Women’s Rights and Development Around the World

women rights

Women’s rights are the fundamental right to live free from discrimination. They include everything from equal pay and land ownerships rights to access to education and health services.

Gender equality is a critical element of any development strategy, as it can empower women and girls to take part in their country’s economic and social progress. It also creates positive ripple effects that improve the lives of men, women and children in communities around the world.

Many of the most important milestones in advancing women’s rights have been achieved by feminist activists, such as the 19th Amendment in the United States that sparked the Women’s Rights Movement. Today’s International Women’s Day – the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in this country – is an opportunity to reflect on these achievements and recognize that we still have a long way to go.

Almost two-thirds of the adult population in 34 countries surveyed by Pew Research Center say it is very or somewhat important that women have the same rights as men. That share is highest in Sweden, the Netherlands, France, the U.S., Germany, Greece, Spain and Australia.

What is more, a majority of people around the world (59%) say that granting women the right to vote has been the most important milestone in advancing women’s rights. This includes nearly all of those in Sweden, the Netherlands, France, the United States, Canada, Germany, Greece, Spain and Australia.

A majority of adults in these countries also say it is important for women to have the same rights as men when they marry and when they are pregnant, and a large share of those in the U.S., Australia, Argentina, the UK and Hungary agree.

Most of those in these 34 countries also think it is important that women have the same rights when they work. That is true in all 34 countries and among a wide range of demographics, including younger adults, men, women, those with a high school degree or less education and those with a college degree or more.

While there is a strong international consensus about the importance of gender equality, substantive shares of people in many countries say it is unlikely that women will have equal rights with men in their country anytime soon. That is especially true in Nigeria, Japan, Kenya, Turkey, Israel and Tunisia, where at least a quarter of the population thinks it will be difficult or impossible for women to achieve their rights in the near future.

In the United States, a majority of adults who say that the country hasn’t gone far enough when it comes to giving women equal rights with men (57%) think that the country has made some progress in the last decade. In addition, a substantial share of those who say the country hasn’t gone far enough say that differences in physical ability between men and women are a major obstacle to women having equal rights with men.