Women Deliver, but we can deliver more for all women

Natasha Leite
Posted November 17, 2016 from Brazil

This was posted originally at Shameless Magazine.

From May 16-19, Copenhagen held the largest conference on sexual and reproductive health rights and the advancement of the rights for women and girls in the last decade. Women Deliver gathered 5763 activists, educators, journalists, academics and others to discuss our new development framework (the Sustainable Development Goals) and some of the main issues women and girls are facing today.

Hundreds of speakers - from Hilary Clinton, Muhammad Yunus, Ban-ki Moon to the Crown Princesses of Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands - were present, discussing the development and promotion of women’s rights, participation and empowerment in the current framework. The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which ranged from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 – form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions. MDG 3: “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women” was the goal that was determined to have advanced the least and in some regions, inequality has worsened. For instance, according to the MDG results report, “in Latin America and the Caribbean, the ratio of women to men in poor households increased from 108 women for every 100 men in 1997 to 117 women for every 100 men in 2012, despite declining poverty rates for the whole region”.

On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into force. Over the next fifteen years, with these new Goals that universally apply to all, countries will mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind. SDG 5 is reaching for gender-equality and SDG 10 is targeting inequalities within countries. Political and development leaders have to be serious about their commitments to ending inequality and addressing, particularly, the needs of women and girls of the most marginalized groups, such as ethnic minorities, LGBTI community members, people with disabilities, sex workers and more.

I was at the conference as a young leader and a panelist, and I was happy to see youth engagement being promoted in a very meaningful way. Youth representatives were present in each panel and they had a pre-youth conference, as well as specific events catered to youth priorities. I was also very happy to be able to see different regional perspectives on issues that are part of my work framework (gender-based violence), which I don’t see as often, such as female genital mutilation/cutting and access to abortion during conflict settings. As well as engaging in discussions on ending violence against women, as well as being a speaker on a panel of human trafficking as a systemic violence against women and girls.

It was great to hear from people and organisations from all over the world regarding their main challenges and best practices, and the ways they have found to move forward because we still have a long way to go. One of the biggest challenges of the event was the inclusion of marginalized groups, especially non-English speakers into to this broader conversation, which in my opinion, is one of the main challenges for development in general. Many people were denied visas to Denmark and many just couldn’t afford to be out of their daily jobs to be there. Global discussions are privileged spaces and we have to acknowledge and bring those issues to the table if we indeed want to keep the principle of “no one left behind”.

Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, best summed the need for all of us to fight together for the benefit of ourselves as a society in her closing speech of the conference by saying, “my recognizing the rights that another has does not diminish those that I have. Any more than your recognition of my rights takes away from the rights you have. I don’t have to agree with you to uphold your rights and you don’t have to agree with me to respect mine. In fact, upholding rights for each of us to the exclusion of none of us is in the interests of all of us.”

Comments 8

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Dhara Patel
Nov 17, 2016
Nov 17, 2016

Very positive words I have read in your article. Engagement of youth and marginalised communities are the sign that everybody is awake about their rights and getting platform to share their views for the better world. 

Natasha Leite
Nov 19, 2016
Nov 19, 2016

Hi Dhara! I completely agree. We have to bring people and empower them to make decisions on their own future, especially people who have been systematically and historically excluded from those spaces.

Hina Bhaagat
Nov 19, 2016
Nov 19, 2016

Hi Natashaleite!

your post is very Knowledgeable! As i read it whole i feel increase in my knowledge and i congratulates you that your struggle is working at me! haha :)

Well iam so happy that peoples are continously working for the rights of girls!for me i think its our great Victory! And soon our struggles will finally change our societies and will bring it to the top! :)

Natasha Leite
Nov 19, 2016
Nov 19, 2016

Hi Hina,

Thanks for your comment! :D

Hina Bhaagat
Nov 19, 2016
Nov 19, 2016

Pleasure my sister!

Natasha L
Nov 19, 2016
Nov 19, 2016

Hi Natasha -

Your piece was very informative.  Thank you for including so much detailed information so that we can benefit from your experiences at the Conference.  It is encouraging to hear that youth engagement was promoted in a very meaningful way, because often that is not the case at conferences to discuss issues that affect us ALL.

I am interested to hear how the MDGs and SDGs are being used to guide your work in gender-based violence in Brazil.  What were the most important strategies or new perspectives you learned about at the Conference?

So glad to know there are such dedicated and strong youth leaders like you raising your voice on an international platform.

Natasha Leite
Nov 19, 2016
Nov 19, 2016

Hi Natasha,

Currently, I'm not in Brazil anymore. I'm working mostly in the greater East Africa region with a lot of emphasis in Somalia. So, in that sense, a lot of discussions on GBV around child marriage, FGM/C, abortion in conflict settings and rape as a conflict tactic are being very useful for me now.

The SDGs are an improvement, especially in the GBV aspect, because within the MDGs there were no targets regarding eliminating violence against women and girls, which is definitely present in this new framework under SDG 5, but prevention of violence is also covered under SDG 16. And having that set helps not only as an incentive for joint-programming and common targets, but financing and funding will be most likely informed by this framework, which usually incentives mostly NGOs and international cooperation agencies to follow suit.

Natasha L
Nov 19, 2016
Nov 19, 2016

Thank you for this explanation, which gives me greater context for learning about the work you are doing and the usefulness of the SGD's.

Reading your reply, Natasha, gives me hope to know that someone as clearly intelligent and capable and dedicated as you is working in the area of gender-based violence to make change happen.