Where's the best place on earth to be a woman? These maps try to help you figure it out.

I hadn't heard of the United Nations' Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) until this report came my way. It came out in 1979, and since then, all but five countries in the world have signed on to it.

I live in the United States, which is one of those that hasn't gotten with the program just yet. The others — for those keeping score at home — are Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia.


This report surprised me, and I thought I knew about gender equality in the world. Check out these maps, and then go on over to their site to explore some more.

For one thing, more countries are at least saying the right thing when it comes to equality.

See all that green? Those are places where the constitution makes some provision for gender equality.



But then it gets dicier.

Here's the constitutional guarantee of primary education for girls. (The green is where it's free.)

But when you look at secondary education, suddenly, there's a lot more red.

Now, you might be seeing this and thinking, "Wait just a minute! I know that girls go to high school in Canada for free!" These maps show what is reflected in the countries' constitutions, not what is necessarily practiced on the ground. Those red areas simply do not mention educating young ladies in their constitutions, but many of them do provide secondary education for girls and boys.

Of course, this is all assuming that the girls aren't busy running their own households and having babies. School takes a good amount of free time.

In many countries, the minimum age when girls can get married is younger than it is for boys. This results in fewer girls completing a secondary education, a higher maternal mortality, and a greater risk of domestic abuse.

And how young, exactly, are we talking about here? Although nearly all countries have 18 years as the minimum age for people to marry, those laws are superseded by parental permission and religious or customary law.

When you take all of the possible exceptions into account, many countries effectively have no minimum age for marriage for girls.

File this under crazy things I learned today: In the United States, certain states have no minimum age for marriage with judicial and parental consent. And I know you're about to make a redneck joke here, but note that Alabama is not one of them. Delaware is though. There are also several U.S. states (ahem, Massachusetts) where the age of marital consent for girls is younger than it is for boys.

There's one area in which women get more benefits than men do: parental leave.

Most countries guarantee some amount of paid leave for mothers after the birth of a baby. Look how blessedly little red is on that map. And sorry, mamas in Papua New Guinea and Suriname. I'm right with you.

But for dads? Not so much. If you're a dad in Azerbaijan, have fun with your little bundle of joy. But if you're across the border in Iran or Georgia? No leave for you!

Just a note here, because it's confusing to look at, but dark green in the "paid leave for moms" map is "52 weeks or more." However, in the "paid leave for dads" map, it's "14 weeks or more," or equivalent to the light green, blue, and dark green on the moms map.

The truth is, as a planet, we're making real progress on treating humans equally, but ... reports like this one help us see where we are, how far we've come, and how far we still have to go.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

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In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

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First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.