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

Breastfeeding for Survival, Health & Wellbeing

The right to the highest attainable standard of health, as well as the right to adequate food and nutrition are fundamental rights of every human being. Breastfeeding provides babies with the best start in life and is a key contributor for survival, health and wellbeing of infants and mothers. 

The Lancet Breastfeeding Series published in 2016 provides the most recent and detailed analysis of available research on breastfeeding. The Series confirmed that breastfeeding has numerous benefits – including decreasing the risk of infections and increasing the intelligence of children, and preventing cancers in mothers. There is also unequivocal evidence of breastfeeding’s protection from hypertension, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and obesity in the long term.

Support for breastfeeding mothers is essential. In the light of the overwhelming evidence on the positive impact of breastfeeding on survival, health and well-being, coordinated global action is urgently needed.

WHO, UNICEF and 20 other prominent international agencies and non-governmental organisations have recently formed the global Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative (BAI), to unify the voices of breastfeeding advocates and galvanise political, financial and social support for breastfeeding policies and programmes. The BAI aims to increase awareness of breastfeeding as a foundation of child and maternal survival, health and wellbeing – and to advocate to governments to invest in breastfeeding.

The Global Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative (BAI) is consistent with the Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. According to EWEC:

“Breastfeeding is a fundamental driver in achieving the SDGs as it plays a significant role in improving maternal and child health, survival and wellbeing. One year into the implementation of the SDGs, we must work together to level the playing field.” 

In the Global Strategy, breastfeeding is acknowledged as an essential driver in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). EWEC highlights breastfeeding as fundamental in improving not only nutrition, but also education, maternal and child health, survival and wellbeing. Together with the movement’s core partners, EWEC supports governments with strategic interventions in order to improve breastfeeding rates, to eventually reach or exceed the WHO global target of increased rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months up to at least 50%.

We have all of the facts in black and white about the benefits of breastfeeding, and we have devoted advocates who fight for women’s and children’s right to the highest attainable standard of health. Grassroots participation and its potential to create massive impact from simple ideas seems to be at an all-time high – a trend that will hopefully continue as the need for even more multi-level and cross-sectoral partnerships increases.

In order to achieve the SDGs by 2030, partnerships are not merely helpful to improve the health and wellbeing of the present and future generations—they are essential.

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. 


Urban Farming: Regeneration in our Cities

Grey. Angular. The low buzz of foot traffic, rubber-on-tar traffic, shoulders pushing against shoulders traffic. Did you see his face when he tried to smile at your across the street? Did you breathe in the blossoming jasmine that crept toward you at the bus stop? We navigate through cities, so loud yet full of silence. We have been waiting. Waiting for the earth to rise up against the pavements, to activate our joy and to remind us who we are and where we come from. We are nature.

This is an unfolding narrative of the environmentally conscious and gradual movement that is Urban Farming. This is the remembered narrative of the female presence in the food system.

Hailing from the mountainous green landscape of Barberton, Mpumalanga, South Africa, I have long held the forest as a close friend. Mother Earth can be said to have an innately powerful, fecund and peaceful presence. Plant life and forests are the ultimate reflection of matriarchy, pregnant with the life of a million organisms. My first encounter with a large city was dazzling and it was easy to become distracted by technology, industrial architecture and the scramble for identity within its oddly confining walls. Bureaucratic, patriarchal systems still hold our cities in place, where our connection to the ‘Mother’ has long since been replaced with a relationship with walls and structures; where is the ‘wild’ element of nature within all of this? Where is the wild feminine?

I dove into a practice of ‘remembering’ when I first finished university. I explored the world of documentary film in South Africa and found myself telling stories of young social entrepreneurs, many of whom were women my own age (23 at the time); but I was left with an incessant itch after having conversations with these inspiring youth: who was I? What mark was I making on the world? Where could my passion for connecting people to each other and the planet truly begin? Where did my voice fit in?


So I went off to see the world. I saw women collecting grain in Rajasthan, India. I saw young girls pruning tea leaves with their grandmothers on the hills of Kumily, Karnataka, India. I saw “mama’s” collecting seeds to string up necklaces and stripping corn cobs to dry them in the sun outside their huts in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. I met women who had forgotten where their food came from. I met young girls who couldn’t name a vegetable from its whole form to it’s packaged product. I met older women who remembered their grandmother’s ways of caring for the earth. It was through this process of ‘seeing’ that I saw my role as a young woman to renew my understanding of the planet, to inspire those around me to do the same, so that we may all remember together, so that we can bring the wilderness back to the cities.

Our answer to connecting people and plants lies not in the fast paced ways we have become accustomed to, but in the gentle, attentive nature of our planet’s ecosystems. There is a strong female presence in the Urban Farming Greening movement around the world and it is equally matched with the supportive male energy. Earth work appears to be the perfect (and practical!) place for men and women to meet each other and work together collaboratively and harmoniously.  

So where to start? Balcony gardens, vertical gardens, urban & public food gardens, you name it! Regeneration begins with you. Occupy your neighbourhoods, sidewalks, highways, schools and public places with beneficial plants. Teach your friends, your families and your communities. Become the local urban acupuncturist and inspire your communities to localise food production, to ‘remember’ our planet and create internal networks of food exchange that not only benefits the natural environments, but strengthens relations between people.  


Urban Farming is rated as one of the top emerging new jobs in the upcoming decade; will you embrace your roots as an earth-keeper and rejuvenate the way we consume our food? The concrete alleyways can become the edible jungle we dream of. You can begin by learning how to plant a tree with us at Green Pop, checking in with your local food gardeners (Cape Town’s finest being Guerilla House, Tyisa Nabanye and Oranjezicht City Farm), attending their workshops and planting some seeds of your own!  

There is a tremendous, empowering strength that comes from growing your own food. Let your children be the ones whose grandchildren remember you as the one who taught them to watch the beautiful complexity of a single seed come to life through it’s own, wild and gentle accord. We are nature.

Girl Up Initiative Uganda and the SDGs: Youth Perspectives

During the 71st United Nations General Assembly last month in New York City, gender equality and women’s empowerment was a key topic – highlighted in Ban-Ki Moon’s in his opening remarks. Unfortunately, Girl Up Initiative Uganda (GUIU) could not represent the interests of our women and girls in-person this time around. However, we can still highlight the opinions of some of our young women staff members who are dedicated to the UN’s mission vis-a-vis the sustainable development goals (SDGs), which the world’s decision makers are committed to achieving by 2030.

“I am proud to call myself a feminist.”- Ban- Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

Gender parity is central to creating a more equitable world. Three of the Global Goals dedicated to this are core to our main activities and mission statement. As a young women-run organization, we prepare girls for the unique challenges they will ultimately face, and position them to be able to create action-based solutions. We also focus on building the capacity of our youth staff members, particularly to learn about global policies such as the SDGs, so they can pass their knowledge along to girls as they graduate from our program and teach others in their communities.


We profiled a few young women leading efforts within Girl Up Initiative Uganda to create a more sustainable, equitable future for our girls and young women. Here is what they had to say:



Marion Achom, Program Assistant

What role are you playing to contribute to the SDGs, particularly  SDG 4 and SDG 5 as they relate to Girl up Initiative Uganda and the work the organization is doing?

I am help provide young girls with a holistic education, that gives them the capacity to sustain themselves through the Adolescent Girls Program (AGP). This includes hands-on skills to support themselves as individuals should they drop out of school or fail to continue with their education.

What do you think about girls’ equal access to education and why it matters to the community and the future of the country as a whole moving forward?

I think ultimately we need to make education gender-sensitive, whereby no sex is discriminated against. This gives both girls and boys the chance to interact and understand that they are equal, on the same plate, and can work together as they strive for the same opportunities and goals.

What do you think as a female leader in this space, you and others can do to involve men and boys and stakeholders – like the health community – in the movement?

Not only does Girl Up conduct the AGP, but amidst our trainings, we hold mass campaigns for boys who are upper primary students (primary 4 – 7). We discuss with them issues concerning sexual reproductive health and rights, how they view girls, and how they can support their female counterparts with the understanding that gender equality does not exclude the boy child.

I also think we should involve men and boys in sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender based violence (GBV) as we advocate for these rights. Men play a very important role in curbing these instances, as participants and perpetrators respectively. One of our programs where we are doing that is called NI-YETU, meaning ‘it is ours’, which works with the youth and involves boys, girls, men, and women, to bring about gender equality and equal opportunity.


Caroline Achola, Volunteer

What do you think about girls’ equal access to education and why it matters to the community and the future of the country as a whole moving forward?

Like the Ghanaian proverb says “Educate a girl and you have educated a whole nation”. The girl child most times in our communities is treated with less value, and only taken for bride price. If they are empowered with knowledge, they are able to decide for themselves when to get married, and when to have sex and when not to have sex – which can prevent exposure to diseases such as HIV/AIDS and STIs and STDs. It helps break the cycle of poverty when girls and women have more say in the course their lives take.

What are the challenges and opportunities you see when it comes to women’s empowerment and achieving gender equality?

Traditions and culture teaching us to consider male children superior to the girls is a challenge. Moving away from this will be a process, and require a transformation of the society. It will involve treating girls and women equally in various aspects of life, from shared responsibilities in the household, to equal employment opportunities. Empowering mothers and guardians with this knowledge can help in turn, empower their daughters, as well as educate their sons.

What do you think as a female leader in this space, you and the others can do to involve men and boys and stakeholders – like the health community – in the movement?

Having more programs that are tailor-made not only specifically for girls and women, but boys and the men, so that one sex does not feel left out. These can be used as a platform whereby we can learn from one another and discuss different ways to bring about gender equality.


Shallon Nayebare, Volunteer

What are the challenges and opportunities you see when it comes to women’s empowerment and achieving gender equality?

In a lot of the communities, there is a stereotype that educated women are not submissive to their husbands, and that these women tend to grow ‘horns’ (horns here meaning that they cannot listen to reason). In this case, society may not listen to any of her contributions. Furthermore, this hurts their opportunities to marry, as many men looking for partners have biased opinions concerning highly educated women. This can discourage some of them from furthering their studies.

In addition, even though more women are empowered economically and are starting up their own businesses, there is still a challenge when it comes to decision-making, access, and control. Even if a woman makes a profit, the man as the head of the household can take all those finances and determine how it is utilized without her input, which has been a very big challenge in Uganda.

There is also a problem with some women having an inferiority complex, which can stop them from speaking out against things such as domestic violence for fear of being blamed as a woman. Adolescent girls who grow up seeing their mothers or other women in this position can hurt their sense of self, and lead them into similar circumstances. Teaching girls and women they are just as capable as of doing the kind of vocational work men and boy engage in can help build confidence, and help ensure no one is left out.

On the heels of the United Nation’s most significant gathering and the one-year anniversary of the SDGs, it is important to reflect on what the SDGs mean for organizations and its staff members, especially for youth in particular. The SDGs provide direction and serve as a reminder of our big picture goal, since it can be easy to get bogged down with grassroots heavy-lifting as we work day-by-day towards a more gender equitable world. We are pleased to see that all 17 SDGs have a gender lens, with the awareness that meeting the challenges of gender transformation does not happen overnight. Because gender issues are so ingrained in the cultural fabric of communities, our work is going to take considerable effort and consistent hard work. But with a passionate group of young people, collaboration with like-minded organizations, and long-term community engagement, Girl Up Initiative Uganda believes the 2030 target can be realized.