World

U.S. Makes 'Shocking' Entry on List of Worst Countries to Be A Girl

USA girls
Girls play in New Orleans, Louisiana, August 23, 2007. Mario Tama/Getty

The United States has made a “shocking” entry in a list of the best and worst countries to live if you are a girl due to a lack of gender parity in government and a terrible mortality rate for women of color.

Despite being the world’s biggest economy, the U.S. ranked 32 out of 144 countries in the Girls’ Opportunity Index—a report published by leading charity Save the Children today.

The country came in lower than Algeria and Kazakhstan, and 17 places behind the U.K.

A number of high-income countries have performed considerably worse than might be expected. Australia, for example, came in at 21, contrasting significantly with its position in number 2 in the UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI).

CEO and president of Save the Children, Carolyn Miles, tells Newsweek the results are largely down to the country’s low proportion of female MPs and relatively high adolescent fertility rate.  Maternal mortality figures also made it impossible for the U.S. to rank any higher.

“One of the most shocking aspects of this report is the discovery that some of the developed countries have the worst cases of women being underrepresented in government,” she explained.

“It is so incredibly important to have women in these positions, fighting for women’s issues and standing as role models for future generations. Also, in the case of the United States, it’s women of color who have such high mortality rates. This is huge racial inequality and injustice.”

Fourteen women died per 100,000 live births in the USA in 2015; a similar number to Uruguay and Lebanon, and far higher than the three deaths per 100,000 in Poland, Greece and Finland.

The report revealed that most countries are struggling to achieve gender parity among MPs, regardless of the size of their economy. Only three of the countries with the highest proportion of female MPs are high-income countries—Sweden, Finland and Spain.

Rwanda tops the table with 64 percent of female MPs, followed by Bolivia and Cuba. In contrast, only 19 percent of members of Congress in the U.S. are women, and only 29 percent of members of Parliament in the U.K.

In July, Newsweek explored the issue of pregnant women’s medical care being influenced by race in the U.S. Save the Children ranked the country 61st in the world when it came to maternal health—despite the fact that the U.S. spends more than any other country on Earth on health care and more on childbirth-related care than any other area of hospitalization. African-American women face nearly four times higher risk of death from pregnancy complications than white women.

Index girls STC Save the Children's index of the best and worst countries to be a girl, October 11, 2016. Save the Children