SDG5: GENDER EQUALITY
In one of their songs, the Eagles rock group sings “things in this life change very slowly if they ever change at all.” The lament of many a social activist!
To be fair, one exception would be gay marriage rights, which seem to have come more quickly than most struggles for equality. But generally it is true that real change demands significant patience and insistent efforts over a long period. Think of the long painful struggle in the US for civil and voting rights, and even these are under attack once again as racism rears its ugly head.
In terms of gender equality, this aspect of justice has been slow in coming. Although we are definitely at a better place than we were many years ago, we still have a lot of work to do. Around the world, both laws and cultural norms are holding many back from reaching their potential simply because of their gender identity. According to the UN, “1 in 5 women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 report experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period”… and that’s not all. Many women around the world are still being held back from property ownership, from proper education and forced into unsafe work environments, marriages and female genital mutilation. With all of the resources that we have today, this is unacceptable. We must raise awareness of these issues and continue the struggle for change.
From healthcare to personal security to social protection and economic opportunity, fighting for gender equality means analyzing every societal system from its root and breaking the glass ceiling that has held back some of the best and brightest from achieving their potential.
Now is the time to recognize the gender inequalities that surround us, especially because during the pandemic, lockdown measures severely cut access to helpful services for those suffering one or more of the results of gender inequality. A significant example: COVID has forced many women to be trapped at home with their abusers and left without a place to feel safe, adding to the fear and trauma many people already endure in this very different world we now live in. We must focus on women and girls as we build back stronger from the COVID-19 Pandemic, for as the UN states, “women are not only the hardest hit by this pandemic, they are also the backbone of recovery in communities.
As we work towards equality for all genders, let us not forget the power that lies in local action. We can make our work environments inclusive and set rules that prohibit gender discrimination. On the global scare, we can become aware of the targets of this SDG, listed below and explained on the UN’s website: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/gender-equality/ in summary form as follows:
- End all forms of discrimination and all forms of violence against women and girls everywhere including trafficking and all forms of exploitation;
- Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation;
- Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, women’s full participation and equal opportunity for leadership in political, economic and public life while recognizing the value of (normally unpaid) domestic work and enhancing the rights of women for ownership and inheritance of property, access to technology and all social protection policies.
Together, and only together, can we create a world that adopts and strengthens sound policies and enforceable legislation to promote gender equality on a path to a more inclusive and just world. Some “things change very slowly” but they can and will change.
SDG6: CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION
Three questions to answer quickly: how long can we live without food? (Typically about three weeks). And without air? (About three minutes). And without water? You guessed it— three days. The rule of 3’s.
Water is essential for healthy life, yet according to the UN, 2.2 billion people lack easy access to safely managed potable water. We cannot even absorb food without water. And what about basic sanitation? The figure jumps to 4.2 billion lacking decent sanitation. Although a recent article here talked about the value of cell phones for people living in poverty, it doesn’t help that today there are more cell phones than toilets around the world! Far too many children, estimates say 1,000, die every day from totally preventable water and sanitation disease.
Water is key for so many issues throughout the world. How could something that many of us simply take for granted be so fundamental to an almost endless list of issues? If drinking water is unavailable and/or not filtered properly, it can become fatal. Health experts would say that most of us do not drink enough water on a daily basis. By the time we really want to drink water, we may already be a bit dehydrated. And if children do not drink enough water, they cannot perform at their best in schools.
If water is not in ample supply in an area, it is not an exaggeration to say that wars will be fought over water rights.
And that’s only considering the impact on human health. Global environments depend on water to live. Water is the heartbeat of us all. Without water, plants and entire ecosystems will suffer. Even tourism, in many places around the world a critical component of national income, is affected by dwindling sources of clean water.
During COVID-19, we are all reminded to wash our hands frequently, but what if there is no water at hand? In fact, only two out of every five people have basic hand-washing facility with soap and water (UN). So much for global health and the safety of us all.
So at the very least we should not think of water as limitless, but as an extremely valuable and fragile resource. There are many organizations worth our support working to ensure equal universal access to clean water through investment in simple, efficient irrigation technology and the promotion of rainwater harvesting. There are many important actions we can take to ensure this right for everyone. We can sign petitions to government and international organizations that every human being has the critical right to water. When we drink water, we can pause to remind ourselves about the importance of water as a critical resource, and when we use water for other purposes we can try to limit the usage.
This SDG asks us to prioritize the importance of water as another way of living human solidarity, building sustainable development for the common good, and caring for creation.
NGO representative of the CM to the UN
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