Disparities in the treatment of women have widened across countries in the wake of the COVID-19, according to the third annual Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Index

Georgetown University’s Institute for Women (GIWPS) and the PRIO Center on Gender, Peace, and Security published and released the report, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the United Nations on Tuesday.

The index is based on data that measures women’s inclusion, justice access, and security in 170 countries. Norway, Finland, and Iceland topped the list on women’s well-being, while Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen were at the bottom. This year’s report showed a larger range in scores, with the top score three times better than the worst compared to two times better in 2017. 

“Slowing rates of progress for women can be traced to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has widened gender gaps in paid employment and care burdens, and heightened risks of intimate partner violence,” Dr. Jeni Klugman, GIWPS managing director and WPS Index lead author, said in a press release. 

South Asia fell to last place in regional rankings and behind sub-Saharan Africa for the first time due to the region’s high levels of legal discrimination, domestic violence, low inclusion levels, and discriminatory gender norms. Fewer than 1 in 4 women in South Asia holds a paying job, which is less than half of the global average. 

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the return of the Taliban is undoing progress toward achieving gender equality and dropped the country’s WPS Index score by 28% since 2017. Conditions are worse for women in southeastern provinces of the country due to long-lasting conflict. 

The WPS Index now also measures the state of forcibly displaced women. Results from countries across Africa, including Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan, found that displaced women and girls face a higher risk of all forms of gender-based violence, economic inequality, and financial exclusion and felt less free to move around. Displaced women experienced an average disadvantage of about 24% and face higher risks of violence at home than host community women, as high as 42% in South Sudan.

“The massive challenges created by the pandemic mean that intersectional analysis and policymaking are more important than ever as governments and communities strive to build back better,” Klugman said. 

See the full lists of WPS’ top and lowest 10 lists below and explore every country included in the report here.

The Best Countries to Be a Woman in 2021

  1. Norway
  2. Finland
  3. Iceland
  4. Denmark
  5. Luxembourg
  6. Switzerland
  7. Sweden
  8. Austria
  9. United Kingdom
  10. Netherlands
The Worst Countries to Be a Woman in 2021

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Syria
  3. Yemen
  4. Pakistan
  5. Iraq
  6. South Sudan
  7. Chad
  8. DR Congo
  9. Sudan
  10. Sierra Leone


Demand Equity

The 10 Best and Worst Countries to Be a Woman in 2021

By Leah Rodriguez