SDG 7: Access To Energy Can Lead To Gender Equity

At this time last year, the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was being analyzed as their 15-year stretch was coming to a close. As I contribute to the Girls’ Globe coverage of the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this year, I think back on an article I wrote about MDG 4: Reduction of child mortality.

​The MDGs were launched in 2000, and projected to be accomplished by 2015. Last year, I wrote about how we failed to meet the targets for MDG 4 . The UN update on MDG 4 explained that, “Despite determined global progress in reducing child deaths, an increasing proportion of child deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Four out of every five deaths of children under age five occur in these regions.”

A few questions arose for me upon hearing about the roll out of the SDGs: “Are we just throwing the MDGs by the wayside?” and “Will the SDGs be treated in the same way; if they fail, they will be forgotten in 2030?”

Through reading about the SDGs via Girls’ Globe  and other media outlets, I found that the SDGs are not forgetting the MDGs, but learning from them and reevaluating them to include what is relevant now. In June 2012, the Rio+20 Conference, began developing the SDGs, and was dedicated to continuing the momentum of MDGs through the SDGs.

There a few fundamental differences between the SDGs and the MDGs. First, the SDGs are universal, meaning “all countries – as well as aid agencies, businesses and the public, working in collaborative partnership – will implement this bold agenda”.

Additionally, the SDGs are “zero goals”, which means that unlike the MDGs that sought to get us half way to the goal of ending poverty and hunger, the SDGs are designed to completely eradicate poverty and hunger. World Vision mentions that a, “deliberate effort will be required… to reach those living on the extreme margins of society.”

One good example of how the SDGs include items that should be prioritized in 2015 is through looking at SDG 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Access to energy was not covered by the MDGs previously.

We know what it is like to experience a power outage in the US: food may go bad, lights are out, heat or AC is off, and of course no Netflix. Losing energy means losing productivity or leisure time, but in brief and rare instances it is a tolerable annoyance. In other places a lack of energy can have a significant impact on someone’s life. Lack of energy access is also a highly gendered problem, that disproportionately affects the lives and well-being of girls and women.

When I was in South Africa in 2011, I learned that many people rely on generators because power outages are common, and those who have generators are those who can afford them. This economic disparity affects opportunities to succeed or move out of poverty. When you lack energy, you or your children may not have a place to do homework or work after dark, lack well-lite and safe access to bathrooms located outdoors, and have no method to store or cook food.

An article from The Atlantic eloquently summarizes how women’s empowerment and access to energy are linked.

“Empowering women within those communities (lacking energy) to be more efficient in their household duties, make further gains in education, enter the workforce, and start businesses. Not only will (access to energy) provide opportunities for those often disenfranchised, but it will also help accelerate economic growth in developing countries… Access to energy could spur 50 percent of a labor force to be more productive and more engaged. A gender lens approach to energy access programs can be beneficial all the way around—for women, for local communities, and for emerging nations.”

As the energy gap closes, opportunities for women are likely to increase. Because women are the ones typically responsible for household duties in many nations, increased efficiency in the home (i.e. a place to store food or a washing machine) reduces time constraints and provides new opportunities for women to earn an income outside the home. Although there are other underlying issues involved with women being restricted by their household responsibilities, improving economic opportunities for women will help them gain more power in their household, and hopefully lead to more equitable expectations of men and women in their communities.

Unfortunately, a report by Development Progress projects that SDG 7 will not be reached by 2030. The report expects East and South Asia and Latin America to achieve the goal, however, the number of people without electricity in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to increase by 2030.

The SDG Fund is one mechanism created to work as a bridge from the MDGs to the SDGs, and alongside governments, private sector, activists, and individuals, will work towards the realization of the new agenda.  We can help ensure that these goals are reached through putting pressure on the decision makers and key actors at local and global levels to focus on improving communication and infrastructures especially in places of extreme poverty. The inception of the SDGs is an exciting and hopeful time, but also a time to learn from the past so we can make a bigger impact this time around.

Illustrations for the SDG campaign have been made for Girls’ Globe by artist Elina Tuomi.

MDG 6: Succeeding targets on HIV/AIDS and failing women and girls

By Bergen Cooper, Senior Policy Research Associate, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are coming to a close. As we look back at accomplishments and missed opportunities in the MDGs—and prepare for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—we know that global action works, but not for everyone.

MDG 6, for example, was created to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. The targets include halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS by 2010, and halting and reversing the incidence of malaria by 2015.

Let’s start with the good news. We achieved halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Let’s continue with the good news. New HIV infections declined by 40 percent from 2000-2013. Fifteen million people living with HIV are on antiretroviral therapy, a goal that was met nine months early. This is compared to the only 1 million people who were on antiretroviral therapies in 2000. New HIV infections have fallen by 35 percent in the general population, and 59 percent in children since 2000. More than 6 million deaths from malaria have been averted. Tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis, and treatment saved 37 million lives. These are remarkable and commendable figures. But they don’t paint the whole picture.

We have forgotten women and girls. Michele Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, acknowledges that we should have done more for prevention and that we need female-controlled options for prevention, such as the female condom. HIV/AIDS is still the number one cause of death for women of reproductive age. Women still account for 60 percent of new HIV cases in low- and middle-income countries. And yet only 30 percent of young women in sub-Saharan Africa have comprehensive knowledge about HIV. In 2013 over 80 percent of the new HIV cases in adolescents were girls ages 15-24. We are failing women and girls.

It is this failure around meeting the needs of women and girls that makes new initiatives so timely and needed. The DREAMS Initiative, for example, is a two year $210 million effort by the U.S. government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Nike Foundation with the goal of aggressively reducing the number of new HIV infections in girls age 15-24 in ten countries in sub-Saharan Africa. DREAMS takes a holistic approach to the prevention of HIV in adolescents by investing in evidence-based interventions that target the economic, social, and cultural environments that put young women and girls at risk for new HIV infections.

We are on track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, and we could do it, but we have learned from the MDGs that we can meet a goal and still fail over half of the world’s population. Just this fall, CHANGE and AVAC released their report “Prevention Now: An Integration Agenda for Women, by Women,” along with a vision statement created by women advocates in sub-Saharan Africa, “Our Vision: Integrated Health Services for All Women and Girls, Everywhere.” The report and statement outline the need for collective activism around a prevention agenda for women and girls and the need to engage women-led organizations — to listen to the voices of advocates.

Simply achieving the SDGs will not be enough to protect and respect the lives of women and girls. As we approach the SDGs, we must acknowledge that a framework that neglects to fully monitor sexual and reproductive health and rights might not be the best framework for protecting and respecting the health and rights of women and girls. Reaching our global goals is a fantastic display of cooperation and dedication. But let us not reach another goal without women and girls.

Building on 15 Years of Progress

By Alexandra Cairns, External Affairs Manager, Kupona Foundation

For anyone studying, working in, or interested in global development, this week will be monumental. The framework upon which the development community built 15 years of programing, funding strategies and advocacy is shifting. A new set of targets has dominated the discourse for the last 9 months, and will continue to do so until 2030: SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) will replace the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals), renewing our focus on long term, scalable solutions for the many challenges facing the development and prosperity of global communities.

At Kupona Foundation, we believe that people and communities need to be empowered to realize their full potential, and build productive futures. This starts with improving their access to healthcare. Healthy people can work, go to school, and care for their families. Access to quality healthcare has a ripple effect, amplifying positive impact across communities.

Photo Credit: Kupona Foundation
Photo Credit: Kupona Foundation

We are encouraged by the themes and conversations surrounding the UN General Assembly and associated events this week: safe surgery, mobile innovations in maternal health, and integrated approaches to development, to name a few. These are all signs that the diverse community of organizations committed to sustainable development are not looking to reinvent the wheel with this new agenda. This approach is vital to ensure that the collective progress made by the global development community over the last 15 years does not grind to a halt.

Look at the efforts to improve maternal healthcare since the MDGs were announced in 2000. Progress hasn’t come at the rate the world hoped for, but programs designed to improve women’s access to quality care during pregnancy and delivery are having an impact.

Tangible change for Tanzanian women

Last year, we reported on Girls’ Globe about exciting achievements at Temeke District Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Under the capacity building program coordinated by CCBRT (our sister organization in Tanzania), in partnership with the Government of Tanzania, Temeke reported zero maternal deaths in the month of September. For a full month, every mother that delivered at Temeke survived; a statistic unheard of in Temeke’s recent history. Encouraged by this success, CCBRT continued to:

  • Provide training and on-the-job mentoring to healthcare teams at 22 public facilities
  • Improve infrastructure, including ward renovations and operating theater refurbishments
  • Distribute life saving equipment to fill critical resourcing gaps

In August 2015 – nearly one year since the original report — the team at Temeke confirmed two consecutive months of zero maternal deaths, and consistently lower maternal mortality rates for the first half of 2015. September 2014 wasn’t a stroke of luck. It was the result of hard work, collaborative partnerships, and integrated approaches to improving the quality of care available to mothers and newborns.

Building upon a solid foundation

There is still a long way to go. We’re working to ensure every mother and newborn in Tanzania has access to safe, quality healthcare. This week, we’re delighted to be joined in New York City by Erwin Telemans, CEO of CCBRT. Our joint attendance at events and meetings is a practical demonstration of our commitment to a collaborative model that combines our passion for innovative solutions and sustainable, life changing programs with CCBRT’s local expertise in providing quality healthcare.

Together, we look forward to exchanging ideas, and building and expanding partnerships with like-minded organizations, as we all work towards ambitious goals for the future of people and communities across the globe. We’re most excited to share our experiences, and learn from others, ensuring the ideas and initiatives we implement over the next 15 years are built upon the lessons learned and foundation of progress built since 2000.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Stay tuned to Twitter (@KuponaFdn, @ErwinTelemans, @CCBRTTanzania) for our live updates from UNGA Week, and to Girls’ Globe in October for a round up of our experiences and thoughts following the announcement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

MDG 5: Moms still need our help, especially in rural areas

By Kristyn Zalota, Founder of

As we approach the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, it is clear that many countries will not achieve the 75% reduction in maternal mortality prescribed by MGD Goal 5.  According to the World Bank, “…of all the MDGs, the least progress has been made toward the maternal health goal.”

The good news is there has been 45%
 drop in maternal mortality between 1990-2013 with the rate of maternal deaths shrinking from 380 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013.

There is consensus that future efforts must be focused on women in developing countries.

  • 99% of the 800 women who die each day due to birth-related complications live in the developing world.
  • Just 50%
of women in developing areas receive sufficient antenatal care.
  • More than 24% women/girls in sub-Saharan Africa lack family planning services, leading to unplanned pregnancies and HIV.
Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

We also now know that within developing countries, there are often disparities in maternal care between rural and urban areas. UNDP finds, “In the developing regions, only 56 percent of births in rural areas are attended by skilled health personnel, compared with 87 percent in urban areas.”

Working in the Lao PDR to reduce maternal mortality, I have seen firsthand this rural-urban divide and the heartbreaking consequences: families without their mothers, mothers without their babies.

Like other developing countries, Lao PDR has made progress on MDG 5 but has fallen short of 2015 goal:

Indicators 1995 2005 2011 2015 Goal
Maternal Mortality Rate 650 405 357 260
Proportion of births

attended by skilled birth attendants (%)

14 23 42 50

*Sources: “MDGs Localization in Lao PDR” presentation by Ms. Phonevanh Outhavong; “Tools for national MDG monitoring Lao PDR” presentation by Thirakha CHANTHALANOUVONG

The Lao government acknowledges the need to improve the quality of services:

“MDG 5 … is not on track, the quality of health services [is] still poor” Ms. Phonevanh Outhavong,
Deputy Director General of Planning Department, Lao PDR

Lao Mothers in rural areas in particular have not experienced a significant improvement in birth outcomes. The safe-delivery rate in cities is six times higher than in rural areas, due to “massive disparities in delivery assistance,” according to the UN.

My organization,, endeavors to address this divide by improve birth outcomes in a remote province in southern Laos. We train local nurses to enhance their skills and ensure that every mother receives safe birth supplies and education before they deliver.

Mothers need these supplies and prenatal counseling because their villages are often unreachable during the rainy season, with roads washed out and mothers isolated from nurses’ care in the rural clinics. Even in the dry season, mothers experiencing complications who travel to clinics are often met with inexperienced nurses unable to assist with challenging births. Mothers often don’t survive the transfer to a fully staffed hospital, because too much time has elapsed.

We work with our Lao non-profit partner and local nurses to understand what they need to change this reality.

Nurses have asked for training, which we provide with the help of midwives from Yale University, and additional supplies. We have given them what they asked for and will continue our collaboration until every mother in our area is cared for appropriately before, during and after birth. The road is long but together we are preventing the preventable deaths of mothers and babies.

Laos is just one country struggling to care for mothers. As the deadline approaches, let’s hope that every country learns the lessons the MDGs have taught us and sets new targets aimed at eradicating needless maternal deaths once and for all.



“MDGs Localization in Lao PDR” presentation by Ms. Phonevanh Outhavong 
Deputy Director General of Planning Department, MPI, Vientiane, 24 Jun 2014

“Tools for national MDG monitoring Lao PDR” presentation by Thirakha CHANTHALANOUVONG Lao Department of statistics, Ministry of Planning and Investment, The International Conference on the Millennium Development Goals Statistics (ICMDGS) ,October 19-21, 2011, Philippines.

MDG4 Progress: Saving Our Little Saviors

A nation’s future is built upon its children. Early childhood development is considered to be the most important phase which determines the overall wellbeing across the individual’s lifespan. Investing in children translates into saving our world from the countless ills that plague society today.

15 years ago, the world made a promise in the form of Millennium Development Goal 4 to reduce the global under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 as our leaders agreed on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We have now reached the end of the era of the MDGs, and the world has come together to make a new promise in the form of a new set of goals for the coming 15 years. In that respect, it is important to take a closer look at how well we did in our strive to uphold our promise; and approach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a renewed sense of commitment.

We should acknowledge that we have come a long way. According to the 2015 Levels and Trends in Child Mortality report by UNICEF, WHO, World Bank Group and the United Nations, substantial global progress has been made over the years. The number of under-five deaths worldwide has declined from 12.4 million in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015, leaving us with 19,000 fewer deaths every day. We have also accelerated global progress as a whole. The world’s annual under-five mortality rate reduction has increased from a rate of 1.8% between 1990 and 2000, to 3.9% in 2000-2015. This momentum of recent years was certainly boosted by the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health launched by the United Nations Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, and the Every Woman Every Child movement for improving newborn and child survival, including maternal health.

Sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest under-five mortality rate in the world has also registered a considerable acceleration with an annual rate of reduction which increased from 1.6% in the 1990s to 4.1% between 2000 and 2015. My own country has contributed its share of achievements for the registered improvement in the region. Among 11 other low income nations, Ethiopia has been able to meet its target of this goal, a success highly attributed to progressive health strategies by the Federal Ministry of Health, stronger partnerships and remarkable outreach work conducted by community health extension workers. Over all, the world has avoided the death of 48 million children under the age of five since 2000- a figure which would not have been possible had the mortality rate at the new millennium remained the same.

A staggering achievement, but not enough! Our progress is shadowed by the realization that despite all the strides, our efforts were still insufficient for us to meet this goal globally. Presently, 16,000 under-five children still die every day. This realization is even more painful with the knowledge that most of these deaths are caused by diseases that are readily preventable or treatable. Our achievements in the MDGs are also varied in-between targets. We now understand that neonatal complications are responsible for the vast majority of under-five deaths; with factors related to the educational attainment of mothers, their level of access to health systems, income, nutrition and the prevalence of HIV. It is particularly worrisome that the 53% global decline we have seen in the under-five mortality rate is far from the two-thirds reduction we need. If current trends are to continue, we would only be able to achieve this goal by 2026! This task is a tremendous unfinished business for the commitment our leaders made in 2012; A Promise Renewed an even more ambitious undertaking with proposed SDG target for child mortality to end preventable deaths of newborns and children under-five, by 2030.

There is a huge fight awaiting us. The SDGs come at a time where emerging global issues that should have been foreseen and prevented well ahead are enormously changing the contexts we work in. The current refugee crisis and the harsh challenges presented by working in conflict settings is a huge wake up call to push for more innovative strategies. We have to explore an integrated approach that complements our success in the different goals and targets. Our movement needs to be people-centered, owned and led by the community. Key actors including powerful players in the private sector have to be equally engaged in the fight.

As a youth advocate, I also want to remind us of the big opportunity we have in our hands. We need to adopt an uncompromising stance for applying the great passion and untapped potential us young people have to offer, in providing more innovative solutions to the multitudes of issues we have yet to confront.

Featured image: Mary Thullah, 20-year old mom comforts her daughter Fatmata Turay after she received vaccinations at the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital on March 10, 2015 in Freetown Sierra Leone. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

Girls’ Globe at UN General Assembly – Join us!

The 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly formally began on 15 September 2015 – and this year is different and unique. This year, the world comes together to say goodbye to the eight Millennium Development Goals which were adopted in 1990 for 15 years, and say hello to the new 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which will set the new global development agenda for the entire world from now until 2030.

Much can be said about the MDGs and whether or not they succeeded in what they set out to do – we’ve seen great success stories, and notable failures. We’ve learned about setting targets and defining indicators, and we’ve understood the importance of ensuring that we don’t only focus on countries reaching certain thresholds and targets, but also pay attention to whether their progress and development is even and equal and reaches those who are most in need, and often the hardest to reach.

Girls’ Globe will be present at UNGA with our key partners, FHI360, Johnson & Johnson, and Women Deliver, focusing particularly on events, discussions and issues pertaining to girls and women. We will be covering panels, workshops, talks, events and roundtables live via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and our online magazine – and our passionate bloggers will be delivering fresh and carefully curated news and information to you straight from the heart of the action. Make sure to follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter to stay on top of what’s happening!

We also want to hear from you – what do you think was good about the MDGs, and what should have been done better? Are the current proposed SDGs better – and particularly, are girls and women represented in them strongly enough? Tweet to us, message us, or send us a video – and raise your voice!

Throughout the week, follow #GlobalGoalsLive and sign up to the Daily Deliveries for live coverage of key conversations and presentations related to women’s and children’s health and rights at the 70th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Periscope graphic

Featured image: Luke Redmond / Flickr