Imagine a world where no woman dies giving life, where no baby is born with HIV, where every girl is able to attend school and get a quality education, and where everybody--and that includes girls and women --can fulfill their potential and help accelerate progress for all. That world is within reach --and it is time for global action.
From 25 of September to 27 of September, world leaders will come together at the United Nations to adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a new development agenda. The new Global Goals outline a plan of action for people, the planet, and prosperity for all.
With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) coming to a close, the new 17 SDGs and 169 targets will be the blue print for improving and saving millions of lives, building on the progress and learnings achieved from the MDGs. While the achievement of gender equality, improvement of health and wellbeing, and the empowerment of girls and women is high on the list of goals and targets, the key to success will be the effective implementation of the SDGs so they matter most for girls and women.
When investments are made in the health, education, economic empowerment and equality of girls and women, there is a ripple effect that goes way beyond the individual. The new goals and targets, among others, set out to ensure that all forms of discrimination and violence against girls and women will be eliminated, and that girls and women will have equal access to quality education, economic resources, and political participation by 2030. A focus on reducing maternal mortality and on ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services and to reproductive rights is also included -- and while this is a huge step forward compared to the MDGs, it should have included substantial "sexual rights" as well.
Photo via: Mark Tuschman
Although the new development framework recognizes the importance of investing in girls and women, there are shortfalls that will need to be addressed in the implementation. The agenda states, "No one must be left behind" and we agree wholeheartedly with that statement. We are also very pleased to see that youth is mentioned multiple times this time around, but there needs to be a clear understanding of the importance of youth engagement. Young people are often seen as only beneficiaries of change, when in reality they can be-and most often are- the catalyst for change. Young people know their needs better than anyone else, so engaging them in the implementation process now is critical to create a more sustainable and just future.
The crucial next steps for the SDG agenda will be the development of the indicators, coalition building, and implementation. What gets measured gets done and it will be crucial that the health, needs and rights of girls and women are properly reflected in the SDG indicators, scheduled to come out in spring 2016.
Next will come implementation and working together to achieve change and find new solutions. This will be at the heart of the upcoming Women Deliver conference. In May 2016, world leaders, advocates, activists and policymakers will gather in Copenhagen for the Women Deliver 2016 Conference - the largest conference on the health, rights and wellbeing of girls and women in more than a decade. The conference will be an opportunity to showcase and share ideas and solutions on HOW to implement the SDGs so they matter most for girls and women. The upcoming Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescent's Health, which has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people around the globe, will also be discussed at Women Deliver 2016. Another vital moment for girls and women will be the launch of the #HerGlobalGoals campaign on 14 August, which will help align the SDGs for girls and women so it makes the most impact in their lives.
If we want to see success come from the SDGs, girls and women MUST be at the center of the agenda and especially in the implementation plans. They are the drivers of change in their families, communities and nations, and if we don't invest in their lives and future, we cannot assume the SDGs will be realized. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Women Deliver CEO Katja Iversen said this, "All evidence shows that when societies invest in girls and women everybody wins. Investing in girls and women is not only the right thing to do, but the sound thing to do." When organizations and individuals work together for the advancement of girls and women, they are able to unlock the potential of girls worldwide in ways that could never be done alone.