WeWorld Index 2022 finds a world still deeply unequal
Today, 1 in 2 children and more than 1 in 3 women live in countries where they experience some form of exclusion. Without drastic change, it will take 182 years to reach an adequate level of inclusion for them.
(New York, NY). An annual report published by WeWorld, a member of ChildFund, notes a world that is still deeply unequal, where 1 in 2 children and more than 1 in 3 women live in countries where they experience different forms of exclusion. These low levels of inclusion, from an economic, social and fundamental rights perspective, are among the key findings of WeWorld Index 2022 – Women and children breaking down barriers to build the future.
WeWorld has been advocating for the rights of women and children in 27 countries, including Italy, for 50 years, and has published the Index since 2015. This year’s report, measuring the level of inclusion of women and children in almost 170 countries, is now a flagship product of the ChildFund Alliance: a global network of 11 child-centred humanitarian and development organizations working to create opportunities for children and young people, their families and communities.
Inclusion affects multiple spheres of life: from access to education, health services and living in safe places, to equal rights in terms of social participation, from access to public services to the ability to fully and freely express their personality. The Annual Index identifies four pillars for asserting and exercising the rights of women and children: health, education, economy and society. All are inextricably linked to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a set of 17 interrelated global goals designed to serve as a blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all.
The index includes all countries with more than 200,000 inhabitants for which data are available. It brings together 30 indicators related to the building blocks essential to the implementation of women’s and children’s rights. Unfortunately, as this year’s report highlights, the world is not on track to achieve the SDGs, and progress towards improving the lives of the world’s most vulnerable groups of people has slowed. In seven years, the world has only progressed by 1.5 points on the WeWorld index. This means that at this rate, it would take 182 years to achieve an adequate level of inclusion for women and children around the world.
Knowing this, the 2022 Index specifically focuses on five (5) main obstacles that hinder the future of children and young people: poverty, conflict, forced migration, climate change and online risks. The report looks at the cross-effects of the crises that characterize today’s world and their impact on the living conditions of children.
“The report highlights that the great challenge of our time is to secure a future for boys and girls,” said Marco Chiesara, president of WeWorld. “The impact of the war in Ukraine is not yet recorded in this edition, but it will probably become a significant point in the next one. What is clear from this edition is how the pandemic has affected the health sector, while fueling inequalities: distribution of vaccines only in the North of the world, online education that has disadvantaged or excluded entire groups of poorest children. The result moves away from the goals of the 2030 Agenda and shows an increase in the exclusion of women and children in many countries. As indicated in the report, the obstacles to inclusion are numerous: this is why it is essential to intervene with targeted and multi-sectoral policies. Women and children must be considered both as subjects and actors of change, and for this reason, local, national and supranational institutions must finally put their future at the center.
“It is essential that the world pay attention to how the effects of these five barriers intertwine, creating a threatening combination that could potentially jeopardize the future of an entire generation and those to come,” said Meg Gardinier, Secretary General of Child Fund Alliance. “While there remains important work to be done, I am encouraged by the collaborative efforts of ChildFund members and our partners to create a more inclusive world where children and women are guaranteed their rights and are able to realize their full potential.”
The final ranking of the WeWorld Index 2022, which analyzes 166 countries, once again places Northern Europe and Continental Europe at the top, being the most inclusive areas for women and children. Norway, Iceland and Sweden are in the lead, followed by Denmark and Finland.
Unfortunately, the same goes for the countries at the bottom of the ranking: the three worst countries for the inclusion of women and children are the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Chad. Since 2015, the first year of publication of the WeWorld Index, a group of countries have never progressed, remaining at the bottom of the ranking; in particular, sub-Saharan Africa is the least inclusive region for women and children, with countries that experience chronic poverty, political instability and undemocratic governments.
Children – With regard to children, the deterioration of living conditions has been recorded, above all, in the field of education: a very serious problem because education is the main factor guaranteeing fundamental rights, empowerment and ability to create their future.
Women – The WeWorld 2022 index records a timid improvement in the status of women worldwide, but many critical problems remain: the participation of women in the workplace is not increasing and women often remain victims of discrimination.
The five barriers
Globally, today 1 in 2 children (50.4%) and more than 1 in 3 women (38%) live in countries where they experience some form of exclusion. Five global barriers stand in the way of achieving an adequate level of inclusion: poverty, conflict, forced migration, climate change and online risks for children. For each barrier, the report analyzes the negative effects, while providing good practices and recommendations for overcoming them, offered by ChildFund Alliance, a network of 11 child-focused humanitarian and development organizations, including WeWorld.
POVERTY: Around 10% of the world’s population still lives in conditions of extreme poverty. Among them, children are more than twice as likely to be poor as adults (World Bank, 2020). 127 million girls of primary and secondary school age are out of school (UNESCO, 2022).
Recommendations: Social protection systems must be established and strengthened from an intergenerational perspective. A set of family-friendly policies should provide quality and affordable services in areas such as nutrition, education, and physical and mental health.
CONFLICTS: In 2020, according to the WeWorld Index, 1 in 6 children – 452 million worldwide – lived in a conflict zone (Peace Research Institute of Oslo, 2021); between 2005 and 2020, more than 93,000 children were recruited and used by belligerents (UNICEF, 2022).
Recommendations: G7 countries should close the funding gap in emergency education and humanitarian response by improving the quality of evidence-based advocacy and financial data, and supporting the Cannot Wait (ECW) Education Fund .
FORCED MIGRATION: Today, nearly one in three children living outside their country of birth is a refugee child (UNICEF, 2021); nearly half of refugee children worldwide still cannot go to school (UNHCR, 2021).
Recommendations: provide technical support to strengthen child-friendly law enforcement at all stages of the migration journey. Work with authorities to provide technical support to establish child-friendly law enforcement, including border control procedures.
CLIMATE CHANGE: The effects of the climate crisis are primarily affecting the world’s poorest countries and their most vulnerable groups: around 1 billion children worldwide face “considerable risk” due to the consequences of climate change (UNICEF , 2021).
Recommendations: Ensure that the best interests of children and their rights are included in all national climate plans, including national adaptation plans.
ONLINE RISKS: According to Interpol, there are on average 7 victims of online child sexual exploitation every day. Over 60% of unidentified victims are prepubescent, including infants and toddlers, and 65% of victims of online abuse are girls. Among older children, more than a third of teenagers report being victims of cyberbullying, with 1 in 5 skipping school for fear of cyberbullying. Here are some of the data on online risks for children and young people, analyzed by the WeWorld 2022 Index: The increase in internet use during the pandemic has exacerbated the problem, making it increasingly urgent targeted solutions.
Recommendations: Strengthen laws and policies to protect children from online threats and equip them with the tools they need to participate in civic engagement online safely, ethically and responsibly as part of their development, as indicated by the ChildFund Alliance, WEB Safe & Wise campaign “Creating a better digital world with children”.
ChildFund Alliance is a global network of 11 child-focused humanitarian and development organizations helping nearly 23 million children and their families in 70 countries. We work to end violence and exploitation of children; provide emergency and disaster expertise; and engage in partnership with children, families and communities to create lasting change. Our commitment, resources and expertise are a powerful force in transforming children’s lives by using our global voice with and for children to address threats to their lives, safety and well-being.
WeWorld is an independent Italian organization active in 27 countries, including Italy. Through 129 projects, WeWorld reaches more than 8.1 million direct beneficiaries and 55.6 million indirect beneficiaries. It is active in Italy, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Libya, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mali, Niger, Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, Cuba, Peru, Thailand, Cambodia, Ukraine and Moldova. Girls, children, women and young people, agents of change in each community, are the protagonists of WeWorld’s projects and campaigns in the following areas of intervention: human rights (gender equality, prevention and fight against violence children and women, migration), humanitarian aid (prevention, relief and rehabilitation), food security, water, hygiene and health, education and education, socio-economic development and environmental protection, education for global citizenship and international volunteering.