One of the first events Girls’ Globe attended was a session co-hosted by two huge names, The Guardian and UNICEF. Figures on the agenda included names such as Rt. Hon. David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee and Amina Mohammmed, Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, but the highlight was the emphasis on the youth panelists. One of the panelists, Danikka Calyon, was only 17, but sitting alongside Diane Brady, an award-winning journalists from Bloomberg and Ismael Beah, an author and co-founder of a network for young people affected by war and president of his own foundation.
For those campaigning for women’s rights, it was heartening that a recurring theme during the event was the issue of the rights of girls and women, now seen as inextricably linked to the world’s major problems. The issue of women’s rights going beyond merely women seems to have seeped into the collective unconscious of policymakers, and many are pushing for change.
Chernor Bah, a youth advocate for global education and a former refugee from Sierra Leone, has a particular passion for women’s rights.
“In my country, being a girl is an inherent disadvantage,” says Chernor. Bah went on to explain to the audience that in times of crisis – war, poverty, even effects of climate change – women and girls bear the brunt of taking care of their communities. And, given the restricted rights and education, says Bah, although they have the most responsibility, “They have the least skills.”
And yet, one audience member, speaking for Nigeria, pointed out the complexity of solving the problem, and that it goes beyond simply giving women resources and putting girls in school. Pointing to sexual violence and the lure of organizations like Boko Haram, she said, “We put the girls in school, left the boys behind, and the girls paid for it.”
Effective implementation, then, is a large beast to wrangle, and many efforts so far have not reached far beyond the conference table.
Numerous participants approached the speakers during discussion, repeating the same questions in different forms – for so many years, there’s been so much talk about change – what’s going to be different this time?
Amina had no definite answer, but readily admitted the problem, stating before anything else that on the top of the to-do list was to hammer out proper indicators. The conference’s continual emphasis on accountability (holding governments responsible for their country’s development, following through on measuring outcomes, putting pressure on leaders to implement changes) is not a glamorous one, but it’s increasingly important.
As Miliband stated bluntly, “Targets without accountability have no point at all.”
Another issue addressed was the scope of the SDGs themselves. There’s been criticism over the overreaching ambitions of the 17 goals. The SDGs are indeed ambitious, ranging from poverty to inequality to partnerships to climate change.
Amina pointed out the huge number of contributors to this very global conversation, stating that the committee’s job was to make a “symphony out of a cacophony.”
Yet, she also pointed out their determination to see it done. Usually, she said, “the response is to say, ‘let’s do this another day’. But we have to do it now.”
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Featured image: UNICEF Guinea on Flickr