Posts from February, 2015

The Importance of Grassroots Projects in the Transition from MDGs to SDGs

By Zara Mohidin

2015 is a historic year for the United Nations, as it marks the culmination of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)[i]. To begin this momentous year, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) held a Youth Forum on February 2-3, 2015.

The main purpose of the Youth Forum was to maximize the engagement of young people in the discussion about what gains have been made in the 15 years of implementation of MDGs and what gains can be made beyond 2015.  In his opening remarks, H.E. Mr. Erion Veliaj, Albania’s Minister of Social Welfare and Youth said, “Working with the youth is like a contact sport. Unless you are on the ground working with the youth and understanding their struggles, you won’t see a lot of change.” I believe the same can be said about any marginalized group of people, which speaks volumes about the women-led grassroots projects performed by VGIF’s incredible grantees across the globe.

Gender Equality and Youth: 20 Years Since the Beijing Platform for Action

This is a historic year for the UN in more ways than one. 2015 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights. To commemorate the Beijing Platform, ECOSOC organized a session focused on gender equality, specifically looking at what the youth of the world asks of governments and NGOs when it comes to pushing for women’s and girls’ rights. The panel consisted of experts on gender equality who engage in the “contact” work that Mr. Veliaj spoke of. Through a productive conversation both the panel and youth participants outlined several suggestions for ensuring that gender equality becomes a reality:

Reform curriculum in primary and secondary schools to show gender equality

Recognize girls as key actors in implementing any agenda, not just discussions specifically about gender

Involve men in the discussion for gender equality

Engage faith-based leaders in speaking about gender equality, as these leaders hold very influential positions in many communities

Focus on women in the public sphere, such as in government, but more importantly, focus on women in the domestic sphere

Develop a specific and quantifiable target for the economic empowerment of women

Push for legislation/laws at all levels that can trickle down to what is happening on the ground.

The most inspiring portion of the gender equality session was the emphasis on grassroots initiatives in efforts to help women and girls create opportunity for themselves. Youth delegates from all around the world truly believe that great change is impending – beginning and ending with the projects like those of VGIF’s inspiring grantees.

[i] The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established in 2000 during the Millennium Summit of the United Nations and set a 15-year timeline to meet eight quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty.