Month: October 2015

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SDG 13: Climate Change – Faces Behind the Numbers

There’s something very unique about working at grassroots level and experiencing firsthand what the community is facing. A single day is enough to make all the statistics fade into the background and replace them with vivid images of what the numbers really represent. I am currently taking part in the fifth Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-V) conference themed, “Africa, Climate Change and Sustainable Development: What is at Stake at Paris and Beyond?” in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. As a pre-event to the conference, the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) convened the first African Youth Conference on Climate Change (AfriYOCC) themed, “African Youth Responses to Climate Change and Food Security, Action from the Frontline”. The workshop served as a valuable space for young people to share their climate solutions and incorporate their recommendations to the African Youth Position on the Road to Paris (COP21). I also had the opportunity to serve as a panelist on the topic : “Gender Mainstreaming in Climate Governance and Community Based Adaptation”. All the high-level dialogues taking place for me put a spotlight on the community that will have to live the consequences of the …

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Our bodies, our rights: Virginity testing in Sweden

Virginity testing is a terrible violation of girls and women’s rights and bodily integrity that is currently being practiced in several countries around the world. The purpose of the “test” is to prove that the girl or a woman is a virgin, usually for the purposes of marriage, but sometimes also as a requirement for women to be considered for certain jobs. The practice has been known to exist in India, the Balkan countries and in the Middle East, but recently the Swedish TV4 broadcasted a documentary on how virginity testing is commonly practiced in several Swedish medical clinics. Not only is this practice a gross violation of girls’ rights, it is also medically inaccurate. It is  impossible to tell reliably whether a woman or a girl is a virgin or not. The commonly believed claim that an intact hymen indicates virginity is, in fact, completely wrong; there is no way to determine if a woman has had sex. In some cultures and religions a girl must be a virgin to marry. Therefore parents send their daughters to …

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We Did It! Making the SDGs A Reality for Girls

By Christal Parris-Campbell In 2015, I had the pleasure of attending the Post 2015 Inter-Governmental Negotiations at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It was an incredible experience during which I witnessed first-hand the shaping of the future world in the next fifteen years time along with the ratification of the Sustainable Development Goals for the United Nations General Assembly. An Inter-Governmental Negotiation (IGN) takes place at the United Nations Headquarters amongst numerous member states, member groups and civil society. The IGN that I attended as an NGO delegate and member of Advocates for Youth’s Girl Engagement Advisory Board was the final negotiation to be held concerning the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Given that this was the final negotiation, most of the goals and targets had already been established and were no longer on the table for amendment. Therefore, our role as civil society was primarily to liaise with member states along with participating in a number of press conferences and formulating creative ways to get the attention of the co-facilitators so that they would …

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SDG 12: A Pathway to Justice

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12, sustainable consumption and production, entails “promoting resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and providing access to basic services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all. Its implementation helps to achieve overall development plans, reduce future economic, environmental and social costs, strengthen economic competitiveness and reduce poverty.” To me, this goal is another way of chipping away at the systemic poverty and inequality that disproportionately impacts women and girls. When we lack sustainable consumption and production, often we are both harming the environment and misusing existing resources. The world produces enough food to feed nearly double our global population. Yet according to the United Nations each year approximately 1/3 of all food produced spoils or rots due to poor transportation and harvesting. An estimated 3 billion tons of food is wasted while nearly 1 billion people go undernourished and another 1 billion hungry. This goal recognizes that hunger is not caused by scarcity. In the United States, where forty-one percent of women face some …

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3 Things I Learned at the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference

In September, the UN General Assembly voted to adopt a new set of development goals, which will shape our path to a better future over the next 15 years. At the same time, the UN Secretary-General launched the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health, and in the wake of this unprecedented momentum the very first Global Maternal Newborn Health (GMNH) Conference took place in Mexico City. Researchers, implementors, policymakers and donors came together to discuss, strategize, collaborate and learn. Representatives from 418 organisations across 74 countries heard inspiring and often very moving stories from speakers and panel members with one uniting passion; improving the health of women and children worldwide. At a gathering of this scale, and at a moment in history so pivotal, the opportunity to gain new knowledge was vast.  Here are 3 things I learned from the GMNH Conference: FAIL is not a 4 letter word – it’s First Attempt in Learning Despite the progress made during the Millennium Development Goals, it’s vital that we don’t lose sight of the …

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SDG 11: Building cities for women and girls

Goal 11 of the new Sustainable Development Goals calls for the global society to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. The targets under this Goal include things like ensuring all people have access to decent housing and transportation systems, improving roads, and reducing the number of deaths occurring from and number of people affected by disasters. Two of the targets specifically address women, namely: 11.2: By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons 11.7 By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities Cities, urban areas and public spaces can make or break efforts towards gender equality. Poor infrastructure such as low quality roads, unreliable or unsafe public transportation systems and safety of spaces like parks and squares impacts everyone – but disproportionately impact …

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SDG 10: Let’s Not Leave Adolescent Mothers out the SDG Talks

On September 25th the United Nations adopted the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that reflect global ambitions to reduce inequality and create more prosperous societies. Goal #10, which aims to reduce inequality within and among countries, will not be achieved without empowering women and girls. The targets under this goal are closely related to girls and the laws and policies that affect them. In order to ensure that the targets for the SDGs are met, where it concerns girls, one must take a look at the policies and discriminatory laws that affect this population. Two policies to take a closer look at are those that prevent adolescent mothers from re-entering school and mandatory pregnancy testing. These laws and policies explicitly discriminate against girls and do not provide equal opportunity for them to receive an education and have a positive economic outcome. In many developing countries when a girl becomes pregnant she is expelled from school. The stigma she undergoes and the educational policies do not support her re-entry into the educational system after she has …

Photo Credit: Help Lesotho

Girls’ Camp: Creating the Leaders of Tomorrow

By Stephanie Vizi Seventy-five grade seven girls from across Lesotho gathered at Help Lesotho’s Hlotse Centre for a week-long leadership camp last June. The girls took part in life skills trainings, which focused on preventing teenage pregnancy, rape and HIV/AIDS. Help Lesotho staff facilitated sessions on the most critical issues facing young girls in Lesotho, such as rape, the lure of sugar daddies (rich older men who lavish gifts on a young woman in return for her company or sexual favours) and gender inequality. After days of trainings, the girls demonstrated their new knowledge through self-written skits, poetry and songs. They showed the consequences of inappropriate sexual relationships (STIs, HIV and early pregnancy) while exuding confidence and a newfound sense of purpose to spread the lessons of gender equality to girls back home in their villages. A daily question and answer period provided a chance for the girls to ask pressing questions anonymously to seasoned Help Lesotho experts. Spreading the Message A 24-year-old HIV-positive mother was invited to share about her experience with gender-based violence, …