The two great challenges of the last few years, and now, have been Climate Change and Covid. Do we want to ‘build BACK better’ or take the opportunities we have to ‘build FORWARD better’? Personally, I like forward, not a return to ‘normal’. Where and how can we do better?
Both topics affect women and girls more than men and boys but changes such as working from home have offered opportunities as well as difficulties. The increases in domestic violence have been put down, by some, to the ‘stay at home’ policies. Whatever the route cause there has been an increase. Our support for women’s refuges is needed more than ever, sadly.
We need to act locally and globally given that we have both Individual and collective responsibilities. We can do this through acting in our clubs and across our five Federations and Soroptimist International. Between us we have members in 121 countries, although there are notable exceptions such as Afghanistan. But we have members in neighbouring countries such as Pakistan to where many Afghan women and their families have fled. The freeze on banking in Afghanistan has made it difficult to send financial support but international agencies such as those within the UN and Red Cross/Red Crescent families have been able to continue their work there.
We can support the rights of women and girls in all of our countries through lobbying governments, giving practical help and working in partnership with others. This includes appropriate action in all countries and across borders, both political and social. It includes working with other NGOs, international organisations such as UN entities (e.g. UN Women and WHO) and corporate entities such as pharmaceutical companies. For an example of this take a look at The B Team where interests such as business, civil society and international agencies collaborate through exploring and understanding the current situation in health, economic recovery and social cohesion (e.g. https://data.undp.org/covid-19/).
We can focus on subjects dear to our hearts such as food, education, fashion, and health. These are supported by a survey carried out by the Division of Sustainable Development Goals (DSDG) of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) in December 2021; see Figure 1.
- Food and other goods can be sourced locally and through being mindful of fair trade so that producers get a fair price for their products;
- Education achieves more when available to children and adults who have had good nutritious meals;
- Fashion – fast or not? As women we like finding (and buying) new clothes but have you thought about how this impacts other women – often the people making the clothes? The mantra of reduce, reuse, repair and recycle could help us reduce our impact on climate change; see Figure 2.
- Health – can you access good quality healthcare, free at the point of need or only if you can afford it? Advocating for Universal Health Care would be a good place to start whilst keeping in mind that this could depend on affordability. See Figure 3.
The basis for all our actions must be the UN Declaration of Human Rights, The Convention to End all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, not forgetting the Beijing Platform for Action, of course.
Are you going to join in the Commission on the Status of women this year? It was virtual last year and we have just had it confirmed that it will be so again this year. Benefits of this are less travel so less air pollution and more people able to join in since there is no limit to the number of delegates. If you want to find out more go to https://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw66-2022 and https://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw66-2022/side-events.
So let us Build FORWARD Better together.
SIGBI Programme Director