Posts from February, 2014

Women and Power Post-2015

by Abi Scholz

The two-week-long 52nd Session of the Commission on Social Development kicked off this week at the United Nations and I attended the opening side-event, the Civil Society Forum. Though the Commission had not yet officially begun, the series of panels was focused and sharp. Panelists were most passionate about issues of social justice, gender equality, and civil society participation. The diverse audience represented an array of international non-governmental organizations, from faith-based development organizations to groups focused on labor rights and organizations working on women’s human rights.

Though both panels engaged representatives from government, civil society, and UN agencies, the second panel, “Promoting gender empowerment in the post-2015 framework,” connected directly with the mission and interests of VGIF, as well as with my own. The panelists spanned a remarkable breadth, coming from the highest level of governance, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Prime Minister of Spain from 2004-2011, as well as from the grassroots, Noelene Nabulivou, Executive Committee Member from DAWN. In line with many of the discussions at the UN as we approach 2015, the panel opened with a discussion of the Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) and what all levels of society can expect from the post-2015 agenda. As Mr. Zapatero powerfully stated, “We need to be more ambitious and set more demanding goals...The first point of the post-2015 agenda should be gender equality.” While gender equality is expected to be at the center of post-2015 goals, it is also one of its biggest challenges. One of the themes of the afternoon panel was to explore the various categories of gender and to highlight the inequalities among women globally. For instance, Patricia Brownell, Chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing, Sub-Committee on Older Women, highlighted the specific challenges faced by older women around the world, while Ms. Nabulivou referenced the struggles faced by transgender individuals and other members of the LGBTQI community within her home country of Fiji.

Despite all the optimism and ambition being applied to creating a more effective, inclusive development agenda, one comment stayed with me. Referring to his time as Prime Minister, Mr. Zapatero recalled meeting with financial leaders in Spain: “The last woman I saw when I was going to these meetings was a secretary showing me to a meeting room...Where there is more power, there are less women.”

For all the strides we’ve made, we still have much work to do and many barriers to break down. Looking toward 2015, what goals matter to you? Legislative advances and quotas? Support for grassroots women? A more expansive dialogue between global and local actors? 

Your Voice and the Post-2015 Agenda

by Aimee Constantineau

The UN’s process for crafting the post-2015 development agenda is well under way, and I attended a meeting Wednesday to learn about the newest advancements at the United Nations. Representatives from Germany, South Africa, the UNDP and OHCHR discussed some of the outcomes that have been developed so far. In order to advance this agenda, UN offices have been reaching out to people around the world in a series of regional dialogues, expert meetings, and online discussions. They have strategically sought out a wide variety of stakeholders, including government officials, civil society, the private sector, experts, youth, women, local representatives, indigenous peoples, migrants, the media, and academics, with the purpose of including a diverse set of viewpoints.

The purpose of the meeting I attended was to review the outcomes of these global consultations, more specifically, those which have been conducted around the thematic area of governance.

Since 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were created, there has been a shift in the global economic balance, which has created greater divisions in the world. 30% of the population, or 1.5 billion people, still live in poverty today. In order to remedy this imbalance of economic growth, the post-2015 development agenda needs to develop inclusive policies and increase individual participation.

Out of these worldwide consultations, a clear theme emerged: good governance practices, on all levels, are essential to sustainable development. Good governance practices enable engagement in productive development practices, and help countries to build on the MDGS.

Representatives from UNDP and OHCHR discussed key points from the final report on the outcomes of the global discussions around the theme of governance (report found here:


Here’s why we at VGIF care, and why we hope you will too!

Handpicked highlights from the governance report:

Strengthening local governments and local development is critical for ensuring empowerment, civic participation, and better service delivery.

This message is at the heart of the work that VGIF funds. Our grantees operate locally, and often must work with, or around, existing political structures. When faced with corruption or a lack of transparency and accountability, imposing governments can impede our grantees’ ability to proceed with their projects.

Gender-responsive and rights-based governance systems are crucial for enabling the realization of women’s rights and implementation of gender equality goals.

The report states that “…gender inequality is a governance failure.” VGIF grantees work tirelessly to provide women and girls with the tools they need to empower themselves. We believe that correcting gender inequalities would improve the conditions of women and girls worldwide.

Youth concerns are critical for the post-2015 agenda.

VGIF has always believed that empowering the girls of today means empowering the women of tomorrow. Many of the projects we fund seek to provide girls and women with improved access to, and a better quality of, education, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The progress of the post-2015 development agenda is ongoing, and the participation of peoples around the world continues to grow every day. Here on the blog, we’ll continue to share with you what we learn as we monitor the process.

You can read more about the process here:


Feel like you aren’t being heard?

To tell the UN about the world you want, share your ideas here: