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.

The Power of the Adolescent Girl

When the Millennium Development Goals were implemented in 2000, Naw Cynthia was an adolescent girl striving for an education with little support from her family, her country of Myanmar, or the world at large.  Today, as global leaders recently met for the United Nations General Assembly to establish new goals for 2016, the face of this agenda is an adolescent girl – a girl in school, safe, not married off, and able to aspire to follow her dreams.

The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child on October 11th is ‘the power of the adolescent girl’.  Global communities are being called upon to commit to critical investments in quality education, skills, training, access to technology and other learning initiatives that prepare girls for life, jobs, and leadership.

The world recently witnessed the courage and power of an adolescent Pakistani girl, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafazi, who fought the Taliban for her right to attend school.  Malala’s story, detailed in her book I Am Malala and her upcoming documentary, He Named Me Malala, is an inspiration for girls all around the world.

However, it is not an easy journey for adolescent girls.  Naw Cynthia was one of five children with an absent father and a mother driven to beat her children.  As a young girl, Naw Cynthia was sexually abused by her neighbor.  These abuses seriously impacted her confidence. Yet she was determined to rise above her childhood and stand tall.  She knew that a good education would be her liberator.

Now a well-educated and respected proponent of quality education and literacy in Myanmar, Naw Cynthia is working to give today’s adolescent girls a voice and to encourage them to pursue their dreams through education.

Naw Cynthia readily shares her story with adolescent girls because she wants them to be strong and to not compromise their dreams.  She tells Burmese girls “You are NOT weak.  You are strong.  Do NOT let others look down on you.  And do NOT tolerate any form of abuse or harassment.”

Like so many women who juggle multiple responsibilities, Naw Cynthia worries she is not a good mother or a good leader or a good wife.  We believe she is an outstanding role model for girls and boys.  Naw Cynthia will teach her son to treat girls with respect and to value their contribution in the world.

Girls need inspirational role models like Naw Cynthia and Malala.   With approval from Malala Foundation, Educational Empowerment is translating I Am Malala into Burmese.  Soon it will be published in Yangon so Burmese girls can read Malala’s powerful story. Educational Empowerment is proud to be an advocate for girls’ rights at this pivotal time in history.  Girls need to know they have rights and how to access them.  Let’s all celebrate the power of the adolescent girl.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at donate.
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook at EE, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

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

By Kristyn Zalota, Founder of CleanBirth.org

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: CleanBirth.org
Photo Credit: CleanBirth.org

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, CleanBirth.org, 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.

 

*Sources:

http://www.worldbank.org/mdgs/maternal_health.html

http://www.la.one.un.org/millennium-development-goals/mdg-progress-in-lao-pdr

http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview/mdg_goals/mdg5.html

“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.

Education is the Answer

Education enables girls to achieve their rights.  It empowers girls with confidence and independence.  It provides girls with a path out of poverty, and it gives girls hope for a better life. Education is a silver bullet for empowering women and girls worldwide.  Education is the ANSWER.

But girls need access to education.  The primary barriers preventing girls’ access to education are lack of schools, distance to schools, conflict, hunger and poor nutrition, school fees, disabilities, and being the ‘wrong’ gender.

Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Delta is one of the poorest-of-the-poor regions in the country.  Access to education is severely hampered by typical barriers as well as weather, geography, and natural disasters.  Cyclone Nargis wiped out 60% of the schools in the southeast portion of the Delta in 2008.  Villages in the Thabaung district are flooded half of the year from monsoons and the Delta’s low lying lands just 3m above sea level.  Children typically travel to school by boat, frequently traveling through shark-infested waters.

Transport by boat to school. Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski
Transport by boat to school.
Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski

Educational Empowerment, in collaboration with Helping the Burmese Delta, recently built a primary school in the village of Khin Tan to provide access to education for girls and boys.  We’ve all heard ‘it takes a village’.  This is especially true when constructing a school in these remote villages.  All materials must be brought in by boat and strong backs.  The school’s concrete feet, raising the level of the school floor to 10 feet to withstand flooding, is literally the first step.

Htan Kyun School Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski
Htan Kyun School
Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski

Villagers donated land for Htan Kyun School and committed to building and maintaining and nurturing this symbol of hope for their children.  Their school district is unique. Local administrators actively support education as a priority for boys and girls.  Although not yet officially government certified, Htan Kyun already has 5 teachers – 3 women and 2 men for grades 1-5.  Forty-three students are currently enrolled, and the number will grow quickly as nearby villagers learn of this glorious school.

As Malala stated at the Oslo Education Summit this week, “a child should not be kept away from the opportunity of going to school, to dream big, to aim higher, without limit.” ALL children deserve access to education.

First-ever art class, Yay Kyaw Toe district. Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski
First-ever art class, Yay Kyaw Toe district.
Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski

If you want to empower girls to achieve their rights,

  • join Girls Globe conversations on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights
  • donate to Educational Empowerment, and
  • let your voice be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

Women Inspire: Self Reliance through Education

Written by Melody Mociulski, Founder, Educational Empowerment

Having just returned from 3+ weeks in Myanmar, I am struck by the numerous instances I witnessed of girls and women empowered by education – all resulting in their increased independence, self-confidence, and self-reliance.

In today’s world of injustices, human rights abuses, and violence, it was uplifting to learn of positive outcomes and the power of the human spirit.  During my visits with Educational Empowerment’s (EE) partners, I interviewed numerous women and girls to learn of their life struggles, dreams, and thoughts on education. It was saddening to hear their stories of trauma created by poverty, sexual assault, natural disasters, and violence.  Yet, it was extremely inspiring to see how education has helped them to overcome these tragedies and to prevail.

Naw Cynthia, one of EE’s partners, told me of the physical and sexual abuse she endured during her childhood.  She always knew that education would be her liberator.  Cynthia is now a well-educated and respected proponent of quality education and literacy in Myanmar.  She shares her story with adolescent girls to give them a voice and to encourage them to pursue their dreams through education.

Cho Cho, a Burmese friend, told me about the impacts of poverty on her childhood and how she escaped from it.  She was taught by her parents that education was the most important way to escape poverty. Every June when school started in Myanmar, her family skipped meals. They only ate broken rice which is cheaper than regular rice or boiled water grass leaves if they couldn’t afford the broken rice. This was their way to save money for school fees for seven children. Cho Cho and her sister only had one pair of shoes between them.  Her sister (in the seventh standard and now a doctor) would wear the shoes to school in the evening. Cho Cho (in the fourth standard and now a finance supervisor) would wear the shoes to school in the afternoon.   Now, all are seven siblings are successful professionals who work full-time jobs and dedicate their remaining time and income to supporting education for less fortunate Burmese. Like their parents said, they escaped poverty through education. Cho Cho values education because it enabled her to change her whole life.  She wishes that all people, especially youth, learn the value of education.

Daw Khin Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Daw Khin
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

Daw Khin Nwe Oo, a tall, statuesque mom of six, sells sticky rice snacks in her village.  As part of our microfinance project, she receives financial and business management training.  Quick to smile and laugh, her business does extremely well, enabling her two youngest daughters to remain in school.  Education is important to Daw Khin.  Because of health problems when she was a child, she wasn’t able to finish primary school.  She wants her children to have good jobs, success, and respect.  Daw Khin emanates pride in her business accomplishments and enthusiasm to become even more successful.

Girls attending high school in the remote Yay Kyaw Toe village in the southern Delta all survived the devastating destruction of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.  They board at the high school and dedicate long days and nights to achieving high scores on their annual exams, learning critical thinking, mastering the English language, and actively practicing their Buddhism.  They know that their future dreams and lives outside the Delta depend on education.

All of these girls and women touched my heart.  They impressed me with their positive, hopeful attitudes, their resilience in the face of adversity, their confidence, and their self-reliance.  They embody the belief that teaching a girl can change the world.

Stay tuned for more news of Naw Cynthia, Cho Cho, Daw Khin, and other amazing Burmese girls and women in my upcoming series in Women Inspire.

Join me in the campaign to ensure all girls receive quality education and develop self-reliance.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

 

Education: Girls’ Beacon of Hope

Delta Students Read EE's Folktale Books  Photo Credit: Helping The Burmese Delta
Delta Students Read EE’s Folktale Books
Photo Credit: Helping The Burmese Delta

Written by Melody Mociulski, Chair and Founder of Educational Empowerment

Girls around the world today are struggling to achieve their basic human rights – protection from forced labor, early marriage, conflict, and sex slavery; access to education; prevention of needless death from pregnancy and childbirth; freedom to determine for themselves their life path.

In the face of these ongoing and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, natural disasters add yet one more barrier for them to overcome.

On Friday May 2nd, 2008, Cyclone Nargis, the 8th worst cyclone ever recorded, hit the Ayeyarwady Delta in Myanmar.  Approximately 150,000 people were killed, and 20,000 girls and boys were orphaned.

Villagers were starting their day as usual when all of a sudden the wind whipped up the river and the water began to rise.  Trees and houses crashed down and floated away.  Families were separated.  Darkness came.  Although crying of children and animals could be heard, no one could see anything.  The water kept creeping up.  In the morning, all was mud and destruction. Children tried to find their families and make sense of this nightmare.

Nargis destroyed 60% of the schools in the Delta.  And those left standing had no usable sanitation facilities, furniture, or classroom materials. Rebuilding schools and restoring the formal education system in the aftermath of a disaster are crucial to help girls in disaster-stricken communities regain a sense of normalcy and security, and obtain the psychosocial support needed to overcome such a traumatic experience.

Since 2008 post-cyclone reconstruction has been slow, hampered by near impossible logistical access and lack of electricity and fresh water.  Parents in the Delta understand the importance of education, and they readily relocate to a village that has a school.  The most effective way to address society’s costs for future hazards is to invest in expanding the knowledge of girls and boys. Without an education, girls in the Delta are doomed to a continued life of extreme poverty.

In partnership with a local non-profit organization, Educational Empowerment is building a primary school in the Delta to empower Burmese girls through education. During a trip to Myanmar in January, I will attend the school’s dedication celebration.  I am excited to hear stories first hand from girls who survived the cyclone and now have a chance to learn to read and receive an education – their beacon of hope for the future.

Educational Empowerment fulfills that hope for Burmese girls by providing access to schools and books, incentives to stay in school, and support for teachers.

Let’s join together to ensure all girls and boys have hope for education and for a better life.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls’ Globe in the conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at.
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and Instagram.