Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Harnessing the transformative potential of the 2030 Agenda

This state of affairs presents a real test for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Yet, as Chapter 1 shows, the 2030 Agenda’s focus on sustainability, equality, peace and human progress provides a powerful counter-narrative to current practices of extraction, exclusion and division. The SDGs are especially important now, both as a political agenda for global cooperation and as a specific, time-bound set of targets that underline the urgent need for concerted action. What will it take to harness their transformative potential and make them work for gender equality and women’s rights? 

Getting it right: Indivisibility, interlinkages and taking an integrated approach
The 2030 Agenda builds on previous commitments to respect, protect and fulfil women’s human rights. It recognizes the indivisibility and interdependence of rights, the interlinkages between gender equality and the three dimensions of sustainable development, and the need for an integrated approach to implementation. 
In the lives of women and girls, different dimensions of well-being and deprivation are deeply intertwined: A girl who is born into a poor household (Target 1.2) and forced into early marriage (Target 5.3), for example, is more likely to drop out of school (Target 4.1), give birth at an early age (Target 3.7), suffer complications during childbirth (Target 3.1) and experience violence (Target 5.2) than a girl from a higher-income household who marries at a later age. At the end of this chain of events, the girl who was born into poverty stands almost no chance of moving out of it. 
During implementation, policymakers must aim to break this vicious cycle and respond to the interdependent experiences of exclusion and deprivation by providing integrated responses: A woman who leaves an abusive relationship, for example, needs access to justice (Target 16.3) as well as a safe place to live (Target 11.1), medical care (Target 3.8) and a decent job (Target 8.5) so she can maintain an adequate standard of living for herself and any dependents she may have. 
This means that while progress on SDG 5 will be critical, it cannot be the sole focus of genderresponsive implementation, monitoring and accountability. Progress on some fronts may be undermined by regression or stagnation on others; potential synergies may be lost without integrated, multisectoral strategies.2 This is why women’s rights advocates fought hard to achieve both a standalone goal on gender equality as well as integrating it across other goals and targets, drawing attention to the gender dimensions of poverty, hunger, health, education, water and sanitation, employment, climate change, environmental degradation, urbanization, conflict and peace, and financing for development. This report follows the same rationale, looking at progress, gaps and challenges for gender equality across the 2030 Agenda as a whole (see Chapter 3).

Leaving no one behind: Universality, solidarity and addressing intersecting inequalities  
The universal nature of the 2030 Agenda responds to the common and interconnected challenges faced by all countries—developed and developing—while the commitment to leaving no one behind seeks to reach the most disadvantaged by building solidarity between them and those who are better-off. Improving the lives of those who are furthest behind is a matter of social justice, as well as being essential for creating inclusive societies and sustainable economies. Inequality hurts everyone: It is a threat to social and political stability, a drag on economic growth3 and a barrier to progress on poverty eradication and the realization of human rights more broadly.4 
Global solidarity and cooperation in areas such as climate change, migration and financing for  development will be crucial to providing enabling conditions for successful national implementation. Illicit financial flows, the global arms trade and large-scale land dispossession by transnational actors, for example, contribute to pushing people further behind, with women and girls often particularly affected.5 Powerful global players— be they sovereign States, international financial institutions or transnational corporations—have a particularly critical responsibility to ensure their actions and omissions do not undermine gender equality and sustainable development. 
Across countries, women and girls experience multiple inequalities and intersecting forms of discrimination, including based on their sex, age, class, ability, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity and migration status (see Chapter 4). Their rights and needs must be addressed and their meaningful participation in implementation ensured. At the same time, strategies to 'leave no one behind' should create solidarity through risksharing, redistribution and universal programmes6 and avoid contributing to social fragmentation and stigmatization. Narrowly targeted programmes can exacerbate tensions over resource allocation and contribute to the creation of harmful stereotypes and hierarchies of disadvantage and entitlement.7 Rather than substituting targeted programmes for universal ones, governments should ensure access for groups that have been  historically excluded while building universal systems that are collectively financed and used by all social groups.8

Monitoring and accountability: The need for a revolution in data and democratic governance

To strengthen accountability, progress on the goals must be tracked, gaps identified and challenges in implementation highlighted. However, as Chapter 2 shows, the challenges for gender-responsive monitoring are daunting. Currently, only 10 out of 54 gender-related indicators, can reliably be monitored at the global level. Established methodologies exist for another 25 indicators but country coverage is insufficient to allow for global monitoring. The remaining 18 indicators still require some level of conceptual elaboration and/or methodological development before they can be used. While this is a challenge for measuring change, at least in the short run, it also provides an opportunity for improving the availability and quality of gender statistics. 

A revolution in democratic governance is also needed for women and girls to claim their rights and shape sustainable development. Spaces for public debate and democratic decision-making must be created to define national priorities, identify what is working well and where the gaps are, agree on pathways for transformative change and determine the roles and responsibilities of different actors. At the global level, open consultation throughout the post-2015 process engaged and mobilized people, countries and organizations to identify common priorities and navigate tensions. Women’s rights organizations were extremely effective in building coalitions and alliances across different interest groups to put gender equality at the centre of the new agenda.9 Such participatory processes and strategic alliances are also needed to ensure effective and gender-responsive implementation, follow-up and review.

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

A challenging global context

 The 2030 Agenda holds the potential to transform the lives of women and girls all over the world even though the challenges are daunting. The large-scale extraction of natural resources, climate change and 
environmental degradation are advancing at an unprecedented pace, undermining the livelihoods of millions of women and men, particularly in the developing world. A volatile global economy and orthodox economic policies continue to deepen inequalities and push people further behind. Exclusionary and fear-based politics are deepening societal divisions and breeding conflict and instability; millions are being forcibly displaced due to violent conflicts and humanitarian catastrophes. Amid global socio-economic and political turmoil, not only is gender equality out or reach but women’s rights are facing renewed resistance from different kinds of fundamentalism. Civic space is shrinking and women’s human rights defenders are facing threats and persecution by both state and non-state actors.

Gender inequalities manifest themselves in every dimension of sustainable development (see pp. 20-21). When households cannot access sufficient food, women are often the first to go hungry. While girls are increasingly doing better in school and university than boys, this has not translated into gender equality in the labour market. The gender pay gap stands at 23 per cent globally and, without decisive action, it will take another 68 years to achieve equal pay. While women have made important inroads into political office across the world, their representation in national parliaments at 23.7 per cent is still far from parity, and women politicians and voters face threats and attacks, persistent sexual harassment and online abuse. One in five women and girls have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within the last 12 months. Yet, 49 countries have no laws that specifically protect women from such violence. Despite their increasing presence in public life, women continue to do 2.6 times the unpaid care and domestic work that men do. Women and girls are also the main water and solid fuel collectors in households without access to an improved water source and clean energy in their homes, with adverse implications for their health and safety (see At a glance, pp. 20-21). 

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Friday, July 13, 2018


Adopted in September 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development tackles a broad range of global challenges, aiming to eradicate poverty, reduce multiple and intersecting inequalities, address climate change, end conflict and sustain peace. Due to the relentless efforts of women’s rights advocates from across the globe, the 2030 Agenda’s commitment to gender equality is prominent, comprehensive and cross-cutting, building on the commitments and norms contained in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The 2030 Agenda makes clear that development will only be sustainable if its benefits accrue equally to both women and men; and women’s rights will only become a reality if they are part of broader efforts to protect the planet and ensure that all people can live with respect and dignity. 

What progress have we made for women and girls? What is needed to bridge the gaps between rhetoric and reality? More than two years into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, this global monitoring report takes stock of ongoing trends and challenges based on available evidence and data. It looks at both the ends (goals and targets) and the means (policies and processes) that are needed to achieve gender equality and sustainable development. This approach of monitoring is intended to enable Member States and other stakeholders to track progress comprehensively and to assist women’s rights advocates to demand accountability for gender equality commitments as implementation proceeds. 

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018


POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION is a reliable pathway to economic security and is increasingly important to securing family-sustaining employment. For single mothers families, who are especially likely to live in poverty, college attainment is a game changer for improving family well-being and meeting the demands of a changing economy. College credentials are associated with a host of positive outcomes, including increased earnings,2 higher rates of employment,3-4 improved health,5 increased civic engagement,6-7 and improved outcomes among the children of college graduates.8 Single mothers, whose families stand to gain disproportionately from the benefits of postsecondary degrees, face substantial obstacles to college completion, including financial insecurity and heavy caregiving burdens. Just 8 percent of single mothers who enroll in college graduate with an associate or bachelor’s degree within six years, compared with 49 percent of women students who are not mothers.9 The vast majority of single student mothers have low-incomes (89 percent) and no money of their own or from their families to cover college expenses. They are also likely to incur substantial student debt, in part due to the high cost of child care—which costs the equivalent of roughly one-third of working single mothers’ median annual incomes10—and their disproportionate enrollment in for-profit institutions.11 On average, single student mothers spend nine hours each day, or 70 hours each week, caring for their children and doing housework.12 Child care, in addition to being expensive, can be difficult to access, and has been declining on college campuses around the country.13-14 Single mothers’ low completion rates are particularly concerning given the high proportion who are students of color: 37 percent of Black women, 27 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native women, 19 percent of Hispanic women, and 14 percent of White women in college are single mothers.15 Addressing their needs while pursuing college degrees is critical to making meaningful progress toward racial/ethnic equity in education.
To better  understand the benefits of college for single mothers, and the costs of investments in supports that can improve their success, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) estimated the economic returns to college attainment for single mothers and their families, and for society more broadly, and how those benefits compare to investments needed to promote single mother success. This report is part of a series of publications presenting findings from this cost-benefit analysis.
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Monday, July 9, 2018


1. ENABLE ACCESS TO JUSTICE – by all available ways and means. 

2. CRIMINALIZE all actions that deprive widows of all ages of their rights, and perpetrate or condone violence against them, whether by State or Non-State actors including family and community members. 

3. CRIMINALIZE rites of stigmatization, including but not limited to life-threatening and degrading mourning and burial rites, witchcraft or cause of death accusations, widowinheritance, and levirate practices. 

4. REFORM ALL LAWS to facilitate economic empowerment opportunities for widows including women’s right to own land, inherit, and receive access to economic opportunity including education, skills training, credit, capital, and cooperative business models. 

5. APPOINT a Special Rapporteur to address widowhood in context of conflict. 

6. ESTABLISH a Special Desk at UN Women to address the cross cutting inter sectorial issues of widowhood across the globe. 

7. SUPPORT widows to establish their own organizations so their collective voice can be heard to articulate their needs and describe their roles 

8. COMMISSION COMPREHENSIVE STATISTICAL REVIEWS of Widowhood in each country in order to fill the quantitative and qualitative information gap. 

9. ENSURE that widows are not "left behind" but their status directly addressed in strategies to achieve the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals since Widowhood is a root cause of poverty across the generations. 

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Saturday, July 7, 2018

Widowhood, the Root Cause of Perpetual Poverty

In determining the root cause of perpetual poverty across generations, an assessment of the innumerable causes of poverty must be undertaken. They fall into three main categories—social exclusion, economic vulnerability, and humanitarian crisis or injustice. An assessment of these categorical elements in relation to those most impacted by these factors of causation, we must determine the individuals furthest from the visible impact—the invisible group. Recalling the explanation given by Khanna, we agree that cultural stigmatization that is heavily placed on women, puts greater pressure on single women, and more specifically, widows. Exhibit 1 depicts the analysis of how widowhood creates an epidemic of perpetual poverty. 

The actions undertaken by the Global Fund for Widows and many other widows’ organizations around the world continue to try and unveil the correct statistics that represent the widowed population across the world, especially in non-Western countries, such as Asia and Africa. As discussed throughout this report, it can be determined that economic empowerment is the key to changing the lives of widows around the world and, thereby, reducing global poverty amongst generations. Exhibit 2 briefly summarizes how economic empowerment hinders the cycle of poverty at its very core. 

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Humanitarian Impact of Widowhood

The economic vulnerability of widows, if not solved, makes them more vulnerable to humanitarian injustices coming from both within and outside of the community in which they preside. Dr. Eleanor Ann Nwadinobi, manager at the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Program, and Hanaa Edwar, Iraqi Women’s Network, spoke extensively on these subjects at this conference.  

The humanitarian injustices today are exacerbated in regions of the world where Boko Haram continues to abduct women and men and ISIS continues to commit war crimes. During Nwadinobi’s trip to Northeast Nigeria, she discovered much of the reality of life there. When Boko Haram began their abductions, they would throw $10 in the compound. This exchange of dowry signified a contractual marriage. With the passage of time, the insurgents stopped paying this dowry as well. April 14th signifies two years since Boko Haram insurgents abducted 200 young girls from their homes. These girls have not been found to date. However, these insurgents have existed for far longer, having originated in 2002 and their atrocities were not limited to the abduction of these 200 girls. As Nigeria has begun to win the war on insurgency, the girls who were forcefully abducted and married to the insurgents now return to their communities as widows. The reaction from families is mixed, as is the level of stigmatization from family and society. Some families want their daughters back, even as widows, while others ostracize and stigmatize them due to their now “tainted” nature and do not want anything to do with them. 

Due to their young abduction forced marriage, young widowhood, and therefore cultural and social exclusion, there is an emerging issue in Nigeria. The country has seen an increase in the number of female suicide bombers—most the young victims of Boko Haram. Organizations within Nigeria have been trying to determine whether this emergence is the results of turned violent extremism, depression and lost will to live, or coercion by Boko Haram insurgents. This increase in female insurgents has resulted in a greater skepticism of these widows that have emerged from traumatic situations and continue to face struggles. This makes it harder for them to transition back into society, reduces their opportunity to continue their education, and minimizes their chances for future economic empowerment. Social exclusion resulting from humanitarian injustices in this situation leads to economic vulnerability and thereby exacerbates stigmatism and likelihood of continued poverty. 

In regions such as Iraq, as addressed by Edwar, the emergence of ISIS has resulted in a more internal level of perpetuating humanitarian crises. The rise of ISIS has significantly increased widowhood since 2012. For perspective, there has been a sixty-three percent increase in documented widows since 2003, largely attributed to the last four years that ISIS has raged conflict and war in the region. There are currently 2 million widows in Iraq that have been accounted for and that statistic continues to rise each day. Of these widows, seventy-five percent are illiterate and fifty-six percent come from poor families. The economic disempowerment decreases their opportunities to achieve the skillset required to become economically independent and empowered to emerge from their poverty. Approximately fifty-five percent of illiterate or skill-less widows in Iraq are below the age of 35. Their young age leads to an earlier social death and isolation upon widowhood and many of these women are forced to re-marry. Remarriage is often kept within the family as to not lose control of the assets. It is shrouded in the misconception or cultural belief that the widow must cleanse herself of the murder of her husband in this manner. Furthermore, a majority of these widows are also mothers—twenty-four percent have children younger than 3 years old, fifty-nine percent have children between the ages of 3 and 5, and thirty-seven percent have children over the age of 5. The social benefits provided by the Iraqi government to support their family only totals to about $40 to $95 per month, an amount not enough to even cover basic monthly expenses. The past two years, organizations in Iraq have been fighting for legislation on social security for these widows.   


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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Economic Impact of Widowhood

 The social symptoms of widowhood, in combination with the overarching disempowerment of women from birth, leads to economic instability for widows. The widows with children further feel the impacts of disempowerment as resources required to sustain their families become scarce. Ibrahim-Leathers stresses that economic empowerment of women by helping them realize their potential and by providing them with a small source of capital to put their goals into gear can effectively help combat the social and humanitarian issues that arise from widowhood. The economic crisis sits squarely in between the social crisis that is an element of causation and the humanitarian crisis that emerges as a result of the economic vulnerability as pointed out by Khanna. “Cultural and social discrimination of widows is directly proportional to their economic vulnerability.” This direct proportionality is greater in patriarchal societies due to heightened economic vulnerability caused by structural inequalities in these societies, such as skewed patriarchal inheritance laws that leave widows economically dependent on others or incapable of supporting their own families due to the lack of resources or opportunities.  

In 2015, the Global Fund for Widows surveyed widows in Egypt, who make up a staggering thirty-six percent of the female population living at or below the poverty line. Fifty-three percent of these widows are under the age of 39, with children, and they only receive $1.20 from their government to feed their family. Fifty-three percent of these women have no source of income, but large burdens of debt that leaves them vulnerable, and eighty-two percent of these women want to start their own business, but lack the necessary capital to do so. Due to their inability to become economically independent as a result of social exclusion, absence of familial support, or lack of education, they become victims of violence and humanitarian injustices.  

Economic empowerment through training, social skills, and capital to pursue a path of financial stability creates change and transforms their lives. This conclusion was shared across the panel of speakers at this CSW event. The Global Fund for Widows provided 6,400 widows training in essential skills and a small amount of capital. The results of these measures exemplify the conclusion that economic empowerment of widows is a critical factor in achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030. Seventy-eight percent of widows experienced an increase in their household income by double or even triple percentage digits. Seventy-five percent were able to establish savings. Nine-five percent became economically independent. Ninety-four percent achieved higher social status. Ninety-three percent felt confident to reclaim their legal rights that should have been granted to them after the death of their significant other. And overall, exposure to domestic violence decreased. These women have an independent voice in their communities and in the whole of society due to their increased knowledge and their economic independence and SDGs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, and 11 were successfully achieved.  

As stated by Zarin Hainsworth, Chair of National Women’s Association in the UK and representative from Widows Rights International, economic vulnerability exacerbates social and cultural stigmatism. Recalling the points made by Khanna about the direct relationship between economic dependence and cultural stigmatization, as economic vulnerability is combatted with economic empowerment and related resources such as capital and education, social and cultural stigmatization is also etched out of the lives of widows. Further, if economic empowerment does indeed underscore social, cultural stigmatization, it is pragmatic to begin change with the most vulnerable of populations—“with the last woman first.” In patriarchal societies, women are stigmatized based on their relationship or lack thereof with a man. Thereby, single women in those societies are in fact the last women in line. The further stigmas attached to widows puts them at the very end of this spectrum. Therefore, it makes economic sense to empower the most vulnerable population—widows—first if we want to achieve a major part of the sustainable development goals. To do so, we must help create visibility to this real issue that is the epidemic of widowhood.  

 Hainsworth suggests that widow organizations work together to find data, push legislation, and support the economic empowerment of women. The statistics available and readily collected by organizations and governments are not complete and thereby are not fully representative of this massive issue. In some instances, women fear speaking out and feel ashamed of their widowhood status, which is closely attributed to the early disempowerment of widows. In other instances, a census has simply not been conducted in over a decade resulting in a massive amount of undocumented widows. The veil of invisibility must be lifted. As Khanna stated, “we must push our governments on SDG 5 (achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) linked with SDG 1 (end poverty in all it’s forms everywhere), while encouraging that single women households are put squarely on the discourse of poverty eradication.” Actions taken by the government to combat this root cause of poverty would increase the effectiveness of social programs and signify the changing of cultural stigmatization.


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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Social Impact of Widowhood

Patriarchal societies recognize widowhood in cultural contexts but do not recognize them in the discourse of poverty, as explained by Khanna. This statement is far more relevant to non-Western countries, such as Africa and Asia, than to Western countries, though the epidemic of widowhood is a global one. In India, there are more than 42.2 million known present widows—more than the total population of many small European countries. In Vietnam, that number is 4.7 million, in Brazil it is 5.6 million, and in Indonesia it is 1.2 million known present widows. It is due to those the patriarchal views and the single cultural attribution to widowhood that political change in this important discussion is minimal across nations. No government wants to touch the “Pandora’s box” of cultural issues.  

This is a major concern because stigmatization and cultural norms are critical factors that contribute to economic vulnerability. In regions such as Ghana, the husband’s death signifies the social death of the widow as well. As Dr. Joyce Akumaa Dongotey-Padi, Ghanaian women’s rights leader, explained, the widow no longer possesses any rights because her identity was so tethered to that of her husband’s. Often she is blamed for his death and must repent for her mistakes. She is no longer seen as a functioning member of society. 

Furthermore, as discussed by Owen, social stigmatization is perpetuated at young ages. As we have seen a large increase in the population of widows, there has been a parallel sharp increase in young widows due to child marriage practices that are still part of cultural norms in many regions of the world. When young widowhood occurs, the future of the country is put into jeopardy for the simple reason that young individuals are supposed to be the future of any country and a significant percentage of these young individuals are widowed, economically disempowered, and socially excluded. Furthermore, without education, training, and the means to support themselves, many widows are forced to take their children out of school. Most often, the girl is taken out of school first due to the social belief that the boy will take care of his parents when he grows older. However, in some cases the boy is even taken by the extended family because he is treated as an asset—an heir to the inheritance left by his father. As widows continue to struggle financially and are unable to support their children, they are coerced to selling them in some countries, such as in Afghanistan. Due to the lack of support given to widows in society and the ignorance bestowed upon them, children often end up in prostitution or commit crime. The lack of support and means to live, results in the spread of diseases, which further exacerbates the problem.   

However, the social calamity that widowhood presents can finally be realized through the new, comprehensive sustainable development goals that urge governments to reassess the focus of the issue and bring about political change. As speaker Hetle stated, “We can all use [SDG 5] towards the particular goals and groups through our activism.” Amongst the symptoms of the social ostracizing of widows include violence against these women (addressed by SDG 5.2), disrespect or disregard for their unpaid work (addressed by SDG 5.4), and an overarching disempowerment of women from early on in many communities across the globe. These symptoms become ignited upon the death of the significant other and lead to social death or stigmatization and eventual poverty. However, as Khanna pointed out, it is critical to realize the points that underscore stigmatization. While religious and social sanctions undoubtedly propel the stigmas within society, economic vulnerability exacerbates the problem by strengthening the basis for the stigmatization. Widowhood is more than just a cultural issue—it is an entitlement and human rights issue.


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