At the Nordiskt Forum, many of the sessions focused on the Post-2015 agenda and the way forward for women and girls in regards to global development goals, indicators and targets. Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, attended several sessions and panels focusing particularly on the Post-2015 agenda and the priorities for ensuring that women and girls, and their rights and well-being, remain central to that agenda.
During a plenary session, a high level panel with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Carolyn Hannan and Felix Köning discussed the process of developing a post-2015 development agenda that is more inclusive of gender equality and women’s and girls’ issues than the previous MDGs have been. In her remarks, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted weaknesses with the current Millennium Development Goals, such as inadequate data and indicators to measure progress for women and girls and improvements with gender equality, but also highlighted the gains and successes that have been achieved, such as notable decrease in maternal and newborn deaths around the world. That being said, with nearly 800 women still dying in childbirth every day – mostly from preventable causes – it is clear that much more needs to be achieved, and fast, for women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment to be fully realized everywhere in the world.
Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka also underlined the importance of ensuring that all girls and women – despite where they are born and where they live – get to enjoy the same level of protection, care and rights. Throughout the day at Nordiskt Forum, she noted on several occasions that
What we consider to be good for a girl in Nigeria must be the same as we consider to be good for a girl in Geneva. The life of a girl must be valued the same, despite where she lives.
Mlambo-Ngcuka participated in a panel discussion on the Post-2015 Agenda with Gréta Gunnarsdóttir, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations; Luisa Emilia Reyes Zuniga representing civil society from Mexico; and Aase Smedler, Board Member of UN Women’s National Committee of Sweden. During this very engaging discussion, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka noted that the Open Working Group that is drafting the new Post-2015 agenda with inputs and suggestions from key stakeholders, has included gender equality as one of the current 17 suggested targets. She also noted that while the agreed upon deadline for making gender equality a reality has been set at year 2030, we do not need to wait that long – the sooner all women and girls can enjoy the same respect, same rights and full equality everywhere in the world, the better we all will be.
Luisa Emilia Reyes Zuniga spoke about the importance of ensuring that civil society’s voice and inputs from youth are included in the negotiations and discussions, and feed into the final Post-2015 agenda. All panelists agreed that it is absolutely crucial to ensure that there are adequate, measurable and trackable indicators so that progress can be properly assessed. Mlambo-Ngcuka also noted that in addition to robust quantitative indicators and data, we must also understand the importance of qualitative data and indicators in measuring women’s and girls’ experiences, well-being and empowerment.
A common thread across all the sessions on the Post-2015 agenda was the importance of ensuring that violence against women and girls and sexual and reproductive health and rights are properly included in the goals, targets and indicators. It is clear that without being able to live a life free of violence, and without control over their fertility and reproductive decisions and ability to protect themselves from STDs and unwanted pregnancies, women and girls will not be able to fully enjoy their rights as citizens, nor will they be able to reach their full potential and contribute to the well-being and development of their families, societies and nations.
At Nordiskt Forum, reaching agreement on these issues was not hard – everyone there agreed that women and girls must remain central to the Post-2015 agenda not only as rights-holders, but also as active key agents of development and change without whom it will be impossible to fully implement sustainable development and progress. However, we must move beyond preaching to the converted – decision makers, politicians, key stakeholders, funders and the private sector must all get on board and embrace the importance of making gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment central to the new Agenda . Sustainable, just and equitable development for all can only be reached if all of the humanity is included and engaged – it is time to craft a world for women and girls, by women and girls.