How Countries Can Adopt the SDGs to the Local Context

It is the start of the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women, the second-largest convening at the United Nations every year following the UN General Assembly. During this two-week event, representatives of Member States gather at the UN to discuss and evaluate the progress made on gender equality. I am privileged enough to be able to attend CSW on behalf of my global advocacy organization, where we fight for gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women.

In my first event, I attended a session hosted by the Government of Jordan, Government of Tunisia, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, where each speaker shared some insight to what they are doing to advance gender equality in their country or commission.

Working with civil society organizations (CSOs).

Dr. Salma Nims, Secretary General at Jordanian National Commission for Women emphasized the need to establish clear infrastructure to include gender and gender equality in country national plans; Jordan’s successful alliances with CSOs has led to pressure on the government to act and strengthen frameworks for accountabilities and allocating budgets for addressing gender issues.

Removing barriers for women in the workplace and in political office.

Dr. Neziha Labidi, Minister of Women, Family, Children and Seniors of Tunisia emphasized the key role governments play in changing harmful gender norms that set girls and women behind in society. Tunisia has introduced legislation criminalizing violence against women, but in addition to the more commonly known acts of violence, political violence is included, as it is a potential deterrent for women who wish to seek office. Additionally, they have a flexible parental leave policy, where expectant mothers may go on leave one month before they are due (also known as pre-leave!), and their parental leave may be transferred to their partner in the event that they wish to return to work.

Country and regional level coordination to achieve the SDGs.

In her work, Mehrinaz El-Awady, Director of ESCWA Centre for Women works with countries in the Arab region to ensure that they are on the right track to achieving the SDGs. The Arab Sustainable Development Report is a helpful tool that flags when gender is not cross-cutting across all SDGs in a country.

It is great to attend CSW and hear the efforts taken from countries as far as those in the Middle East. It goes to show that there is global consensus that advocating for girls and women is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.

To keep up with what’s happening at CSW, follow the hashtag #CSW63 on Twitter.

One Woman’s Efforts to Advance Gender Equality in Sudan

Across the globe girls and women still encounter challenges due to gender roles that were set from generations past. The evidence is there: achieving gender equality is beneficial for the economy, can decrease poverty and gender-based violence, and more.

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Mai Khidir participated in the Milead Fellowship run by the Moremi Initiative, and was tasked with implementing a project that could transform her community in Khartoum, Sudan. Mai felt strongly that she needed to establish a project that involved building the confidence, personal, and professional skills of young Sudanese women so that they have the courage to pursue their goals. With this in mind, she founded Al Sudaniya Mentoring (ASM) to address these challenges and provide an opportunity for young women to develop key skills and knowledge to help them flourish, thrive, and become dynamic agents of change.

The mission:

Al Sudaniya Mentoring provides tailored, holistic, one-on-one mentoring to young Sudanese women by Sudanese women across the globe with the goals of providing women with the tools and resources to become engaging leaders and make a difference in their communities in Sudan, and to build a global network of Sudanese women for knowledge and skills sharing.

Mai established ASM for three main reasons:

  • To connect women from across the globe with women in Sudan in order to provide them with inspiring, dynamic role models that can effectively support and guide women to challenge the status quo and drive forward in their personal and professional lives to make a positive impact to their own lives and to Sudan

  • To address the lack of professional skills development in Sudanese institutions

  • To allow Sudanese women to take ownership of newly gained skills within their communities and apply it into their personal and professional lives through increased opportunities and networks

Since founding her organization in 2014, Mai and her team at ASM have empowered 81 mentees between the ages of 17-22; conducted ten outreach projects with the Sudanese community on the topics of harassment, mental health, women’s rights, and technology; and saw ten mentees move on and get selected to intern at leading international organizations.

ASM’s Vision:

Al Sudaniya Mentoring envisions a future where Sudanese women across Sudan overcome the challenges they face to unlock their potential in their personal and professional lives to achieve their goals and make a positive impact in Sudan.

Picture for Blog - Mai Khidir
Mai and ASM mentees celebrating the 5th year of the program

In 2019, Mai hopes to expand ASM to states outside of Khartoum to further the reach to women from marginalized communities and eventually mentor an additional 50 mentees. With this organizational growth, she also aims to create additional programs within ASM to focus on entrepreneurship, leadership, and professional development to fulfill the organization’s mission.

Stay informed on Mai‘s and Al Sudaniya Mentoring‘s journey.

How One Woman is Making the Case for Inclusion in Employment for Women with Special Needs

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Of the 624,000 people living with disabilities in Azerbaijan, according to Chairman of the State Social Protection Fund Salim Muslumov, over 290,000 are women, and a majority of them are unemployed. Sara Rajabli recognized this issue and sought to address this lack of inclusion in employment for this population.

She founded BUTA Art & Sweets with the mission and vision to:

Reduce unemployment problem of women with special needs by allowing them to work and earn money from home, and change the way people think about women with special needs

Through Sara’s determination, BUTA Art & Sweets has done tremendously well in their first year, successfully empowering 15 women with special needs with the skills necessary to generate their own income and make a living. Her organization was recognized as the first social entrepreneurship business from Azerbaijan that tackles unemployment among women with special needs and partners with over 30 companies and organizations. 

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One BUTA Art & Sweets woman making national sweets

Sara’s other initiative, the Social Business Youth Center, targets youth in Azerbaijan with the goal of building their capacity for starting their own social  businesses . In seven months, the Center has organized 15 free events on the topics of social entrepreneurship for more than 450 young people in the country, accepting more than 1600 applications, participating in international projects with Latvia, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, and also partnering with ten organizations.

BUTA Art & Sweets has received national and international acclaim, and has been featured on numerous media platforms:

Now that both of her initiatives are a year old, Sara is ready for the new year and what’s to come. With the success of BUTA Art & Sweets, she is planning to launch a website, expand to regions outside of Baku, and employ more women and single-handedly take on providing more people with special needs opportunities for employment. With the Social Business Youth Center, she aims to launch some long-term projects (such as online mentorship and acceleration programs, social start-up competitions, social entrepreneurship bootcamps, master classes for youth and people with special needs), pursue partnerships with international organizations, and create a membership platform for youth who participate in the Center.

To follow BUTA Art & Sweets’ latest updates, follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

The Fight to Protect Roe

Women’s reproductive rights are at stake as we are waiting to see if Kavanaugh is confirmed as the next Supreme Court Justice. Trump made a promise to his supporters that he’d appoint someone who would surely overturn Roe v Wade and now he has the opportunity to do so with his nomination.

“Roe and the rulings that have upheld made clear that what women across the country know at their core to be true, that reproductive freedom is essential to a woman’s ability to control her future, to plan her family, and to contribute to her community as she may choose to.”

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2018/07/25/patty-murray-just-ripped-into-brett-kavanaugh-from-the-senate-floor/

I want to say this: no one has a right to make a decision for a woman on what she should do with her body. She is the one who would have to go through pregnancy. She would have to cover the costs associated with pregnancy, such as health checkups, delivery fees, hospital fees, supporting a child throughout their life.

The people who argue that it’s a life that is unfairly taken away: will you pay the costs to support this child? Are you willing you take them to school and make sure they’re on the right track to not drop out and get involved with risky activities? Are you going to pay for their medical expenses? Will you parent this child since you care so much about them having a chance at life?

I will assume the answer is no, because you don’t want to care for an unwanted child. Women don’t choose abortion for fun. It takes bravery to go through with it, and they need to consider themselves. If they can’t give this child the best chance at life, if they don’t want to carry their rapist’s baby, whatever her reason is, it is THEIR BODY, and their choice.

By forcing a woman to carry a baby to term and not allowing her to safely abort, the child will be put up for adoption when there are already over 400,000 children in the foster care system in the US waiting to get adopted.

By overturning Roe v Wade, you won’t be stopping abortions. You’ll be stopping safe abortions. Women desperate not to carry a child to term for any of the above reasons will find a way to terminate their pregnancy, as it is documented worldwide.