Advocating for Youth Leadership to Achieve the SDGs

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Mary Kate Costello addresses youth attendees of 2017 Winter Youth Assembly.

In keeping with The Hunger Project’s priority to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through community-led development, advocacy for youth leadership and engagement has been at a forefront. The Hunger Project took a leading role in both the United Nation’s 6th Annual Youth Forum and the Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations at the beginning of February 2017.

Follow-up: Click here to read Mary Kate’s article on young women’s cooperatives.

The Hunger Project’s Senior Policy Analyst, Mary Kate Costello, has been an active member of the United Nation’s Interagency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality, and is now co-chair of its new Task Force on Young Women’s Economic Empowerment. Such engagement afforded The Hunger Project the opportunity to chair two sessions during the Youth Forum: breakout sessions on SDGs 2 and 5.

Mary Kate participated in the SDG5 session as a panelist, focusing on the importance of young women-led cooperatives, especially at the grassroots. Not only will cooperatives provide improved income generation for young women, but also offer unique social inclusion – especially for marginalized persons such as those with disabilities and indigenous women. Mary Kate stressed Coop UK’s research that cooperatives have an 80% success rate in their first five years compared to 40% for other economic initiatives and investments. Discussion during the breakout session included hindrances to gender equality in the economy as a result of both discriminatory laws and discriminatory practices that do not adhere to favorable laws for women. One such example noted was Ghana’s policies entitling women and men to have the same allowances in owning land. However, this is not reflected in the percentage of land owned by women. Approximately 15% of men own land in Ghana, whereas less than 10% women own land.[1]

The Hunger Project, as a leader in integrated community-led development, was asked to moderate one of the Youth Forum’s Media Zone Panels. Mary Kate Costello engaged with three youth leaders about their work toward SDG2, ending hunger, in their respective home countries of Trinidad and Tobago, Nepal, and Colombia. Issues covered included how to encourage youth interest in agriculturally focused employment, mobile phone technology and grassroots capacity assessments and rehabilitation of abandoned fisheries to generate exponential income. The full panel is available here.

The week rounded off with chairing and speaking in the Winter Youth Assembly

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Winter Youth Assembly attendees discuss their leadership initiatives toward SDGs 1 and 2.

interactive session on SDG1, ending poverty. The Hunger Project, alongside cohosts Campus Kitchens Project and FeelGood, looked
at existing youth-led initiatives toward ending hunger that mitigate poverty. The United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) delivered the keynote address via their Lead Technical Specialist, Mattia Prayer Galletti, challenging that youth development need not only include youth in program design and implementation, but more important youth leadership in both aspects.

The Hunger Project, out of its pillar to empower women, is an organizing partner of the upcoming CSW Youth Forum from 10 – 12 March 2017, and will be featured in a plenary panel on the topic of young women-led cooperatives again. This year’s CSW Youth Forum is the second of its kind, chaired by UN Women and YWCA, as a youth-focused “opening” to the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN. The Hunger Project will maintain its engagement in the arena of youth development and leadership as a key element of community-led programming to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

[1] http://news.trust.org/item/20160516120134-jqvsx

An International Look at Women’s Rights

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Until recently, the human rights of half the world’s population – women – were not universally protected, nor accepted in most parts of the world. In 2014, the United Nations (UN) released a publication, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” to further the international understanding of women’s human rights. The framework outlines key areas of women’s rights that must be addressed by all states around the world.

In 1948, the UN established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all human rights applied to both men and women, using inclusive wording that eliminated the question of human rights applying only to men. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 and other human rights treaties followed suit to be more inclusive of women in both its wording and the rights it guarantees (i.e. marriage rights, maternity and child protection, etc.). An official declaration of women’s rights was officially adopted in 1967 by the UN titled the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, proclaiming discrimination against women as a barrier to “the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their countries and of humanity”.

Out of the fact that women’s rights are indeed human rights, women’s rights have become more widely understood as inalienable and of utmost priority for international development.

There are several key priorities toward the advancement and inclusion of women globally:

  • Identifying and citing private party violators of women’s rights, (i.e. individuals, small organizations, businesses, etc.)
  • Standardizing women’s rights – regardless of culture and traditional customs and practices
  • Ending discrimination that neglects women and prohibits their decision making influence, as well as their social and economic empowerment

Advocacy has a huge role to play in the achievement of gender equality. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which is to assure we “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, specifically targets several ways in which we can end gender inequality. We must end discrimination against all women, eradicate violence against women, ensure the opportunity for women to be leaders and decision-makers, protect all women’s right to reproductive and sexual health, guarantee women’s economic rights, and certify that the legal systems in place can protect these rights. Below are eight human rights that must immediately be achieved in each country to ensure the achievement of gender equality internationally.

  1. Education – Barriers to universal education must be eliminated. This includes child marriage, teen pregnancy, child labor, discriminatory policies, poor access to schools, and cultural tendencies.
  2. Political Roles – Women should not only have the right to vote, but also be constitutionally allowed to run for government office. (See SDG 5.5)
  3. Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) – A women should be able to receive sexual and reproductive health care wherever she lives, including family planning and informative services. This care must also be provided by trained and safe providers. (See SDGs 3.7, 3.8, & 5.6)
  4. Adequate Standards of Living – Women must have access to basic resources such as food, clothing, and housing. These resources ultimately affect a woman’s economic prosperity, lifelong health, and her social capital. A food security system and economic opportunities must be in place to achieve adequate standards of living.
  5. Prevent and End Violence Against Women – Often occurring from entrenched patriarchy, violence against women further burdens vulnerable and impoverished populations. Victims of domestic abuse, female genital mutilations (FGM), and rape suffer severe psychological and health repercussions that can hinder development advancements. States must prioritize preventing violence against women and girls. (See SDG 5.2)
  6. Immigration and Displacement Protection – States involved in the origin, travel, and destination of migrant and displaced women should all be held accountable for protecting women against harm. Migrant and displaced women are at a higher risk of physical and sexual abuse, discrimination, depression, forced prostitution, and unacceptable working conditions due to their citizenship status.
  7. Protection in Conflict and Crises – Conflict can normalize and amplify the mistreatment of women, who are “often used as a tactic of war”. Woman are more vulnerable to rape, sexual violence, trafficking, and other human rights violations in these situations. Legal action and victim protection must be available and effective to protect women in these situations.
  8. Access to Legal Assistance and Justice – To achieve gender equality, we must have effective and accessible law and justice procedures to protect women at the local, national, and international level. Justice systems must be non-discriminatory, accessible to all women, and states must make it a priority to educate both women and law officials on the rights women are entitled to. (See SDG 5.c)

Women are capable of lifting their families, communities, and countries out of poverty. They have the ability to change the world if their human rights are recognized as not only important, but inalienable. We must ensure that humans rights are inclusive of women globally and that they enable women reach their full potential as agents of change.

To learn more about the SDGs, click here.

Image courtesy of UN News Centre.

Top 5 Takeaways from the SDSN Guidebook “Getting Started With The SDGs”

Let the work begin! The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a Global Initiative of the United Nations, has released a guidebook  “Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) to help all stakeholders understand and implement the Post-2015 development agenda. The year 2016 marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the official launch of the Post-2015 SDGs to be achieved by year 2030. Listed below are key takeaways from the guidebook on how to embark on this collective agenda efficiently:

1. Execute Goal-Based Planning  

Having a goal and target framework like the SDGs is beneficial because it provides a shared narrative of the complex, yet important challenges that must be addressed and understood. For example, the guidebook explains that evidence from the MDGs dealing with public health shows that communities were able to mobilize around time-bound goals.

“The shared focus on time-bound quantitative goals will spur greater mobilization, promote innovation, and strengthen collaboration within epistemic communities or networks of expertise and practice.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 9)

2. Implement Locally-Focused Development

For the SDGs to be  implemented at the local level, local authorities and communities must take responsibility for leading initiatives. For example The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy  unites 5,000 to 15,000 people in a cluster of villages to create an “epicenter” where communities are mobilized to lead their own initiatives around their basic needs.

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Source: Gender-Focused, Community-Led Developing in Rural Africa: The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy

 “A bottom-up approach can be successful in achieving transformational sustainable pathways through direct contact with communities, which informs national-level policy decisions” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg.11)

To learn more about these strategies and alike, check out the Movement for Community-Led Development that was recently launched at a side event for the 70th Session of the UN’s General Assembly.

3. Prioritize the implementation of the SDGs

These 17 audacious, yet achievable goals and 169 targets provide a framework for future development initiatives. As a side note the UN’s Inter-agency Expert Group (IAEG) on SDG Indicators plans to confirm most indicators for the 169 targets by  March 2016 for use by Member States and development actors. The Hunger Project and its advocacy partners such as CONCERN, World Vision, Save the Children and Action Against Hunger have been advocating for specific indicators to accurately measure community advancements in nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Given this feat, stakeholders should take stock of where their respective country, sector, or community stands in regard to the 17 SDGs. As shown in Table 1 below The Global Reporting Initiative, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the Global Compact has developed a set of key performance indicators with which businesses, as well as, civil society, faith-based groups,and  knowledge institutions can utilize to determine their contribution to each of the 17 SDGs.

“A quick ‘temperature check’ of the key dimensions of sustainable development, including economic development, social inclusion, and sustainable environmental management, can help develop a shared understanding of priorities for implementation.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 13)

Table 1: Indicators for a quick assessment of a country or region’s starting position with regards to sustainable development
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Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg .14

4. Prepare to Monitor Progress on SDGs and Strengthen Statistical Systems

The SDGs cover a wide range of cross-sector challenges which present a need for demographic, economic, social, and environmental data. For data to be useful in influencing policy and decision-making, it must be timely. Table 2 depicts key data sources for monitoring the SDGs to build and modernize the statistical systems that capture the data.

“As one impressive example [of geo-referenced data], the Nigerian Senior Special Advisor to the President on the MDGs, with support from the Earth Institute’s Sustainable Engineering Laboratory, developed the Nigeria MDG Information System, an online interactive data platform. Using this system, all government health and education facilities as well as water access points were mapped across Nigeria within a mere two months” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 28)

Table 2. A toolkit of data instruments for monitoring the SDGS
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Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg. 27

5. Build Goal-Based Public-Private Partnerships

Evidence from the MDGs suggests that a diverse range of partnerships can emerge from international collaboration such as bilateral partnerships between states and combinations of public, private, and multilateral actors. It is key to note that effective partnerships are not centrally planned and they do not require one actor to oversee all operations. Each sector has a variety of capabilities, therefore the partnerships will vary depending on the engagement. To that regard, Figure 2 illustrates seven core processes identified by the SDSN that depicts the basis of goal-based partnerships.

“As outlined in the document Goal-based Investment Partnerships: Lessons for the Addis FfD Conference[3.14], each sector has unique features and requirements for success, so there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to building global public-private partnerships.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 29)

Figure 2. Core components of goal-based partnerships
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Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg. 29

 

Great progress has been achieved through the MDGs, however  much more has to be done. Now in the era of the  Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals there is a call for more innovate approaches to finishing the fight …for people, prosperity and the planet”  by 2030.  This is a call for building the capacity within local communities to transform the world we live in, from within, starting with the strategies in these takeaways.

Youth Leadership and Voice in Post 2015: UN Resolution 2250

Youth Representative of Burkina Faso and Restless Development, Cheick Faycal Traore, meetings at the United Nations with The Hunger Project, the Government of the Philippines and MCC to discuss youth in community-led development.
Youth Representative of Burkina Faso and Restless Development, Cheick Faycal Traore, at the United Nations with The Hunger Project, the Government of the Philippines and MCC.

It is not new knowledge that half of the world’s population is made up of persons under the age of 35, the majority of whom are youth older than 15. As the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals near, the world will be responsible for achieving sustainable development within only fifteen years. In the absence of the estimated two trillion dollars per year to realize the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, development initiatives must be implemented efficiently and – ideally – through community leadership to reduce loss of money from trickle-down approaches. Volunteerism, local capacity building, local and youth leadership and community mobilization will be necessary, not optional.

The United Nations has keenly prioritized youth leadership and youth mobilization to not only implement the SDGs, but to also establish youth’s rightful ownership over their communities’ and nations’ development. Without their ownership and engagement for both current and future leadership in alignment with the SDGs, the goals are at a serious risk of not being achieved by 2030 – a window of development opportunity that may very well be the last to ensure stable security and the eradication of hunger and poverty forever.

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 2.32.24 PMTherefore, on December 9, 2015, The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2250 to emphasize the importance of youth leadership and inclusion to achieve peace and security worldwide. The approach? Youth (ages 18-29) representation for decision making – at all levels – must be increased.In my opinion, this is the most important Resolution adopted by the Security Council since Resolution 1325 in 2000, which similarly acknowledged the need for increased inclusion of women in peace building processes due to the unique gender roles of increasing warfare. Like women, youth account for a significant number, if not majority, of civilians affected by armed conflict and living as refugees or displaced persons. In under 10 minutes, Resolution 2250 was adopted, proving that the Security Council finds it significantly less advantageous to “marginalize” a majority population that has significant capability than leverage and include them as a priority resource for peace and security. A lack of youth leadership and representation poses the risk of losing youth to other priorities such as joining rebel groups or contentment with helplessness.

The millennial generation is uniquely positioned on the global stage amidst globalized technological communication and exposure to improved living standards or policies through available internet connections. Millennials living in extreme poverty are arguably the first from which a majority are rejecting a rural livelihood built on agriculture, instead opting for informal or illegal employment in more urban settings or internet means. They are at a higher risk than youth of any previous generation to be recruited in greater numbers by terrorists or rebels through exploitation of internet access and other forms of modern communication (i.e. texting hot lines). They are also at a significant risk of long-term unemployment and continued poverty should they not be included in the discourse of development plans, from which we risk their disagreement with approaches or priorities to achieve the SDGs. These are risks we must mitigate.

Beyond what I consider to be a moral imperative of the inclusion of a youth voice – at all levels – in peace building and dispute resolution, it is to the world’s economic advantage that UN Member States implement Resolution 2250 [promptly] into practice, establishing conducive policies if need be. Especially for those nations whose conflict has hindered youth education and employment opportunities, their inclusion in decision making will undoubtedly positively impact economic prosperity as solutions are deliberated and established together through the lens of youth and their desires for development.

What is the role for development actors such as foundations and CSOs to contribute to this process? Firstly, advocating for 1) meaningful implementation of Resolution 2250, and; 2) the establishment of relevant policies. Advocate also for the implementation of development initiatives, ideally in partnership with [local] government, that provide opportunities for youth leadership, education, employment and vocational training to motivate positive youth engagement and contribution to society. Lastly, I encourage the design and implementation of locally-led, youth-centered development initiatives that empower youth with leadership skills, dispute resolution skills, seat quotas within relevant committees, and program design input and leadership. Positive engagement and outcomes thereof will not only be an example to governments and multilateral implementers of the positive impact of youth leadership and inclusion in discourse, but will also increase the number of youth engaged in development practices in the absence of government or others’ capacity to scale-up initiatives.

Youth have experiences to share, ideas to discuss, opinions to contribute in discourse and a unique capability given their available time, especially in the absence of employment or education. They are driven to seek and enact change due to their interconnectedness and lifestyle exposures through globalized technological communication. Youth are not the leaders of the future; they are able to be leaders now. Their risks and tribulations are issues of the present, and likely to worsen without their inclusion in development and peace building leadership. Just in time for the start of the SDGs, Resolution 2250 was adopted and must be duly implemented and recognized by all actors if we need to achieve sustainable development by 2030.

Inter-Epicenter Exchanges to Strengthen Local Leadership

THP-SenegalThe Hunger Project-Senegal has initiated an approach associated with The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy. Senegal was the first African country of intervention for The Hunger Project, starting in 1991. THP-Senegal continues to build sustainable community-based programs using the Epicenter Strategy. The strategy was devised in Africa, by Africans, and for Africans. To date, it has been applied to all eight program countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, reaching 1.6 million people across Africa.

For more than 20 years, the Epicenter Strategy has proven to be an effective, efficient and replicable model to achieve sustainable development. The program takes approximately eight years over four phases: 1) training to mobilize communities to commit to creating positive change, 2) construction of the Epicenter building, 3) implementation of community programs, the implemented programs address the needs of the community, like health, food security, education, agriculture, and household finance and; 4) transition to self-reliance.

THP-Senegal added an Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit to increasingly advance local leaders’ capacities. The initiative will serve as a liaison for Epicenter leaders to exchange practices and various techniques with other Epicenter leaders to obtain knowledge and ideas at the same time rectify faults and dysfunctions perpetrated as they sustain for the accomplishment of their goal.

The Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit is composed of two phases: 1) participants welcome the words and presentation of distinguished leaders from other Epicenters, 2) participants attend a thematic workshop specifically about important issues  and programmatic components of THP-Senegal such as mobilization and leadership, health and nutrition, food safety, environment and sanitation, monitoring and evaluation, microfinance, income generating activities, and gender and women empowerment.

Leaders that participated in the exchange visits have expressed that they have learned a lot from discussing activities of their partner Epicenters in the many workshops. It has also spawned discussion among Epicenter leaders to exchange agricultural products such as millet, groundnuts, rice, and cowpeas,  between Epicenters of the north and center. They believe this would strengthen partnership linkages between communities of partner Epicenters in THP-Senegal and help to expand local economies and subsequent opportunities

The greening of Epicenters initiative was another lesson assimilated by the leaders generated from the environment and sanitation workshops. They have agreed to the tree planting initiative by Epicenters Ndéreppe, Dinguiraye and Coki to continue the tree planting efforts to their respective communities.

Leaders strongly acknowledged the importance of sanitation and latrines, especially in consideration of community members’ comfort in hosting visitors. The leaders also realized the CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation) approach appeared to be simple and accessible to the communities.

The leaders expressed that the Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit was a strong moment of sharing and cooperation with partner Epicenters. With all the information exchanged from one leader to the other, they hope to follow and implement the lessons they have assimilated during the visit, and as they wait for the following gathering at the end of the year, they are committed to advance their respective communities’ capacities with respect to the Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit initiative.

The Development of communities is not a one-size fits all philosophy therefore it is not imperative for communities to replicate the activities and strategy of its partner communities, but exchange of ideas opens the door of possibilities and opportunities for communities to grow. One community’s insight could foster advanced inputs and innovation to other communities.


THP-Senegal’s Inter-epicenter initiative would be a great practice to pilot in other program countries because it promotes stronger partnerships between communities. The leaders who have participated in the initiative have also testified that the meeting renewed their interest and alleviated their drive for progress and innovation. The practice of exchanging information with other communities also highlights gaps or hindrances that possibly jeopardizes progress, therein safeguarding progress and ensuring sustainability from activities.

Women and the Role of Husbandry for Stronger Community-led Development

THP-Burkina Faso’s Director,  Evariste Lebende Yaogho, with program participant.

We live in a world where women still continue to fight for equal rights. They are not given the option to make decisions and their needs are only secondary to men. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), women comprise an average of 43 percent of the agricultural labour force of developing countries up to almost 50 percent in Eastern and Southeastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Women produce more than half of all the food that is grown but ironically, a greater number of the world’s hungry are women.

In many rural communities, women are not granted the freedom to generate their own income or even leave the confines of their home. A huge number of them are illiterate because they are denied to receive an education. They are mandated to spend most of their days care-giving and perform other household responsibilities. They have to face different challenges on the road in order to achieve literacy. When they grow up, their daughters go through the same oppression: a cycle of poverty. It can be very difficult to break that cycle given that a girl’s future is determined by the time she takes her first breath.

The Hunger Project believes that development requires gender equality. This begins with empowering women. When women join the working sector there is an increase in economic productivity. One of the Hunger Project’s most recent initiatives, “Projet d’appui à la production animale dans les Communes de Arbollé et de Kirsi (PAPA/AK),” is a twelve month project funded by FAO that attempts to break the cycle of poverty through livestock husbandry. Fifty have chosen 3 rams during a community fair, each benefiting from the inclusion of monthly health monitored for each animal.

Educating whole communities, including men, about the benefits of empowering women can affect a critical social mindset shift to improve household income and bring families out of poverty. This can also lead to different possibilities and opportunities for women to build greater agency and roles within her community.  Women empowerment does not equal to male inferiority. Women empowerment seeks the closure of gender-gaps that consequently results to development and betterment of the lives of women, men, families and communities.

Heifer International, co-founder of the Movement for Community-led Development with The Hunger Project, also aims to empower citizens and communities at the grassroots level to become agents of change for the eradication of world hunger and poverty. They strengthen local economies by distributing livestock and leading husbandry trainings to help families become self reliant. Heifer also provides veterinary services to project participants to maximize benefits and reduce livestock mortality rates.

According to the U.N. Development Programme, “when women have equal access to education, and go to participate fully in business and economic decision-making, they are a key driving force against poverty.” A community cannot meet full development unless women receive the same treatment and opportunities as men. Women posses the essential skills for development, they just need the transition to reach that goal.

The Hunger Project’s recent animal donation project with FAO places particular priority on women, as it empowers them to become financial providers for their family. It generates opportunities for women to cut the cycle of poverty and hunger, and an opportunity for them to participate to fostering equality and breaking the norms of inferiority. They become the key agents of their own development and the innovator their community needs.