February 14, 2014 — Although women's status worldwide has improved in many aspects, marked disparities still exist in some countries, according to a new United Nations Population Fund report, the New York Times reports.
UNFPA found that women worldwide are having fewer children, are less likely to die in childbirth and have increased literacy rates. However, in low-income areas, "women's status, maternal death, child marriage" and other indicators show little progress since a landmark U.N. summit meeting on women's equality 20 years ago.
The report concluded that overall progress on women's equality "has been unequal and fragmented."
Pregnancy and childbirth remain the leading causes of death in poor countries among young women ages 15 to 19, according to the report. The report noted that although global maternal mortality decreased by 47% over the past 20 years, 800 women die each day during childbirth.
Global fertility rates also declined over the past two decades, decreasing by 23%, which the report attributed to improvements in education, life expectancy and access to contraception.
The report stated, "In conditions of structural poverty, the threats to women's survival are especially acute, due to the lack of access to health services, particularly sexual and reproductive health services, and the extreme physical burdens of food production, water supply and unpaid labor that fall disproportionately on poor women."
The report highlighted gains in women's education, noting that women in a majority of countries experience gender parity in primary education. However, gaps still exist in secondary schools and college.
However, women continue to be paid less than men and are more likely to have employment that is "less secure" and offers "fewer benefits," the report said. It noted what while the world has prospered overall, many women in both poorer and more prosperous countries have not seen life improvements (Sengupta, New York Times, 2/12).