It's a woman's world

OK, so there's a long way to go. But right across the globe there are signs that progress for women - in education, health and political power - is an ideal that's becoming a reality. Terry Kirby reports
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The Independent Online

Jamaica

Prime Minister Designate: Portia Simpson-Miller

Elected prime minister designate last month, 60-year-old Simpson-Miller is president of Jamaica's People's National Party and 'an advocate for the poor, dispossessed, the oppressed, and all those who remain voiceless and faceless in the corridors of power'

Peru

Protection from rape

It was not until 1997 that the Peruvian government repealed a 1924 law that allowed men who rape women to escape punishment by marrying their victims. In gang rape cases, all of the men would go free.

Chile

President-Elect: Michelle Bachelet

Bachelet, aged 54, was elected the first woman president of Chile in January, beating billionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera. She is now head of the military that kidnapped and tortured her and her mother during Pinochet's regime.

Iceland

Working women

Only about 6 per cent of women do not work because of home-making responsibilities, only slightly above the number of men, at 5 per cent. In Greece, the comparative figures are 75 per cent and one per cent.

Norway

Boardroom power

In 2002, the government ordered that at least 40 per cent of their board members should be women. As of January this year, only 17 per cent of publicly owned companies have met this requirement; the remainder and have until next year to fully comply or face legislation.

France

Breast cancer survival rates increase

In North America and western Europe, breast cancer survival rates for women have improved dramatically because of increased screening and better drugs. In France, more than 70 per cent of sufferers now have a 20-year survival rate.

Ireland

President: Mary McAleese

Brought up in the tough Belfast area of Ardoyne, McAleese, aged 54, was no stranger to political turmoil when she was elected president in 1997. She was unopposed for her second term, saying her mission was to 'build bridges'.

Latvia

President: Vaira Vike-Freiberga

The first woman to be head of state in an Eastern European country, Vike-Freiberga renounced her Canadian citizenship to become Latvia's president. Aged 68, she speaks fluent French, English, German, Italian and is tipped as the next UN secretary general.

UK

Working mothers increase

The number of women with young children under five who are employed has risen from 21 per cent in 1983 to 52.2 per cent in 2003, one of the highest rates of increase in the industrialised nations.

Lithuania

Medical test for women drivers scrapped

In 2002, the government repealed a requirement that women underwent a gynecological examination to qualify for a driver's licence; the law, dating from the Communist era, was based on the idea that certain 'women's diseases' could inhibit driving.

Cyprus

A majority of students

In Cyprus, 75 per cent of university students are women, the highest proportion in the world. Other countries with more than 60 per cent include Mongolia, Cuba, Bulgaria, Latvia and Qatar.

Germany

Chancellor: Angela Merkel

Germany's 'Iron Lady', aged 51, grew up in the old East Germany and emerged out of the pro-democracy movement that swept eastern Europe in the 1980s. She was Chancellor Helmut Kohl's youngest minister, going on to become chancellor in October last year, ending the era of Gerhard Schroeder

Czech Rep.

A majority of university teachers

This country has the highest percentage of women university teachers in the world, making up 52 per cent. Other countries with more than 40 per cent include Latvia and St Lucia, (49 per cent) Cuba (45 per cent) and Mongolia (43 per cent)

Sweden

Ministerial majority

Sweden became the first country to have a majority of female government ministers in 1999. Women now occupy 55 per cent of ministerial positions in government.

Finland

President: Tarja Halonen

One of the most popular presidents Finland has ever had, Halonen braved initial conservative public opinion when she was voted into office in 2000. She was foreign minister from 1995 to 2000.

Liberia

President: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Aged 67, Johnson-Sirleaf was elected president in October last year, seeing off the challenge of former Liberian football star George Weah. She is the survivor of a long period of political strife in which Liberia was torn apart by civil war.

Burkina Faso

Banning female circumcision

One of 16 African states to ban the practice, over the 10 years the percentage of young girls illegally circumcised has been halved from 70 to 35 per cent.

Ghana

More education for young women

In 1987, only one in every 10 pupils in secondary education in Ghana was a girl Ð now 45 per cent are female. Investment in education and schemes to encourage girls to stay in school mean that three years ago, 15 of the 52 graduates from the Ghana Medical School were women.

Rwanda

More women MPs

Although women only account for 16 per cent of all MPs worldwide, in Rwanda 48.8 per cent of all MPs are women, ahead of Sweden (45.3per cent) and Norway (37.5 per cent)

Uganda

Success combating HIV/Aids in women

While much of sub-Saharan and southern Africa struggles to cope with HIV/Aids, Uganda has led the way. Since 1992, infection rates among pregnant women in urban areas have fallen from around 30 per cent to 11 per cent

Mozambique

Prime Minister: Luisa Dias Diogo

Minister of Finance under her predecessor, 47-year-old Dias Diogo became Mozambique's first woman prime minister in February 2004. Her biggest challenge is to improve the finances of her heavily indebted country.

Turkey

New civil rights for women

In 2001, Turkey's parliament revised the country's Civil Code, formally acknowledging women's equality. Women no longer need their husband's permission to work outside the home, enjoy equal property rights, keep their maiden names and be entitled to sue for divorce.

Iran

Fewer mothers dying in childbirth

The expansion of medical care and implementation of family planning programmes in the last 20 years has decreased maternal mortality in Iran from 240 per 100,000 to just 37.4 per 100,000.

Kuwait

Female suffrage granted

Kuwait's parliament voted to grant women electoral rights last year. It was the last country in the world where only men had the vote. A few weeks later, the first female minister joined the cabinet. The country now has more registered female voters.

Bangladesh

Prime Minister: Begum Khaleda Zia

Without much schooling or attending university, 59-year-old Begum has twice been elected prime minister, in 1996, and in 2001. Her husband was also once president of Bangladesh but was murdered in 1981.

China

Help for domestic victims

Ninety per cent of cities and provinces in China have now established regulated legal and counselling centres and advice lines for female victims of domestic violence.

Nepal

Reversing legal discrimination

In 2002 Nepal's parliament passed civil code changes that partially legalised abortion and updated many other discriminatory laws, including inheritance rights, divorce and sexual violence.

Philippines

President: Gloria Arroyo

Forbes recognised Arroyo as the fourth most powerful woman in the world after she became president in 2001. Aged 58, she survived a coup against her in her first term and a senate investigation into her husband's dealings.

Sri Lanka

President: Chandrika Kumaratunga

Kumaratunga, 60, was elected president in 1994, following in the footsteps of her mother Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who was the world's first woman prime minister. Chandrika's father was assassinated when he was Prime Minister. Her husband was also assassinated, and she is the survivor of an assassination attempt.

New Zealand

Prime Minister: Helen Clark

Re-elected three times in New Zealand, Clark started as the first woman parliamentarian in 1980 as a 31-year-old. Now 56, she is responsible for the political reform that has put a brake on the emigration trend that had threatened New Zealand's demographics.

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