Women feel safer in the UAE than any other country, according to a major survey by Georgetown University.
The Women, Peace and Security Index is in its third year and gives insight into the changing patterns in women’s empowerment across the globe.
The UAE was ranked first in terms of community safety, with 98.5 per cent of women saying they felt safe walking alone in their neighbourhoods at night. Singapore came second at 96.9 per cent.
The index plotted the percentage of women aged 15 and older who reported if they felt safe walking alone at night in the city or area in which they lived.
Researchers said measuring this safety perception was critical to a woman's mobility and influenced her ability to look for opportunities outside the home.
The study was published by Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute Oslo.
Afghanistan was listed as the nation in which women feel the least safe, with Syria faring the worst globally on counts of organised violence and regionally on community safety.
In the developed world, more men than women felt safe walking alone at night in countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
Latin America performed poorly on community safety. A little more than one woman in three felt safe at night, compared with almost four women in five in East Asia and the Pacific.
More than 80 countries showed improvements, with the number of Malaysian women who felt safe rising to 49 per cent from 31 per cent.
Earlier this year, a separate survey by Numbeo named Abu Dhabi as the safest city in the world, with Dubai and Sharjah also in the top 10.
Overall rankings on women's empowerment
The survey seeks to highlight how lasting peace is possible when women have better access to jobs, are represented in decision-making and involved in conflict resolution.
The UAE climbed to 24, from 43 four years ago. The Emirates placed just behind the US, Belgium and Australia in the list that was led by Nordic countries.
Norway, Finland, Iceland and Denmark were the top performers based on public polices that promote inclusion, ensure parental leave for women and men, and offer state-sponsored childcare.
Mothers and fathers had access to at least one year paid parental leave to even out childcare responsibilities in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the study said.
“Tracking the progress of women and pinpointing persistent structural gender inequalities are critical to informing equitable policymaking, especially in efforts to build back better in the wake of Covid,” said Jeni Klugman, managing director of the Georgetown Institute.
The UAE was also among 16 countries where the representation of women in parliament increased by at least 10 per cent. Women’s parliamentary representation still averages only about one in four globally.
The research reflected a worsening of inequalities among countries at the bottom of the list.
The rise of the Taliban and the threats faced by girls and women in Afghanistan resulted in the country being the worst performer on the index, followed by Syria, Yemen, Pakistan and Iraq.
For the first time, South Asia featured as the worst performing region, showing high levels of discrimination, violence by intimate partners and discriminatory norms that disenfranchise women. Fewer than one woman in four in the region was in paid work – that is less than half the global average.
Pandemic job losses higher among women than men
Researchers said the Covid-19 pandemic triggered further challenges for women who juggled paid jobs and unpaid care.
The pandemic caused major reversals in rates of paid employment for women. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 17 million women lost paid work compared to 14 million men.
Globally, nine in 10 women, mostly young, urban and less educated are unemployed compared to seven in 10 men, dealing a blow to savings potential and intensifing the gender gap.
Women-owned businesses closed at higher rates as they were smaller in size and operated in the informal sector, so they were exposed to financial risk and had less cash to cover costs.
Data showed violence against women in a relationship in Iran soared to 65 per cent from 54 per cent and that job losses for women or their partner dramatically increased the likelihood of aggression.
On the legal front, the Middle East and North Africa was the worst performing region in terms of the number of discriminatory laws.
Saudi Arabia gained 18 slots to land in 102nd place in 2021. Researchers said this was due to improved access to schooling of girls and legal reforms that eased restrictions on women’s employment.
Safest cities for women walking at night - Georgetown University Institute