Human Rights Facts & Figures


  • 855,000,000 people in the world are illiterate. 70% of them are female.
  • Two-thirds of the world's children who receive less than four years of education are girls.
  • For every year beyond fourth grade that girls go to school, family size drops 20%, child deaths drop 10%, and wages rise 20%; yet, international aid dedicated to education is declining.
  • Worldwide, more than half the population of women over age 15 cannot read or write.
  • Girls represent nearly 60% of the children not in school.
  • Even when women have equal years of education, it does not translate into economic opportunities or political power.
  • While women in Nigeria enjoy 53% literacy, in Morocco 34%, and in Palestine 77%, their participation in politics and the economy lag far behind.

Health & Family

  • Worldwide, women suffer greater malnutrition than men.
  • 600,000 women -- one every minute -- die each year from pregnancy-related causes. Most of these deaths are preventable.
  • As children, girls are often undervalued, fed less, and given inadequate healthcare.
  • Parents in countries such as China and India sometimes use sex determination tests to find out if their fetus is a girl. Of 8000 fetuses aborted at a Bombay clinic, 7999 were female.
  • In the Global South, women traditionally eat last and least. They do not get more to eat even during pregnancy and nursing.
  • Nearly half of all people living with HIV/AIDS are women and girls.
  • 510,000 children under the age of 15 died of HIV/AIDS in 1998. Today, almost 1.2 million children under the age of 15 are living with HIV/AIDS.
  • In some countries, the HIV/AIDS infection rates for 15- to 19-year old girls are 3 to 6 times higher than for boys.
  • Every day 7000 young persons are infected with HIV/AIDS.


  • Worldwide, women's work in the home is not counted as work.
  • 90% of the rural female labor force are called "housewives" and excluded from the formal definition of economic activity.
  • Women work-- on average and across the world-- more hours than men each week, sometimes as much as 35 hours more, but their work is often unpaid and unaccounted for.
  • Where women do the same work as men, they are paid 30 to 40 percent less than men.
  • There is no country in the world where women's wages are equal to those of men.
  • In the U.K., Italy, Germany, and France women are paid 75% of men's wages, whereas in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Australia women earn 90% of men's wages.
  • Women produce nearly 80% of the food on the planet, but receive less than 10% of agricultural assistance.
  • In most places in the world, work is segregated by sex. Women tend to be in clerical, sales and domestic services, and men in manufacturing and transport.
  • Women occupy only 2% of senior management positions in business.
  • Women's participation in managerial and administrative posts is around 33% in the developed world, l5% in Africa, and 13% in Asia and the Pacific. In Africa and Asia-Pacific these percentages, small as they are, reflect a doubling of numbers in the last twenty years.

Human Security

  • Wars today affect civilians most, since they are civil wars, guerrilla actions and ethnic disputes over territory or government. 3 out of 4 fatalities of war are women and children.
  • Over the past decade, armed conflict has killed 2 million children, disabled 4 to 5 million, left 12 million homeless and more than 1 million orphaned or separated from their parents.
  • In times of conflict, women and children are sometimes sold into forced servitude and slavery.
  • 75% of the refugees and internally displaced in the world are women who have lost their families and their homes.
  • In the former Yugoslavia, 20,000 women and girls were raped during the first months of the war.
  • In the last decade there were about 300,000 child soldiers.
  • There are approximately 250 million child labourers worldwide: Asia accounts for 153 million and Africa for 80 million.


  • Historically women have been denied the knowledge, the means, and the freedom to act in their own and their children's best interests.
  • The majority of the world's women cannot own, inherit, or control property, land, and wealth on an equal basis with men.
  • In the 1990s, only 13% of national lawmakers in the world were women, increasing just marginally from 11% in the 1970s.
  • The Philippines' Anti-Rape Act of 1997, which took 9 years to pass, expanded the definition of rape making it a public criminal offense.

Sources: Joni Seager, The State of Women in the World Atlas (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1997); United Nations, The World's Women 2000: Trends and Statistics (New York: United Nations, 2000); United Nations, The World's Women 1995: Trends and Statistics (New York: United Nations, 1995); United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Progress of the World's Women 2000: UNIFEM Biennial Report (New York, UNIFEM, 2000); United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2000 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

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