degree holders.

Women are much more likely to hold those blue collar jobs than say in Sweden where most women still make up 'pink-collar' jobs traditionally held by women. It might be initially hard to get there but if you want a high-paid job, the playing field is left wide-open to you.

Another amazing jewel in America's crown is that the child mortality rate is also one of the lowest in the world - turns out there’s a lot going for the old stars and stripes after all.

9. The Netherlands

The Netherlands are a pretty female friendly place to be, especially if you are LGBT. From 2011 the government has set out a special initiative to make sure that LGBT people can get the freedom they deserve and the emancipation of women will be fully achieved.

Before this, the emancipation policy of 1978 ensures that parental leave, care, income, power, decision, education and salaries should remain equal between men and women - the rate of women resigning from their jobs post-pregnancy is on the decline at around 10 percent as a result. Plus women actually outperform men in education once again, with the vast majority of higher-level qualifications going to women. Go us!

Interested in politics? You might just wanna move to The Netherlands then as there's a strong chance you could succeed with policies dating back to 1992 helping to boost the amount of women MPs.

10. Australia

In Oz, The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Act) replaced the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999, and the strengthened legislation aims to improve and promote equality for both women and men in the workplace. Women’s health is also top of the agenda in Oz, with new policies in 2010 coming into play to specifically help poorer women in Australia at the greatest risk from bad health. Educational factors look pretty good too with girls being the majority of higher education and salaried workers!

If you’re looking for a female role model then look no further than former female Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Eileen Gillard (below). Not only have situations vastly improved for women in Australia since her appointment but she was also the first woman to become PM – go Julia!

It's fair to say Australia still has a long way to go though - the violence experienced by women is still shockingly high, especially for minority groups like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women or women in rural areas, but there has been greater call to stop this, especially with Australia’s close relationship with the UN. It’s baby steps but they're still making progress.

Do these results surprise you? Let us know your thoughts @SoFeminineUK

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by Rose Adams

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