In his hierarchy of needs, Maslow put forth the idea that human beings need to fulfill basic needs before moving on to those more complex. The top-most need, self-actualization, is as Maslow described, the tendency for a person to become actualized in what he or she is potentially. Simply put, to reach our potential, we have to first get our ducks in a row.
So today, in honor of International Women’s Day, I have decided to approach the state of our gender’s well-being from Maslow’s assessment of our hierarchy of needs.
Women make up a little over 50 percent of the world’s population, but they comprise over 60 percent of the world’s hungry. Women produce 60 to 80 percent of food in most developing countries, but have less access to land and credit than men. And on average, women invest 90 percent of their incomes into their households, whereas men only reinvest about 30 to 40 percent.
We have entered only the first rung in Maslow’s hierarchy and over half a million women in the world already don’t have what they need to move on to the next rung of developmental needs.
Safety and Security:
In the Congo, 1152 women are raped every day, according to a recent study by the American Journal of Public Health. This article in the Economist says that even though rape in African countries has received most attention, it is not just an African issue. So let’s look a little closer to home. In 2003, nine out of 10 rape victims in the U.S. were women. And according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, about 600 people are raped per day. To be fair, the rate of sexual assault in the United States has decreased by 60 percent since the 90s, but that still leaves us with over 200,000 victims every year.
So let’s get to the point– when women are worried for their safety, they can’t focus on the things that really matter. Instead of developing skills, reflecting on their potential, or experiencing self-confidence and hope for the future, so many women around the world are dealing with issues of violence, rape, and insecurity.
Love and Belonging:
Here let’s take a look at family issues. On Listverse I came across two examples in which women are denied power over their personal lives. In several countries and communities that follow Muslim law, husbands have a right to divorce their wives instantly through simple oral repudiation, whereas women face extreme limitation. In Lebanon, a woman needs the testimony of an eye witness (a doctor’s report is simply not enough proof) to divorce her abusive husband. In Egypt, a woman can initiative divorce only under the condition that she forsake any claim to the couple’s finances. She must also repay her dowry. In Israel, a man must grant his wife a Jewish divorce writ– a woman cannot initiate.
Another issue– custody rights. In Bahrain, judges can deny women custody of their children for arbitrary reasons. In the absence of a personal status law, Bahrain depends solely on interpretation of Islamic law when it comes to decisions regarding marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance.
And finally, the value of women in their families. In many countries, girl babies face rejection from the moment of birth. In India and China, the bias against girls is so great that doctors are legally mandated against divulging the sex of a baby before birth. But once the girls are born, they are still in danger from direct infanticide or neglect.
In America, women still earn 80 cents to the dollar that a man in her position would earn. Industries like comedy, professional cooking, media, law enforcement, emergency services, and politics are still “old boys’ clubs,” where women have to fight harder to get in. We can’t deny that there has been some improvement in the past century, but these hoops still exist for us to jump through. So when, as women, we are trying to prove ourselves to our male superiors (and often to other women), how can we have a sense of self-esteem that rivals that of our male counterparts?
Two-thirds of the 75 million children denied access to education around the world are girls. In rural Africa, about 70 percent of girls do not finish primary school. If they manage to get enough food, overcome the crippling emotional consequences of rape and domestic violence, find themselves in a supportive family environment, and develop the self-esteem to hope for a future, chances are they won’t have the money or the option to go to school.
For those women living in a developed country, you probably have access to the basics but chances are you face a different kind of obstacle. There have been major improvements in the area of gender equality in the past decade. However, women all over the world– women like you, and those unlike you– still face obstacles in achieving fulfillment and personal development.
So what do you think ladies, do we collectively have all our ducks in a row? This year on International Women’s Day, think about what you can do to help out women around the world. I recently joined a nonprofit, Sanlaap North America, to work against sex trafficking of young girls in India. We are in the process of revamping our online presence to target two main initiatives: 1. raise funds to build a Sanlaap shelter in Calcutta, where 25 victims of sex trafficking will be sheltered, fed, and educated; 2. spread awareness of this issue, and tell the stories of these young girls who are exploited in the worst way. If this seems like something that resonates with you, check out our website or our Facebook page, and lend a hand!
“Bahrain: Bahrain Women Battle for their Rights” – Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)
“Bahrain: Children’s Rights in UN Treaty Body Reports” – Children’s Right International Network (CRIN)
“Egypt: Ensure Women’s Equal Right to Divorce” – Human Rights Watch
“Ending Violence Against Women and Girls” – UN Resources for Speakers on Global Issues
“Equality for Women Can Reduce World Hunger” — The Guardian
“Extreme Examples of Gender Inequality” –Listverse.com
“Female Infanticide in India and China” – Domestic Violence Services
“Hunger Stats” – World Food Programme
“Statistics” – Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)
“Ten Facts About Women and Hunger” – The Doctor Weighs In
“Top Ten Male Dominated Industries” – AskMen.com
“War’s Overlooked Victims” — The Economist
“World Report 2012: Bahrain” — Human Rights Watch