Almost a year on from their adoption, time is already running out to ensure that the goals can deliver on the promise of women’s rights for all women across the globe.
In September 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The SDGs are more comprehensive, ambitious, and unlike the MDGs, applicable to both developed and developing nations. Almost a year on from their adoption, time is already running out to ensure that the goals can deliver on the promise of women’s rights for all women across the globe.
For women’s rights activists, there is much to celebrate about the framework; there is a standalone goal on gender equality (SDG 5) and women’s rights are mainstreamed throughout the framework, and the goals are grounded in international human rights law. For a fantastic depiction of the gender equality goal watch this video, using none other than the Spice Girl’s track “Wannabe” to promote women and girl’s empowerment.
We’ve worked with the most vulnerable women for more than twenty years and are constantly inspired by the changes they realise in their lives with just a bit of support. Women like Caritas who fled the Rwandan genocide and returned home to find her crops, home and community destroyed. Caritas is now the leader of a beehive cooperative which is so successful that the local government is actively investing in their work. We’re determined to help more women like Caritas an achieve their dreams and the SDGs are an important opportunity for a step-change in progress on women’s rights.
But time is already running out and governments urgently need to develop national strategies to really deliver change on the ground for the women we support in conflicted affected communities across the world. The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) recently released research on the first 1,000 days of Agenda 2030, which highlights how important it is for governments to begin making progress towards the goals in the first 3 years. Everyone has an important role to play to make sure the SDGs deliver.
Raising women’s voices: Women have a right to have their voices heard and to influence the decisions that affect their lives and we are determined to make sure that women like Caritas are heard in the implementation of the SDGs. We will be doing this by supporting women to become Change Agents in their communities and building connections with local women’s organisations for advocacy. Governments need to be ensuring genuine consultation with local women’s organisations and making funding accessible for them.
Engaging more men in the fight for gender equality: We need to work with men as allies. In the most repressive societies male champions can really open up spaces for women’s voices to be heard and acted upon at a community level, and support their wives and daughters to get an education and earn an income.
Making sure existing women’s rights commitments are met: Comprehensive international standards for women’s rights exist and the SDGs should be seen as step towards this, not an alternative commitment. Key standards such as the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women have a huge role to play, and must be the foundations for all plans to meet all SDGs (not just SDG 5).
Greater coherence across the security and development agendas: The World Bank and OECD estimate that, by the deadline for the SDGs (2030), the least developed countries will be conflict-affected. For the SDGs to be realised, we need to be thinking about security and development together and linking up people, initiatives and programmes. For more than twenty years we have been providing development support in conflict-affected countries and we know it is possible and effective, albeit difficult. A really practical way that governments can do this is to for SDG plans to build on commitments made under the Women, Peace and Security Framework.
Stay tuned for more information later in the year about the part we will play, and how we will make sure the women we work with are front and centre.