by Anu Pohjamo
The United Nations High-Level Political Forum (UN HLPF) 2019 on the Sustainable Development Goals was held in New York City, July 9th-18th. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and The 2030 Agenda were agreed upon in order to achieve a better and more sustainable future, as well as acknowledging the importance of human rights, climate change, and economic growth for the future world. In order to achieve these goals, it is crucial not only to improve economic productivity, social cohesion, and environmental sustainability between countries, but also to reduce inequalities between women and men within a society.
Kota hosted a UN HLPF side event on Migrant Women and SDGs in collaboration with WoW e.V. at Piermont Bank on July 11th, 2019. Jaana Rehnstrom, President of The Kota Alliance and Michael Samuels, Relationship Manager at Piermont Bank, welcomed the audience; Judithe Registre, a board member at The Kota Alliance, then moderated a panel discussion on Migrant Women and the SDGs. Four panelists, who all represent human rights organizations, discussed topics such as quality education, existing inequalities and how the inequalities could be reduced, peace, justice, and collaboration, all related to migrant women.
The panelists were Stephanie Johanssen, Senior Advocacy Officer, Women’s Refugee Commission, Stephanie leads WRC’s advocacy with the United Nations, member states, civil society and policy makers; Annika Gordon who is on the social media team at WoW e.V., a non-profit human rights NGO that addresses inter-sectional discrimination in the German labor market; Pamela Morgan, an activist dedicated to uplifting the status of women and a United Nations representative for Zonta International in New York; and Beatriz Borges, the Executive Director of The Justice and Peace Center (CEPAZ), a non-profit organization that works to promote and defend democratic values, human rights, and a culture of peace in Venezuela.
The panel discussion highlighted the highly significant work bringing up social injustices all around the world that human rights organizations and activists are doing. It also led us to think how the voice of migrant women, and especially women and girls who are in the middle of the humanitarian crisis, will be heard when finding the ways to solve the current problems and to help people who are suffering the impact of the crisis.
The panel also pointed out that education is one of the most efficient ways to empower women. According to UN Women’s publication (2018) Turning promises into action: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the increase in girls’ school enrollment has been one of the most remarkable achievements of recent decades considering SDG 4, Quality Education. Despite positive trends in girls’ education, gender disparities in access to education are persistent and reinforced by poverty. As an example, the world’s poorest children are four times less likely to go to school than the world’s richest children and the school enrollment does not necessarily lead to completion. In addition, a specific challenge that girls are facing is menstrual hygiene management. The lack of sanitation as well as the social pressure may keep them at home instead of going to school.
At the same time, UN’s Global Education Monitoring Report 2019 shows that there are also many other social norms and attitudes about women’s role in society which prevents girls’ education, women empowerment and gender equality. As our panelists agreed, there are still multiple struggles on the path to achieve the SDGs. We have to be persistent in our work and consistent with our message so that these objectives will be realized in the future.