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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:

U.S. withdraws from Paris Accord, and the impact on women

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Yesterday, U.S. government officials announced their decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement endorsed by almost all countries in the world. This agreement expresses a unified commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change.

A key question we are asking at WEA: What will this mean for women?

It’s no secret that women are often the most devastatingly impacted by climate change and environmental degradation — and this likelihood increases for women who face compounded issues of poverty and other socioeconomic disadvantages. In 2009, the United Nations Population Fund explained this dynamic in its “State of the World Population” report:

“Women — particularly those in poor countries — will be affected differently than men. They are among the most vulnerable to climate change, partly because in many countries they make up the larger share of the agricultural work force and partly because they tend to have access to fewer income-earning opportunities. Women manage households and care for family members, which often limits their mobility and increases their vulnerability to sudden weather-related natural disasters. Drought and erratic rainfall force women to work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes. Girls drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks. This cycle of deprivation, poverty and inequality undermines the social capital needed to deal effectively with climate change.”

The Paris Climate Accord, while not legally binding, is a key step down the path of outlining a plan for the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the most significant driver of climate change. Specifically, participating nations pledged to reduce their emissions by different amounts and report back on their progress. Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. committed to a 26-28% decrease in emissions by 2025.

And while the Accord sadly lacks a full gendered lens and analysis, the preamble does call for increased equality and women’s empowerment as necessary to combatting climate change. As Cathy Russell, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, stated, ”improving the lives of women and girls is ‘mission critical’ for saving the planet.

WEA was built to address this “mission critical” piece of the puzzle. As a global community, we cannot comprehensively address our world’s most pressing issues — of food, land, water, energy and, yes, climate change — without centering the importance of women’s agency. Women are the backbone of the community — they are the family caretakers, the food and fuel providers, and those who most often go without so that their children don’t need to. They are best positioned with the solutions that will see us through these challenging times.

Are we troubled by our government’s recent decision and current view on climate change? Yes, deeply. As this article shares:

“Refusing to acknowledge climate change’s detrimental effects on the world also means a refusal to acknowledge the ways it puts the lives and livelihood of many women around the world at risk. Removing the U.S. from the international agreement to combat harmful emissions not only proves the environment isn’t a priority for the Trump administration, it proves women aren’t a priority, either.”

That’s why we believe it’s a moment to double down on investing in our world’s grassroots women leaders. We look to our partners, to the grassroots women leaders around the world whose work on the ground for their communities, the earth, and future generations never retreats. We cannot wait for our governments to follow through on pledges of gender equality and environmental commitment. More than ever, we need to counteract global warming, environmental injustice and nationalistic separatism with creative investments in bridge-building, grassroots movement-building, and women.

Here is a roundup of a few articles addressing the impact that the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord will have on women:

 

An innovative partnership for peace, justice and environmental healing

Project: The Ripple Academy

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Have you heard about The Ripple Academy?

For the last 6 months, WEA and United Religions Initiative have worked together to develop a framework and launch this innovative new partnership, and we couldn’t be more excited to be working together to support more women around the world than ever before!

This holistic training program merges the very best of our organizational models, integrating leadership, conflict resolution, and peace-building with action-oriented skills and tools for on-the-ground impact. By combining WEA’s capacity-building training model with URI’s vast network of women’s circles around the world, thousands more will be reached and provided with the skills and tools necessary to spark lasting change.

For WEA and URI, this partnership has been like finding a long-lost sibling. As URI Executive Director Rev. Victor Kazanjian explains, our organizations share a “deep-rooted connection to the empowerment of grassroots people.” WEA and URI are both organizations deeply invested in listening rather than telling. We share the core understanding that the wisdom necessary for communities to create change already exists within those communities.

URI Director Rev. Victor Kazanjian (right) with special guests at the launch of “The Ripple Academy” in early March. Photo: Eli Zaturanski Photography

After years of arriving at the same conclusions – that environmental protection and women’s empowerment are essential precursors to developing stable and thriving communities worldwide – our organizations have chosen to link efforts to develop a unified strategy that will create a greater impact than either organization could achieve on its own.

For URI, this comes from years of understanding the nature of patriarchal religions, shares Victor. URI has worked in over 97 countries worldwide, and has seen that women are often the most effective grassroots leaders in their communities, despite the structural and societal limitations they face. This experience has strengthened URI’s commitment to working with and supporting women’s leadership networks. Women are getting the work done!

“What we know is this,” Victor says. “Where women thrive, communities thrive.” WEA obviously could not agree more!

The Ripple Academy is not about outside experts telling communities what is needed. This innovative partnership will provide training to women grassroots change-makers so they have the skills they need to affirm their own visions for their communities.

“We are both light framed organizations,” Victor explains, “we are not organizations looking to build a big center that dictates what should be done. We’re not a development agency. We push resources out into communities to women so they can create change in their own communities.

URI and WEA come together at a critical time – when efforts to build bridges across nations, learn from each other, and activate people power are needed more than ever. Our partnership enables both organizations to reach deeper and wider, catalyzing a global ripple effect that begins in our communities. The time is now.