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December 14, 1986|Laurien Alexander

WOMEN IN THE WORLD: AN INTERNATIONAL ATLAS by Joni Seager and Ann Olson (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster: A Pluto Press Project: $12.95, paperback). Behind every statistic describing human existence, there is a woman's story to be told. Down every path of human endeavor, one finds the female experience. Too often, however, that story has been ignored or devalued. "Women in the World: An International Atlas" is one significant step toward rectification of that injustice. More than 40 beautifully designed maps and numerous accompanying charts illustrate the world of women, showing global inequities between the sexes in different regions and nations.

There are the painful generalizations: In terms of health, education, power and myriad other topics, women everywhere are worse off than men. In both rich and poor countries, women have less power, less money, less education, fewer resources and more responsibility.

That women's lives are both absolutely and relatively better off in industrialized nations is disputed by some striking patterns. To name but a few: Women make up less than 20% of university faculty but almost 100% of primary school teachers in both Saudi Arabia and Austria. In Haiti, women constitute 5% of media employees, in Japan, 2%. Both Romania and Chad have equally repressive policies restricting women's access to contraceptives.

Then there are the startling differences: Four percent of Afghanistan's girls are enrolled in secondary school, while 88% are in Australia.

Jamaica's maternal mortality rate stands at 106 mothers' deaths for every 100,000 births; in Norway there are fewer than eight deaths. Ghanese women bear an average of more than six children, West Germany's women fewer than two. Genital mutilation is still practiced on 80-100% of women in several African countries. And, women are 72% of the doctors in the Soviet Union and 13% in the United States.

This concise atlas is an invaluable reference that reminds the reader of that "invisible" woman's story. The bleakness of its message--that in the world of women, there are few "developed" countries--is only tempered by realizing that that story now no longer remains invisible.

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