This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Is Yemen the Least Gender Equal Country in the World?

The BBC News has a story today detailing the role of women in Yemen's version of the Arab Spring, which forced a change in the country's government.
When you take a walk in the streets of Sanaa [capital of Yemen], the women you see are covered in black from head-to-toe.
That is why the whole world took notice when Yemeni women were at the forefront of the demonstrations that eventually ousted long-time president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and brought in a new government.
As the story points out, this was not easy for women, some of whom were beaten both in public and in private. Nor has it been easy that during this transition time the economy has not been very robust.
Unemployment among young people in Yemen is as high as 40%, according to the World Bank.
The IMF says nearly half of Yemen's population lives below the poverty line and roughly one-in-two children suffers from malnutrition.
"Life is difficult in Yemen as it is. During transition, life is harder," says Nadia Sakkaf, editor of the Yemen Times newspaper.
Conditions are particularly tough for women.
Yemen is the worst country in the world in terms of gender equality, according to a World Economic Forum survey. The majority of women are illiterate and more than half get married before the age of 18.
It is hard to imagine a country in which women are treated worse than in Afghanistan, but apparently Yemen is that place. [Well, actually the report didn't include data for Afghanistan, but right above Yemen at the bottom of the list was Afghanistan's next-door neighbor, Pakistan]. At bottom, the low status of women is one of the reasons why the country is doing so poorly. With a total fertility rate above 4 children per woman (albeit down from nearly 9 only a couple of decades ago), and declining (albeit still very high) child mortality, Yemen is awash in young people who are not well educated and have relatively few good economic prospects. The population has been doubling every 20 years and there is no clear sign of a change in that pattern. The key to future success will be gender equality. Give women an education, free them from endless childbearing, and have them work with the men to create an economy that works. It won't be easy, but it's a plan for success already put into place all over the world because it works.

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