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Women Around the World: This Week

by Rachel Vogelstein
April 14, 2017

Girl germany child marriage refugee A girl holds a toy at a refugee shelter run by German charity organisation Arbeiter Samariter Bund ASB in Berlin, Germany, December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

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Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, covering from April 8 to April 14, was compiled with support from Becky Allen, Alyssa Dougherty, and Loren Grier.

Germany combats child marriage

Germany has drafted a law to combat child marriage among refugees and migrants entering the country. The law, set to be approved by parliament in July, will raise the federal age of consent for marriage from sixteen to eighteen, annul underage marriages conducted abroad, and impose a fine on individuals who circumvent the law by marrying minors in traditional or religious ceremonies rather than state ceremonies. The debate over foreign child marriages has been percolating in Germany since last summer, when the country’s Central Register of Foreign Nations released findings that nearly 1,500 minors of foreign descent in Germany had been married as of July 2016. The largest group—44 percent—had come from Syria, where many parents fleeing violence view the harmful practice as a way to protect girls and provide economic relief during times of instability.

Thailand improves gender equality in the workforce

Workplace gender equality in Thailand is steadily improving, according to a new report. Thai women now hold 37 percent of senior roles—compared to a global average of 25 percent—which represents a six point improvement over the past decade. Regionally, Thailand now ranks third in women’s representation in the workforce, behind Indonesia (46 percent) and the Philippines (40 percent), but with significantly higher participation rates than Asia-Pacific economies like Japan and South Korea (around 13 percent). “Many of today’s companies [in the region] are still run by male-only teams and…are in danger of myopia when it comes to risk,” suggests Francesca Lagerberg, a contributor to this year’s report, referencing evidence linking women’s leadership to improved corporate accountability and higher performance.

Fortune 500 companies invest in women

Walmart, Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Mondelēz, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble, announced a new Fortune 500 company initiative to source more products from women-owned businesses around the world. The effort will expand upon Walmart’s five-year global Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) initiative, which sourced $20 billion from women-owned businesses within the U.S. and internationally. Under the new initiative, leading companies will seek to buy food, children’s toys, clothing, and other retail items from farms and suppliers owned and operated by women. The initiative also aims to raise public awareness of the value of women’s economic advancement: “Empowering women entrepreneurs and women-owned firms is smart business and smart economics,” said Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company.

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