Women empowerment critical to SDGs attainment
By Agnes Abuom
After the closure of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the global community approaches matters development within the framework of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Agenda 2030. The slogan for the 17 SDGs is: “leave no one behind”.
While SDGs seek to be as inclusive and broad in terms of human and physical development, a number of the goals require intentional, sustained and transformative approach so as to realise their objective.
To achieve these goals, however, there is need to protect women from violence and harmful practices. In light of this, it an open secret that without commitment by community and political will to secure empowerment of women, equal rights and opportunities, Agenda 2030 will remain a dream.
Governments, religious and civil society organisations and institutions such as the UN have access to information on gender-based violence (GBV) and harmful practices against women. In spite of a landscape of many researches and studies on the same, the pandemic persists. The harmful practices include Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early child marriages as well as trafficking of women and girls as sexual commodities.
As a matter of fact, violence against women and girls is the elephant in the room and a major obstacle to achieving women empowerment and thereby sustainable development. The impact of violence and harmful practices are physical, psychological and emotional besides violation of human rights and dignity.
Many a woman who has been subjected to violence suffers trauma which is repeated due to different forms of violence. Depending on the levels of violence and harmful practices —unfortunately justified at times by culture and tradition and even religion—many girls drop out of school while women experience health-related challenges, for instance occasioned by FGM,limiting their capacity to explore their potential.
It is urgent that both community and political leaders, especially women leaders, understand, acknowledge, internalise and take action for example, through awareness creation, policy formulation and implementation around the clear notion that women and girls are not sexual commodities and properties to be transacted.
That FGM is one of the worst forms of violence against vulnerable girls under the guise of securing chastity and honour. Women empowerment is about securing women and girls who can participate and access equal rights and opportunities as dignified human beings. What FGM and other harmful practices do offer to society a group that is wounded and unable to make meaningful contribution.
Therefore, the various campaigns against FGM and harmful practices including sexual and GBV such as the “Me Too” campaign and “Thursdays in Black” are calling on every leader, male and female under the framework of SDGs to: stop the rape of women; stop maiming and murdering women and girls; stop femicide; simply put stop any form of violence against women and girls.
A better world is possible and everyone will be at the table if violence and harmful practices can be brought to an end. Without full participation of 51 per cent of the global population fully engaging, the SDGs have no chance.
—The writer is the Moderator, World Council of Churches and social justice advocate