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Programme Director’s Message April 2022

Home – where is that?

A key question for us as we move forward is ‘where is home’? As soroptimists we have been conscious of and advocated against the migration and trafficking of women for many years. Stimulae for this mass movement have been poverty, conflict, climate change, Covid and, currently, the war in Ukraine. We have risen to all these challenges but there is still much to be done at home and abroad.

The current conflict in Ukraine has been a major topic of conversation around CSW66 with advocacy about implementation of Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 concerning Women, Peace and Security being written by groups such as the Europe and North America Caucus for CSW and the Club de Madrid. SI and SIGBI have signed these and SIGBI and individuals have written to governments[1] and parliamentarians to encourage its implementation. Sadly, there is no sign that this is happening, with some responses failing to answer the questions posed[2]. Can we raise this issue widely? I hope so. We need to advocate for the inclusion of women in discussions and negotiations of cease fires, peace and restoration post conflict, as well as contributing to support for those fleeing from their homes with humanitarian actions, wherever this is happening. Although the Ukraine is in the headlines, at the moment, we must not forget Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, Myanmar, Sub Saharan Africa, Northern Cameroon, Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan. SCR 1325 applies wherever there is conflict and is supported by other Security Council Resolutions. UN Women is in the lead on this topic [3],[4]and the Secretary General has laid out the failures and aspirations for this agenda[5].


Percentage of peace agreements with gender provisions, 2010–2020

Source: PA-X Peace Agreements Database (2021), v. 5. Political Settlements Research Programme, University of Edinburgh, accessed June 2021

This, of course, is not the only challenge facing us. At CSW66 there has been push back from some governments on Sexual, Reproductive Health and Rights (SHRH). This is not new but it has to be resisted (push back on push back) each year at CSW.

Women are at the heart of action needed to combat climate change and, along with marginalised communities, are most affected by it[6]. They also have the keys for success but, in order to achieve their implementation, women need to be included at all levels of society.

Five ways to build gender equality and sustainability are[7]:

  1. Empower women smallholders; The Food and Agriculture Organization projects that if women farmers had equal access to productive resources, their farm yields would increase by 20 to 30 per cent.
  2. Invest in care; The global economy depends on the unpaid and underpaid care work primarily carried out by women.
  3. Support women’s leadership; when community climate programmes fully include women, they tend to be more effective and efficient in their use of resources.
  4. Fund women’s organisations; Government collaboration with women’s organizations can help ensure that climate policies meet the specific needs of women and girls, and that such policies are implemented effectively.
  5. Protect women’s health; Evidence suggests that women will bear the brunt of climate-linked negative health outcomes. In general, women are more likely to die in disasters, due in part to their limited access to resources and services. Research also indicates that climate change will have negative sexual and reproductive health impacts: higher temperatures are increasing the spread of diseases like malaria, dengue fever and Zika virus, which are linked to negative pregnancy and birth outcomes, and extreme heat itself appears to increase the incidence of stillbirth. As with other crises and disasters, climate change also increases vulnerability to gender-based violence.

The postponement of access to education for girls to secondary level education in Afghanistan[8] has hit the headlines at the same time as we advocate for women’s and girl’s rights in relation to armed conflict and climate change.

Now is not the time to lessen our awareness raising, advocacy and action on behalf of all women and girls. Will you join us?

Kay Richmond
SIGBI Programme Director