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SDGs 2030: Through a Gendered Lens

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The Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 are striving to reduce poverty worldwide, increase the number of people in schools, eliminate hunger, and mitigate climate change. And there is one goal that remains at the center of all others — Goal #5: Gender Equality.

A new report from UN Women, “Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” puts the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the spotlight, looking at its progress in terms of gender equality and the current status of women worldwide.

Photo: Sanjeev Gupta, Washington Post

Across a number of different sectors globally, women are among those most vulnerable to inequity and injustices. Research from the UN Women’s report shows that women between the ages of 25-34 have a 22% higher rate of poverty than men; there a 15 million girls not in primary school; and there still remains an alarming 23% pay gap between women and men in the job market.

Additionally, as research and WEA’s work points out, women often have less access to jobs, and face more legal barriers when it comes to owning land, accessing credit and inheriting wealth. Women are more likely to be primarily responsible for unpaid forms of work, including childcare, cooking and housework. As a result of a combination of these and other key factors, women are often placed at greater risk of food insecurity, physical or sexual violence, and climate change impacts.

For these reasons, while the SDGs are inspiring and necessary in their work towards a more sustainable future, the way in which the UN measures the overall success of the SDG’s must go beyond siloed data points like “national averages,” and take into account the realities of people and communities that may slip through the cracks of this data. Gender equality is not a single issue struggle. In order to see true progress on Goal #5, each and every Sustainable Development Goal must be analyzed with accurate gender-specific data to ensure equality is being met, something that is currently lacking in measurements for success and progress.

“The evidence is clear: If we want to solve the world’s biggest problems, we need to break down the silos and work together across issues, sectors, and geographies — with women at the center,” – Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver.

The UN Women’s report states that, though achieving the SDGs is indeed a global priority, there has been limited action by governments to reshape policies, investments and programs to support gender equality around the world. The way forward, the report suggests, is a revolution in democratic governance and public action to make theory a reality. This includes action and cooperation between communities and powerful global players (sovereign states, international financial institutions and transnational corporations). The report suggests that better gender-specific data collection, aligning policies and programs with this data, increasing financial support for women’s organizations, and creating community participation in this work will help us move to a more equitable future.

“Women’s rights organizations were effective in building coalitions and alliances to put gender equality at the center. Such participatory processes and strategic alliances are also needed to ensure effective and gender responsive implementation, follow up and review.”Turning Promises into Action Report

Since our launch in 2006, WEA has been dedicated to nurturing these efforts by uplifting and connecting grassroots, women leaders around the world. These leaders know first-hand the impacts—social, economic and environmental—their communities continue to experience that are often caused or exacerbated by gender inequality.

WEA’s work strongly aligns with the goals of the SDGs as well as UN Women’s findings. We know that the way forward is through the leadership of these grassroots women who are building the strategies, solutions, and solidarity needed to address the threats and injustices their communities face.

Photo: Women’s Earth Alliance

Around the world, WEA women are preserving indigenous seeds and plant knowledge key to our survival; selling clean cookstoves that save lives and reduce the destruction of the forests; modeling the small-scale regenerative farming practices that will feed our planet; protecting our dwindling water sources; staving off destructive and toxic energy extraction; and shaping cultures of peace. They are winning political positions, building grassroots movements, expanding economic opportunities, and most importantly, passing on their knowledge to thousands of other emerging leaders.

To achieve these Sustainable Development Goals, putting women at the center is essential—not just as beneficiaries of policies and aid, but as architects of transformation. 

For more resources and insights on the Turning Promises into Action Report, see:

Women4Climate Conference: Mexico City

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The 2nd Annual Women4Climate Conference took place yesterday in Mexico City, where women leaders from across the globe came together to discuss the response of cities to climate change and the important role women have in shaping our collective future, particularly in urban areas.

Women leaders in government — such as mayors from cities including Rome, Washington D.C., Madrid, Seattle, Capetown, and Montreal — gathered together with innovative women changemakers and business leaders to focus on critical issues like air quality, climate resilience, social inclusion and innovation, sustainable global food systems, climate change through a business lens, and how men and women can work together to create a sustainable future.

When looking at the future of cities, questions arose such as will decision-makers in these urban spaces choose to build new luxury apartments, or instead redesign pavements so that more water will return to the earth rather than runoff into the oceans? Will they choose to design new malls, or instead build sea walls to protect communities from frequent storms and sea level rise? Answers to these questions facing city planners will decide the impacts that climate change will have on the communities living within these city boundaries, as well as the global population effected by these choices.

“Cities will be the battleground and women can be effective warriors on the front-lines in the fight against climate change.” — Women at the Front Can Help Defeat Global Warming, say Leaders

Not only did Women4Climate attendees discuss the future of cities, but also the future of the next generation of women leaders. As part of the conference, young women dedicated to climate action are receiving training and mentorship to transform their visions for a sustainable future into reality. During the inaugural Women4Climate Conference in 2017, Paris and Mexico City launched the first mentorship programs for emerging women leaders. Each mentee developed their own individual project alongside their mentor, with topics ranging from on site clean energy for businesses in Mexico to strategies to hold restaurants accountable for their ecological impacts in Paris. Take a look at all of the inspiring women leaders and their projects here.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo speaks during the C40 Cities Women4Climate event on March 15, 2017 in New York City. Photo: C40 Cities
(L-R) Mark Watts, Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, Cape town Mayor Patricia de lille, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Alexandra Plat, Durban Mayor Zandile Gumede and Caracas Mayor Helen Fernandez. Photo: C40 Cities

“Men have had their time in power and brought us here; now it is time for women to also lead. Yes, we are unstoppable. And our movement keeps growing. Join us and be a part of it.” – C40 Women Leaders

Read more about the event in the articles below:

A New Generation of Activists: Wonder Girls Book

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We’re always on the lookout for inspiring reads, and we’ve got one we can’t wait to share! Wonder Girls: Changing Our World is a call to action that shares the stories of 90 courageous young women activists from around the world who are boldly stepping forward to protect our Earth and uplift communities.

Author Paola Gianturco set out with her 11-year-old granddaughter and co-author, Alex Sangster, to uplift the voices and stories of these young women, and weave them together into a powerful anthology about truly being the change they wanted to see in the world.

“As girls came into their early teens, they were so outraged at the social injustices that they experienced and observed that they marshaled that outrage into activity. They tended to cluster in groups and find power and strength in numbers. I saw that they were causing real change, and I wanted to document it.” — Paola Gianturco, author

Paola traveled for three years and spent time with 15 different girl-led non-profits, documenting and photographing their stories. She worked with interpreters throughout her solo travels who helped to create space for the girls themselves to ensure their voices were portrayed authentically. Paola’s journey took her to across the world, from Malawai to Indonesia, Krygistan to India, and to the United States as well.

What if we told you that Bali’s government is working to be plastic-free by 2018 based on the initiative of two sisters aged 10 and 12 years old? Or that the youth of the Shaheen Women’s Center in India create art that influences police surveillance in high harassment and molestation zones? These are just some of the stories featured Wonder Girls which show that change is not only possible, but it is most impactful when it comes from the ground up with visionary women leading the way.

“These are all women who are actively changing the world, starting in their own communities, and just as you all encourage support for the kinds of issues that the women in my books are supporting, my books also encourages readers to take action on behalf of women and girls they are championing.”  — Paola Gianturco, author


Paola has published six other titles and had her images exhibited at the United Nations, UNESCO, and The Field Museum/Chicago. Her granddaughter, Alex Sangster, a wonder girl herself, launched a children’s program at a global poverty conference in Mexico alongside her sister. Alex contributed meaningful and action-oriented sections at the end of each chapter of Wonder Girls titled, “How You can Change Our World” and conducted many of the interviews herself. She also contributed much of the photography for the Los Angeles and Mexico regions.

You can check out more of the book on the website Wonder Girls Book.

Olanike Olugboji on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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Olanike Olugboji, the Founder/Director of Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment, and WEA Project Lead for the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstove Project in Nigeria, recently attended the Inclusive Global Summer Institute at the Sié Center in Denver, Colorado. This gathering brings together women-identifying activists from around the world for a three day workshop that creates space for women to grow in their leadership skills for promoting peace, security, and human rights.

Olanike — who is also a WEA Founding Mother — has forged an amazing path for sustainability and economic independence for women in her community and beyond. She has initiated and held capacity building trainings for over 3,000 women to develop entrepreneurial skills to run their own Clean Cookstove businesses. These businesses provide the opportunity for women to have a positive impact on the environment, their health, and their household savings.

You can listen to Olanike speak on gender equality and women’s empowerment in this video from the Inclusive Global Leadership Summer Institute. You can also follow her initiatives on World Pulse.

“We can’t wait for leadership to be handed to us, we have what it takes. And we can move from that place of seeing ourselves as victims or people who are seeking help and change, to people who are creating change, people who are leading change. And that is why women must rise up” Olanike Olugboji.

Seeds of Resilience: An update from our Seed Savers in India

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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Our Seeds of Resilience project has been underway for almost a year now and we are excited to share the progress being made to date in Southern India! This project, in partnership with Vanastree, aims to build communities’ seed and food sovereignty, catalyze intergenerational traditional knowledge sharing and strengthen women’s leadership, especially in the face of chemical-based agriculture’s influence on the Western Ghats region and mounting threats of climate change.

Photo Credit: Vanastree

Organic Home Gardening and Seed Saving

“Women lead their communities in intergenerational knowledge transfer advocacy and behavior change for small scale food systems.” -Sunita, Founder of Vanastree

The project began with a series of trainings, gatherings and projects that brought a select group of 20 women farmers from Karnataka, India together to gain new home-scale food production skills, micro-finance management skills,leadership skills, and self-empowerment skills. More recently, the gatherings for seed saving practices and gardening skills have taken the shape of communal knowledge sharing spaces, where experienced master gardeners share the skills they have accumulated throughout their tenure with those women farmers who are newly learning. This element of the project has been extremely successful in transferring knowledge between women and keeping these intergenerational traditional practices alive!

Photo Credit: Vanastree

From the start of the project, the women farmers and seed savers were also encouraged to maintain home garden journals to help them know the plants they are growing in their gardens, what they eat from there, what problems they face and how they can improve their food gardens. This tool has been so successful that the women plan to continue keeping a new journal in the coming year.


Micro-Enterprises and Financial Management

A core aspect of the trainings  has been building the micro-enterprise and financial management capacity of the women participants. Trainings focused on helping women become more cognizant of the financial demands of running a profitable seed saving business, a concept the women found challenging to master.  A recent refresher training shed light on their struggles and led to Vanastree’s decision to provide ongoing support to the women to help ensure the long-term sustainability of their businesses.

Photo Credit: Vanastree

One master home gardener and seed saver, Suvarna (photo below), has a nursery from which she sells her very well-known dahlia flowers. The Seeds of Resilience trainings have taught her how to maintain accurate financial records of how much is going into maintaining and growing her nursery as well as what she is receiving for her life’s work.  

“The finance management and micro-enterprise training workshop made me think for the first time about money and resources that go into producing something. I learnt how to cost expenses, and to track profit and loss. It will take practice and time, but I can see how much more careful and aware I have become now.” -Suvarna, master gardener and seed saver

Photo Credit: Vanastree

Kusuma, another woman participant, has also been keeping financial records in order to help inform decisions on how to grow her enterprise of bamboo curios (earrings and things).


Growth and Leadership at Home and in Community

One of the most important things we believe at WEA is the power of women to become influential leaders in their communities. Our Seeds of Resilience training included a leadership workshop that was organized and facilitated  by Vanastree. After leaving the workshop, the women participants had a new understanding of what characteristics make up a leader:

“A leader is someone who is capable of listening to everyone’s joys and sorrows, melding it together, and taking people forward as one group, hands entwined.” -Vinoda Naik, woman farmer and trainee

“A leader is someone who inspires courage in people, gets them to boldly cross thresholds they have not crossed before…who wants progress for all, regardless of their caste or religion.” -Vasumati Bhat, woman farmer and trainee

In fact, one of the most powerful drivers emerging from this project is that although the women enjoy their time in their gardens, growing various things and sharing what they grow and learn in their communities, they have become even more motivated by the leadership skills they have acquired and wish to share with other women.

One woman, Gayathri, who grows a lot of vegetables in her home garden, told our partner — “I never left my home alone”. Her daughter did brilliantly in her high school and was admitted to an engineering college 100km away. Post-leadership workshop, Gayathri felt empowered to be solely responsible for accompanying her daughter to this new town, pay her daughter’s college fees, find and settle her daughter into a hostel, and then return home.  She said “If you told me this last year…that I could do this… I would not have believed it!”

Photo Credit: Vanastree

We are so excited to how these women grow their seed businesses and home gardens.  We also want to say a big thank you to our partner Vanastree for all the amazing work they are doing in this region!

For more on WEA’s work with women farmers in India, visit our Seeds of Resilience Project.