Global Trends in Womens Access and Leadership: Data from five IFES Surveys

Publication Date: 
31 May 2000

Publication Type:




For more than two decades the United Nations has strived to promote women's development in the political, economic, and social spheres throughout the world. In particular, the UN has focused on increasing women's rights in relation to social, economic and political structures in contemporary societies. The Fourth UN Conference in Beijing in 1995 evaluated the progress made in women's participation, definitions of women's rights and human rights, and on issues of female empowerment worldwide. A "Platform for Action" was drafted that all the member nations could adopt to redress gender inequalities in their social systems.


These actions have coincided with a general dispersion of democracy throughout the world, which has led to optimism that women can acquire important political, economic, and human rights in these new democracies. The goal of the present Special Session of the UN General Assembly, "Beijing+5", is to examine how the Platform for Action has been implemented in different parts of the globe during the last five years, and to continue the process of empowerment of women worldwide.


Through this paper, IFES seeks to utilize public opinion data to show that despite the efforts of the UN and member countries, there still exist large differences between men and women and how they see themselves as members of the society and political system at large. This paper presents survey data from five developing democracies in which IFES has conducted research over the past five years: Belarus, Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. This paper will analyze how women in these countries differ from men on important socio-political issues. At the same time, differences among women from the five countries on these issues will be compared.


Critical areas of concern observed and analyzed in this paper include the following:


         Women's participation in national and local elections (number and reasons),

         Women's access to political and economic information (sources and amount of information);

         Women's assessment of their economic well-being and economic situation in their countries;

         Women's knowledge about political matters (attitudes toward political parties, human rights, market, and democracy);

         Women's attitudes toward non-governmental organizations and understanding of the importance of such organizations;

         Women's assessment of corruption and crime in their respective countries;

         Women's trust in social institutions;

         Women's level of education, well-being, and employment compared with men; and

         Differences in attitudes among women by age, education, and location.


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