“[T]he promotion and protection of women’s rights play a fundamental role in progress for states as they unite health, human rights and development . . .” 


This is a quote from exciting new research published in the BMJ Open Journal which shows there is a clear link between protecting women’s rights and better health and development.

The recent study of 158 countries revealed countries which “highly respected” women’s economic and social rights had better health outcomes and were more likely to have “accelerated development” compared with countries which “poorly respected” these rights. 

The report focuses on the economic and social rights of women, and the knock-on effect on the health and development of countries when these rights are supported. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, economic rights include “the right to work” and the right to equal pay for equal work.” Social rights of women include “the right to education” and “the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [her]self.” 

The study divided countries into groups depending on how well respected women’s economic and social rights were in the country. 44 countries fell into the group of countries which “highly respected” these rights, 51 countries were in the group which “moderately respected” them, while 63 countries were in the group which “poorly respected” them.  

Interestingly, even countries with a lack of resources such as hospital beds and doctors, but which strongly supported and promoted women’s rights, “would still arrive at positive health outcomes”

For instance, life expectancy in Chile, a country that highly respects women’s economic and social rights, is 79 years. By comparison, life expectancy in the Bahamas, a country with low respect for women’s economic and social rights, is 74 years. There is also a much higher under-five mortality rate (14.786%) in the Bahamas than in Chile (8.957%), despite Chile having fewer physicians and hospitals beds. 

Not only does upholding women’s rights lead to better health, but it also leads to greater overall development for countries. Development is measured on the HDI (Human Development Index) and involves access to long life, access to knowledge and access to a decent standard of living. Countries which respected women’s economic and social rights generally had higher HDI rankings. 

These results provide yet another compelling reason for why women’s rights must be a priority for all countries. 

As the researchers wrote, “[r]ather than limit progress, human rights, and [women’s economic and social rights] in particular, can only benefit them.”


Photo by UN Women Asia and the Pacific



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