7 Unexpected Countries Pioneering Change In The Women's Movement


Hooray for Iceland! Not only did it rank at the top of the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, it ranks #1 on our own list of countries with the best news for women. That’s when it became the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women for doing the same job. This law became effective January 1, 2018; and while similar legislation has been in place in Iceland since 1961, this is the first time specific steps have been drawn up to enforce this law for all companies with over 25 employees. If you just fell to earth from another planet, you might be confused as to why we need a law for what should be a given. If you’re an earthling, you won’t be surprised, since historically, presently and going forward, we have needed and still need laws to allow all “earthlings” to have equal opportunities in every segment of life! Iceland is so inclusive that they elected the first openly gay prime minister, Johanna Siguroardottir, in 2009.

The Nordic and Scandinavian countries top a variety of lists when it comes to being good countries for women. There has always been speculation as to why these countries earn this distinction as well as that of being among the happiest countries in the world. There is not one generally-accepted answer, but a contributor to this enviable status might be that because these countries don’t heavily invest in the war machine, they can use more funds to develop social programs that benefit their citizens. Among the most relevant programs supporting women are their generous maternity and paternity leave allowances. With an average of three months of leave for each parent after a child is born (taken separately), and greater in some of these countries, men now have equal work disruption time, so maternity leave does not automatically create as great a hindrance to women’s careers as it has in the past. Additionally, this shared leave-taking often leads men to continue taking on more child-rearing and household responsibilities as the child grows. Maybe the harsh climates of these countries and sparsely settled communities make excluding half of society based on gender simply untenable!

President Donald Trump’s alleged remarks about “ _ _ _ _hole countries” and how he would welcome more immigrants from Norway, is kind of ironic. He has, of course, denied making the former reference, but whether you believe him or not, it makes one chuckle and wonder why anyone would think Norwegians might be keen to come here—particularly women. For the past several years Norway has ranked in the top ten on the lists of both the best countries for women and the countries with the happiest people. “Thanks, but no thanks, Mr. Trump,” might be the giving response of many Norwegian females.

Although the same countries are repeatedly touted for their women-friendly policies, there are some surprising advances in gender equality in unexpected countries. Those of you living in some of the following seven countries might say “Are you kidding?”. While we agree they may still have a lot of work to do, these countries stand out for their efforts and improvement.

1. Rwanda

When the name Rwanda is mentioned, for many it is usually only associated with the well-known 1994 genocide in that country. What is less known is that after that horrible period in its history, the widows and families of the genocide’s victims worked to have laws passed mandating Parliament be comprised of at least 30 percent women. The numbers kept growing from there without referring to the legal ruling. Without a lot of worldwide fanfare, Rwanda has been moving forward since that time, and it now has the highest percentage of women in Parliament of any country in the world—a whopping 64 percent for the last four years. Globally women hold a total of only 23 percent of parliamentary or Senate seats.

Rwanda has made great advancements in healthcare—for both women and men. Although its healthcare is still below par comparatively speaking, the improvements made over the past decade have been the most dramatic the world has seen in the last half-century! This is a direct result of their adoption of an almost universal healthcare plan—approximately 90 percent of its population has coverage, and Rwanda is considered a developing nation and certainly not a wealthy one!

Jacinda Arden. Photo Courtesy of fouroverfour

“Today you wouldn’t find a single Rwandan -- man or woman -- who disputes that the influence and leadership of women have been essential to Rwanda’s social and economic progress.” -Juliana Kantengwa, Member of Rwandan Parliament and Vice President of the Pan-African Parliament

2. New Zealand

New Zealand was the first country to grant voting rights to women, and this was in 1893! New Zealand’s current Prime Minister is Jacinda Ardern, the world’s youngest female head of state and the third female to hold the title in this country. She has just announced that she is pregnant and will be taking a six-week leave (notable because it’s a lot less than the generous 18 to 22 weeks granted by New Zealand’s Parliament).

While the gender pay gap has been slightly reduced over the last decade, New Zealanders are working vigorously to uncover reasons why a gap remains and how to achieve equality in this arena. The government has announced it will implement a set of pay equity principles that will make it easier for women to file claims with their employers rather than going through the courts, speeding up an often extremely lengthy process. In another push for equality, in 2017, Simplicity, a non-profit retirement fund provider, which owns shares in the top 50 listed companies in New Zealand, wrote to all top 50 CEO’s advocating for full diversity in board and senior management within five years.

You go, New Zealanders, toward more firsts in female empowerment!

“…But the day when a female leader becomes so commonplace that it doesn’t merit comment – that will be the day when everything really will have changed.” - Jacinda Ardern

3. Nicaragua

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti, but it still has narrowed some gender gaps. Most notably, women’s representation as lawmakers, senior officials and managers is 40 percent, much higher than in many more developed countries. Its gender equality in health and survival rates is also quite good, and there are more girls and women than boys and men in secondary education. Nicaraguan women still face many challenges, but they are moving forward, albeit slowly. Rosario Murillo, the wife of President Daniel Ortega, was elected vice president in 2016. She is much more than a figurehead as she has great influence on government policies and is the official voice of the administration. While this may be the Ortegas’ bid to create another dynasty, for now, Ms. Murillo is the champion of many, giving women a very visible presence in this country’s government.

“…..As more women are present in the economic, social and political spaces, more women’s leadership is promoted because we have identified our leadership abilities.” -Rosario Murillo, First Lady and Vice President

Rosario Murillo. Photo Courtesy of La Prensa

4. Slovenia

Since their independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Slovenia has been making enormous leaps and bounds towards their goal of gender equality. Most notably, it boasts a third more women than men in tertiary education, and men earn less than 10 percent more than women. Why they should earn any more anywhere is an obvious question, but this is remarkable considering the global average is 27 percent. This means worldwide a woman earns about 73 cents for every dollar a man earns.

In Slovenia, women earn about 90 cents for every dollar men earn. Slovenian women are close to the finish line when it comes to eliminating gender gaps in education and pay. Women are taking on more and more entrepreneurial roles, and in 2017 Slovenian Ana Ros was voted the World’s Best Female Chef of the Year by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. On the minus side, female showing in technology hasn’t risen to the levels of other fields, and women have only a 37 percent share of seats in their national parliament. However unequal, this percentage is still higher than the global 23 percent average.

“…I continue to firmly believe that education is the most powerful way to promote and ensure women’s rights.” - First Lady Melania Trump

Choir of women in the Republic of Namibia. Photo Courtesy of LWF Assembly

5. Namibia

The Republic of Namibia won the 2017 African Gender Forum Award for its legal policy framework and for the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Africa! They have worked hard for women’s equality, and as of 2017 women’s enrollment in the Namibia University of Technology is slightly higher than that of men. The constitution of their country is one of the few with gender-neutral wording, and women now comprise over 50 percent of the working population. Although they have risen in numbers, women in government are still under-represented, but not when compared with many other African nations.

“We, in Namibia, believe that gender equity is equally important for a stable and harmonious society. In this regard, a policy decision by the ruling party to introducing a 50-50 representation at all party levels has led to a significant improvement of the representation of females, to 48 percent in Namibia’s National Assembly.” -Dr. Hage G. Geingob, President of Namibia

6. Philippines

Education equality is the real takeaway when discussing gender roles in the Philippines. Women represent a larger percentage in higher education than men, and the Philippines continues to have a larger representation of women in professional and technical fields. They have also risen to positions of enterprise and leadership and occupy a high percentage of ownership in partner-run businesses. As of 2017, women in parliament have almost double their numbers since 2005. However, the number of men in these roles is still almost twice that of women. Some Philippine women have complained that having more women in the workplace has only served to make men stay at home more without working or taking more responsibility for household tasks.

“But women cannot win this fight alone. We need men—evolved ones, kind ones, brave ones who are willing to stand up and speak against misogyny and bigotry, and help us create spaces for our women to lead in society.” -Former Vice President of Philippines, Leni Robredo, when addressing the First Southeast Asia Women’s Summit in 2017

7. Ireland

Maybe some will cringe at the mention of Ireland as improving in gender equality, but it has moved forward toward bettering the role of women in a land that historically has treated women as lesser members of society. Here are a few legal restrictions in place as recently as 1970 that are now off the books:

  1. Women couldn’t keep a public service job once they got married.
  2. You had to be a property owner to be a jurist, thus excluding most women in Ireland.
  3. The import, sale and distribution of contraceptives were illegal, so most women virtually had no access.
  4. Women couldn’t get restraining orders against violent partners.
  5. It wasn’t until 1976 that women were given the right to own their own homes.

Thankfully, there have been many more women-friendly changes in this country that still has a less than stellar reputation concerning gender equality. Women now rank equally with men in education and work in technical and professional areas. Their grades for equality in healthcare are also equal. Right now, their biggest impediment to equality is the lack of women in parliament, but their recent vote on abortion was a resounding step forward in the right direction.

“I was elected by the women of Ireland who instead of rocking the cradle rocked the system.” Mary Robinson, President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997

How does your country rate? Check it out this website.

This article was first published on 2/18.

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Patriarchy Stress Disorder is A Real Thing and this Psychologist Is Helping Women Overcome It

For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.

As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.

What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein

This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.

Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.

Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.

In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.

"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."