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Programme Director’s September 2020 Message – Prosperity

What does ‘Eat out to help out in August’ have in common with Sustainable Development Goals?

Carol InfantiIt has never been more important to focus on the Prosperity Sustainable Development Goals

  • Affordable and clean energy (SDG7)
  • Good jobs and economic growth (SDG8)
  • Innovation and infrastructure (SDG9)
  • Reduced in equalities (SDG10) and
  • Sustainable cities and communities (SDG11)

The economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing governments around the world to come up with policies for stimulating the economy.

Did you participate in the UK Government scheme?

The UK Government ran the ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme in August for participating restaurants. Diners could get a 50% discount on food or non-alcoholic drinks to eat or drink in the restaurant or cafe (up to a maximum of £10 discount per diner) on Monday – Wednesdays. After lockdown the aim was to generate traffic back to the restaurant businesses and get the economy going. It’s too soon to say if it worked; it certainly was an innovative idea. Did people go to fast food restaurants, did they make healthy choices, has it generated enough business to make up for lost income in previous months?

A different picture around the world

The picture in India is very different. When factories and construction sites closed because of the pandemic, many bosses, who frequently provide their temporary, often migrant employees with food and board, threw everyone out onto the streets. With no work, money or food many families had to leave the cities where they were working and returning to their home villages, often having to walk miles because the transport network was closed down. The poorest and most vulnerable need urgent support in responding to the worst economic and social crisis in generations.

The wide-scale economic disruption caused by the lockdown has disproportionately affected women.  95% of employed women work in India’s informal economy, many lost their jobs, even as the burden remained on them to take care of household responsibilities. Many signed up for India’s rural employment scheme, which guarantees a set number of hours of unskilled manual labour. Others sold jewellery or took on debts to pay for meals. “The COVID situation multiplied the burden on women both as economic earners and as caregivers,” says Ravi Verma of the Delhi-based International Centre for Research on Women. https://www.icrw.org/issues/economic-empowerment/. The rural employment guarantee does not extend to urban areas for people working in cities. Children have also been hard hit, when parents lost their jobs the children are forced to work. When schools reopen, they will be unlikely to be able to return as they will have to help repay debts.

Reshaping the world

The current situation has highlighted the importance of innovation. The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on the lives of most of us. There is scarcely an activity that has not been affected in some way. Many businesses have shut down, with many more having to drastically alter their operations to support social distancing or new patterns of consumer behaviour; shops have put up plastic shields around checkout staff, restaurants offering take-out, more shops providing home delivery. And of course, we have seen a huge increase in the use of technology for communication.

As the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes the way in which we work, keep in touch, go to school and shop for essentials, across the world, it has never been more important to bridge the digital divide for the 3.6 billion people who remain off-line. People everywhere do not always have access to essential services and social protection.

Mr. Guterres, UN Secretary General, warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is laying bare inequalities, such as inadequate health care and gaps in social protection; reversing progress on poverty and hunger; and particularly affecting the vulnerable, such as marginalized groups, women, and children.

In July Mr. Guterres, called for massive global support for vulnerable groups and countries. The Organization is supporting research into a “people’s vaccine”, that is affordable and accessible for all; and is leading efforts towards creating societies that are more resilient, inclusive and sustainable.

Seize the moment to make changes

This time of crisis must be used as an opportunity to invest in policies and institutions that can turn the tide on inequality. Taking advantage of a moment when policies and social norms may be more malleable than during normal times, bold steps that address the inequalities that this crisis has laid bare can steer the world back on track towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Reducing inequality requires transformative change. Greater efforts are needed to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and invest more in health, education, social protection and decent jobs especially for young people, migrants and refugees and other vulnerable communities. Within countries, it is important to empower and promote inclusive social and economic growth. We can ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of income if we eliminate discriminatory laws, policies and practices, we need women involved in the decision making. Among countries, we need to ensure that developing countries are better represented in decision-making on global issues so that solutions can be more effective, credible and accountable. Governments and other stakeholders can also promote safe, regular and responsible migration, including through planned and well-managed policies, for the millions of people who have left their homes seeking better lives due to war, unfair discrimination, poverty, lack of opportunity and other drivers of migration.

Soroptimists at work

SI Calcutta

SI Calcutta providing relief after a cycloneIn May 2020, the Covid 19 situation was compounded in India by a super cyclonic storm, which hit the eastern coast, mainly the states of West Bengal & Orissa. To help in the relief work, SI Calcutta collaborated with two organisations working at grass root level to provide temporary shelters with tarpaulins/mosquito nets at 5 villages in a rural district of W.Bengal. The cost of the project was about £900. Number of beneficiaries were 130 families covering approximately 650 people.

 

SI London East

SI London EastThis is an ongoing programme by SI London East (SI LE) with the women and girls of the marginalised Roma, Ashkali & Egyptian (RAE) community in Kosovo in partnership with The Ideas Partnership (IP). The IP focuses on women and girls who face high rates of poverty and challenges in accessing education, as well as high rates of maternal and infant mortality and child marriage. The IP seeks to empower the RAE community in Kosovo. SI LE are helping three women who are volunteers in Kosovo improve their spoken English. The English language conversation sessions take place once a week on-line.

It has given members of SI LE an opportunity to learn about the realities of life in post-conflict Kosovo both of the volunteers and more broadly the RAE community.  This work has strengthened SI LE’s links to The Ideas Partnership during Covid lockdown.  It also helps raise the consciousness of women in SI LE and The Ideas Partnership to the ways we can help and support each other beyond borders.

Continue to lobby and petition MPs and Governments

There are a number of petitions that you can sign on the SIGBI.org website https://sigbi.org/get-involved/sign-a-petition/ Currently there are petitions for; Keep Kitkat Fairtrade, Coronavirus vaccine for all, and ensure temporary workers are free from slavery plus many more.

Carol Infanti
Assistant Programme Director, Prosperity