A Data-Driven Look at the World Women Live In

This week, Women Deliver 2019 kicks off in Vancouver, Canada, with over 6,000 delegates from different industries, sectors and countries. Equal Measures 2030 shines a light on the hard numbers behind what they’re all there to discuss: the reality facing girls and women living around the world, and how we can improve their lives.

To make progress transparent and accessible to all, they unveiled a powerful tool, launched today: the SDG Gender Index. It reflects a mammoth effort to look at the numbers and measure how countries are really doing at making progress towards achieving gender quality.

Its initial findings were summarized in a 60-page report. The findings were surprising, and will be crucial in setting the agenda for the next decade.

The Sustainable Development Goals

A quick recap: the Sustainable Development Goals are 17 separate benchmarks set by the United Nations. Each has to do with making life more equal, sustainable, healthy and prosperous for citizens.


While they run the gamut from poverty eradication to environmental protection, they work individually and holistically to increase gender equality (which, in turn, strengthens the capacity of each country to achieve their other goals).

Surprising findings

The findings from the SDG Gender Index report show that we can’t rely on stereotypes. Some countries are showing unequal progress, strength in some areas, and weakness in others. Even some of the lower performing countries are well ahead of the highest ranking on certain indicators. For example:

– Rwanda is one of the highest scorers on indicators that capture women’s physical safety, through how safe they feel walking unaccompanied at night.

– Women in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Thailand and Uruguay are more likely have to have successful accessed modern family planning methods than women in Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden (although they all ranked well globally.)

– One of the higher rates of women who use digital banking was seen in Kenya.

GDP does not necessarily translate to equality

It is a common misconception that money equals development, and development leads to equality. Yet, the SDG Gender Index report shows that’s not necessarily so.

“Some countries – Finland, Georgia, Greece, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Rwanda, Slovenia, and Viet Nam, among others – perform better than would be expected based on their GDP per capita,” write the authors. “On the other hand, other countries – such as Botswana, Iraq, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States, among others – have lower gender equality scores than might be expected given the countries’ income levels.”

What the numbers don’t show

While the lowest ranking countries have been mired in troubles, and listed on the OECD‘s list of fragile states, some – like Syria and the Central African Republic – were omitted entirely. In the midst of the level of the depths of conflict that these countries have experienced, reliable data is too difficult to gather and analyze.

Lack of data doesn’t mean we should forget these countries or exclude them as we head towards 2030. These populations may be among the most vulnerable.

Even within the countries that were included in the SDG Gender Index report, it’s important to remember that an average number can be a deceiving figure. Even a high ranking country can have populations who desperately need access to care, services or advocates, and lower ranking countries can have ample communities of empowered women ready to mobilize and lead change.

To know more, you can access the full-length SDG Gender Index report here.

To End Violence, We Must Build #CitiesforWomen

In the fight to end violence against women and girls, no real progress can be made without considering the role of the urban environment. Dark streets, unprotected public toilets, parking lots and mass transit are breeding grounds for violence. A placard we saw at a protest against femicide in Latin America a few years ago sums it up: “Walking home, I want to feel free, not brave.”

Since last fall, women in the United States have been speaking up as never before on the subject of violence, harassment, and abuse – at home, at work, in daily life. If #TimesUp for gender-based, on-the-job abuse, #TimesUp too for cities that fail to consider the daily dangers faced by half of their community.

A Global Problem
  • 2014 Reuters survey of 16 major cities worldwide found that women in Latin American cities suffered the highest rates of harassment, with about 6 in 10 women experiencing physical harassment on public transport. Additionally, 64% of women in Mexico City said they’d been groped or physically harassed on public transport.
  • In a 2009 UN Women survey in Delhi, 95% of women said their mobility was limited by fear of harassment in public places.
  • In a Kenyan survey from Women’s Empowerment Link, more than half of the 381 women interviewed in 2017 said they’d experienced gender-based violence while using public transport.
  • According to the World Bank-led partnership, Sustainable Mobility For All, 53% of women in developed countries feel “unsafe” or “very unsafe” waiting on a railway platform after dark.

By 2030, more than 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. With women representing more than half the world’s population, cities need to improve their urban infrastructure to discourage harassment and abuse.

A great deal of danger could be eliminated with more inclusive city planning and the creation of infrastructure sensitive to the needs of women and girls – better street lighting and broader streets, fewer dead-end alleys, safer public toilets. Safer cities enable every individual to move through their day without fear and with unfettered access to social, economic, political, cultural, and educational opportunities.

Photo Credit: Sydney Rubin

We must all do whatever it takes to create cities where women and girls can lead healthy, prosperous, and fulfilling lives, in dignity and peace. It will take cooperation and commitment from government at every level, multi-lateral institutions of all kinds, and non-governmental groups such as WomenStrong International.

How WomenStrong Helps

Members of the WomenStrong Consortium are supporting women and girls in a number of effective ways as they seek to build lives free from violence.

  • With our partner DHAN Foundation in Madurai, India – a city with a population of 1.5 million – we have established a Micro-Justice Clinic to teach women their rights, arm them with the resources they need to fight injustice and stand up for themselves. These women, who also are members of micro-finance self-help groups, discover that economic empowerment gives them confidence and the ability to press local officials to address some of the root causes of gender-based violence, including unsafe infrastructure.
  • Women’s Health to Wealth (WHW) in Kumasi, Ghana – population well over 2 million – works with women who rent stalls in the Bantama Market and who had been pressing local officials for years to install lighting and pave market alleyways so they could safely transport their wares at dawn and dusk. With WomenStrong’s support, women working with WHW struck a bargain with a local official, agreeing to clean the market in exchange for the government paving and lighting the market. The paving was completed, but the lighting was not, so WHW continue to press the market manager. Their concerns have spurred construction of a new, safe, enclosed market structure where plenty of lighting is promised.
  • In the Manyatta slums of Kisumu, Kenya, Alice Visionary Foundation Project (AVFP) has run a multi-year program on Positive Discipline in schools to help create environments where girls can learn, prosper and grow. Schools should be places of safety for young girls but are often places of harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and rape, by male students and even teachers. AVFP works with school administrators, teachers, parents, public officials and communities to help keep girls in school and flourishing in the face of the massive challenges of poverty.
  • WomenStrong Member H.O.P.E. in Borgne, Haiti – located in a commune with a population of under 100,000 – supports the work of local women who have formed a group to confront domestic violence, helping victims and filling the gap left by a lack of law enforcement. H.O.P.E. also runs clubs for adolescent girls, similar to those at the other WomenStrong sites, teaching girls their rights, building confidence, and providing safe spaces where girls can build friendships, gain mentors, and create a network of support.

Women and girls at all our sites demonstrate every day that they have the determination, smarts and willingness to stand up for their right to be free from violence. It is now up to the rest of us to provide the support they deserve and need by building #CitiesforWomen.

Sexual and Reproductive Health in Kenya’s Big Four Agenda

Of recent, the Government of Kenya (GoK) prioritized Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in its Big Four Agenda over the next five years. The Big Four Agenda which is aimed at accelerating economic growth focuses on food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and universal health.

The Government is set to roll out Universal Health Coverage to all households by 2022 to guarantee access to quality and affordable healthcare by reconfiguring the National Hospital Insurance Fund and reforming the governance of private insurance companies to align them to the universal health coverage.

Focus on universal health stands out as the most significant and conceivably the most important strategic priority for Kenya. The reality is that a majority of Kenyans can hardly afford or even access health services in their various communities.

The governments’ agenda to invest in health will indeed spur economic growth. The move demonstrates that the government values the need for human capital. A healthy population will engage in various economic activities hence contribute to the growth and development of Kenya.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights cut across each of the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. Sex and reproduction are essentially intimate affairs, played out within personal and familial relationships. However, the consequences of a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, supplies, information and education are felt across entire populations, in social and economic life.

The recently launched State of African Women Report by International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region (IPPFAR) warns that unless countries make urgent commitment to invest in tangible actions for improving the Sexual health and lives of women and girls in Africa, the continent will continue to have poor development outcomes.

Making This a Reality

To realize this the Kenyan government will work the county government to scale up the provision of specialized medical equipment and increase the number of health facilities at the community level, including mobile facilities in order to increase access to health services.

The existing Linda Mama program, a free maternity care program is slated for expansion to mission and private hospitals to enlist community volunteers who will assist in healthcare service provision at grassroots level.

Training of medical doctors is also set to commence, including the sourcing of health specialists from outside in order to fill the existing medical gaps.

In terms of realization of sexual and reproductive health, the Ministry of Health, civil society organizations and other stakeholders have this opportune moment to work with county governments to ensure that part of the chunk that is set for health goes into the improvement of sexual and reproductive health.

Why is this Relevant?

In the national context, the Big Four are rightly pegged on the Kenya Vision 2030 and well-mainstreamed in the third-Medium Term Plan (2018-2022) of the Vision, due for launch soon. At the continental level, the Big Four Agenda aligns well with Africa’s Agenda 2063 themed “The Africa We Want”. At the global level, the Big Four Agenda is effectively aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, upon which the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are anchored.

 

Girls’ Globe is Leaving No One Behind

This year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign has focused on the fact that we must ‘Leave No One Behind‘ if we’re to eradicate or even reduce the ongoing violation of rights that continues to occur all over the world.

For me, personally, Girls’ Globe is a true example of leaving no one behind.

It is a pertinent and powerful platform which brings women, girls and men together and amplifies their voices, stories and perspectives. It is a place to raise awareness and share experiences. It is a place where all women have a voice and all girls have an opportunity. It’s about young people – of all genders, origins, backgrounds and beliefs – collaborating to create content with the power not only to inform ordinary global citizens, but to influence policy and decision makers.

‘Leaving No One Behind’ is the universal principle at the core of the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It ensures that every citizen of every country in every corner of every community is included in the plight to implement the 17 Global Goals and achieve results beyond the targets and indicators. It has become a rallying cry on global, regional and national platforms.

Our mothers, sisters and daughters have lived in a world where sexual and gender-based violence were regular occurrences and socio-culturally acceptable norms, especially when between man and wife. Our women and girls have been abused, tortured, humiliated and violated through a politically endorsed, socially accepted and unjustly oppressive social system called patriarchy. This system oozes inequality and unfairness and inflicts everlasting damage on the world. As a result, women continue to face physical, emotional and mental abuse because structural, systematic abusive behaviours towards them continue to go unpunished.

Many communities – previously and currently underserved and marginalized – have been systematically oppressed and deliberately excluded due to neoliberal policies, and well…patriarchy. Women and children face the biggest burden of social segregation and political manipulation. Therefore, prioritizing the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable, and putting these populations first, is vital in tackling issues like gender based violence.

Women around the world face similar issues and challenges, and women understand what needs to be done to overcome them, although in many cases they lack the resources, opportunities and support to shape the world they live in. Girls’ Globe is about partnership. It is about fostering bonds and building a network of strong and capable women who carry the voices of their peers, community members and families with them in their advocacy. This creates a unique opportunity for collaboration, communication and connection, just what the 2030 Agenda needs to capitialize on in order to be successful.

Let’s be honest. Many countries are, at this very moment, struggling to meet the goal of leaving no one behind. Some might not even have achieved the expected progress when conducting their five-year monitoring and evaluations review in a few year’s time.  However, it is worth the effort required. Leaving no one behind requires commitment from public, private and civil society sector on national, regional and global levels.

Girls’ Globe is publishing opinions and ideas on tackling gender-based violence from our global network of bloggers and organizations during each of the 16 Days of Activism. We’re also crowdfunding to be able to continue to raise the voices of girls and young women in 2018 – voices like Zanele’s. Donate today and help us to continue building a safer, more equal world. 

Unlocking Technology’s Potential: the Social Good Summit 2017

Every September, the world’s leaders gather together at the United Nations to debate on the world’s most pressing issues and present their points of view to the world for a week. This year, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is focusing on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, which were adopted in 2015.  

One of the biggest events of the week is The Social Good Summit, which is held annually. It’s goal is to bring together a community of global citizens and progressive leaders to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. This year, the Social Good Summit will focus on how we can use technology to achieve these goals and make the world a better place. The Summit is particularly special this year because it’s the first global virtual summit exploring social innovation, disruptive technology, and the power of mobilizing networks to address some of today’s most challenging issues.

Since Goal 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, the Summit will include a panel on Women in Activism with Carmen Perez, Executive Director of The Gathering for Justice. She is the co-founder of Justice League NYC and founder of Justice League CA, two state-based task forces for advancing criminal justice reform agenda. She has organized numerous national campaigns and protests, including Growing Up Locked Down conferences and the March2Justice. She’s currently the National Co-Chair of the Women’s March on Washington.

In total, the Summit selected 33 women to speak throughout the event, from artists to CEOs to activists. The fact that more than half of the speakers are women (there are 28 male speakers) already shows the UN’s commitment to gender equality by implementing this principle in their own event.

I’m certainly looking forward to what will be said throughout the Summit about how to achieve gender equality by 2030. Being able to hear from so many empowered women will surely be empowering to those of us in the audience who are at the beginning of our careers and trying to find a way to make a difference in the world. I’m looking forward to being inspired by these world leaders to do my part for my community.

If you’re interested in being part of the global conversation online, here’s the Facebook event

It Takes Team Work

The theme for the 2017 World Breastfeeding Week, “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together”, says it all: breastfeeding is a joint effort, involving a variety of actors whose collaboration is required to give mother and baby optimal conditions and maximum chances for a successful breastfeeding journey.

While breastfeeding can be a very intimate experience for mothers and babies, it is not something that the mother alone should have to bear responsibility for. Ensuring that mothers have access to necessary information and support to make breastfeeding work is also crucial for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Promoting and supporting breastfeeding can be anything but simple though. Dr. Prashant Gangal from La Leche League International (LLLI) states that one of the greatest challenges LLLI faces in working with support groups at the community level is to help mothers, families and health personnel to recognize their role and importance in making breastfeeding work for mothers and babies.

Elien Rouw, Liaison for the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine to World Alliance for Breastfeeding Alliance (WABA), notes that breastfeeding is in fact something that concerns the community as a whole: it involves the mother and baby, but also family, friends and neighbors, as well as health care workers in many variations and the legal system in society.

Legal frameworks and policies can either help or hinder the breastfeeding experience. Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies through strengthening institutions and providing access to justice for all. Strong institutions, inclusive and participatory decision making and non-discriminatory laws and policies are essential building blocks of societies that promote and protect breastfeeding and enable mothers to achieve the kind of breastfeeding experience they strive for.

Despite this, according to the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), breastfeeding mothers are often overlooked as a population requiring non-discriminatory laws and policies that enable them to succeed in breastfeeding their babies for 6 months exclusively, and for up to 2 years alongside solid foods, as recommended by the World Health Organization(WHO).

ICM also notes that by working in collaboration, health providers can move toward a common goal which helps to decrease conflict, and further encourages a woman and her new infant to be treated as a holistic dyad, rather than as two patients with competing health interests. ICM states too that health care providers who collaborate are more likely to present a unified message to women and families when discussing infant nutrition. Given that women often report being confused by the conflicting information they receive about breastfeeding from different health care providers, improving the consistency of this important messaging can help to break down cultural barriers, thereby improving breastfeeding success rates.

Making breastfeeding work for mothers and babies is a team effort, and we all have a role to play. Ensuring that mothers and babies can live and thrive healthily and happily is a goal we should all be striving towards, and we will reach that goal much faster when we join our hands and work together – as partners.

World Breastfeeding Week takes place from 1 – 7 August 2017. Celebrating collaboration and sustainability, it will focus on the need to work together to sustain breastfeeding. World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has created an online platform with downloadable resources available in a range of languages to support individuals and organizations in their own campaigning and advocacy.