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SIGBI Programme Director’s June 2022 Message

Awareness, Advocacy, Action

In my blog for April I ended up reminding us of our awareness, advocacy, action mantra. It is still relevant today and on much the same themes.

 

Climate change

Stockholm+50, an event to mark 50 years from the meeting in 1972, looked at the human environment and its effects on the climate of our planet The meeting was an opportunity for all to collaborate and share experience and knowledge. The Women’s Major Group of the UN Europe and America caucus submitted a brief for the gathering in Stockholm on 2-3 June 2022. This document made 12 recommendations and top of the list was implementation of the Human Rights Convention (HCR) assertion of the right for all to have a healthy, safe and clean environment. This covers work to safeguard laws ensuring the implementation of the HCR in all countries; this is under threat currently. Thus we can exercise raising awareness and advocacy with the relevant authorities wherever we live.

The action needed on climate change is being challenged by the war in Ukraine with increased travel, the logistics of support and supply. These are issues which we can’t affect directly but we can redouble our efforts in other areas such as reducing, reusing, repairing and recycling our clothes and other material goods and sourcing food and other goods locally.

 

Ukraine

The war in Ukraine continues to be headlines in the news bulletins, as does the plight of refugees and asylum seekers from there, Afghanistan, Syria and many other countries. What can we do to help? Within Europe there are a number of avenues in which we can help – funding, hospitality and mentoring, for example. People from Afghanistan have escaped to Pakistan and other neighbouring countries as have those from Syria to Lebanon. Amidst all of this the women and children are affected most. Now is the time for us to be raising awareness and advocating for the inclusion of women in discussions about peace and the actual peace negotiations. Advocacy must include supporting and raising awareness of the Women Peace and Security agenda at the UN. “The evidence is clear: women’s participation in peacebuilding generates more buy-in from communities and makes peace more durable.” Action involves giving practical support to those seeking refuge in our own countries.

 

Human Rights

These are challenged by many governments worldwide. There are attempts to reverse the hard won Sexual, Reproductive and Health Rights of women enshrined within the Beijing Platform for Action, to remove the protection for refugees and asylum seekers afforded by current international agreements and to prevent girls from accessing education, to name but a few.

All of these topics are ones on which we can raise awareness, advocate and take action. During the last year clubs across SIGBI have recorded over 1500 projects within these areas of concern. Of these 107 have mentioned Ukraine, 27 asylum, 189 refugee, 22 conflict, 53 human rights and 453 climate. Our tree planting project for our centenary records 124,611 trees planted across the federation.

 

Day of Action

Our day of action this year is on 16 July and we have chosen to address the scourge of single use plastics. In 2011 a campaign for Plastic Free July was started in Western Australia. By 2017 this had morphed into the Plastic Free Foundation Ltd which is a not-for-profit independent organisation that believes that ‘small changes add up to a big difference’. There will be plastic free events in Australia, the UK, the USA and Kenya. Can we add more?  Can we advocate with our governments and retailers for less plastic wrappings and more recycling of those still used? Burning them has been advocated by some but this is not a straightforward solution.

The only real answers lie amongst:

  • avoiding their use wherever possible – e.g. not buying bottled water;
  • using your own non-plastic water bottle when taking water out with you;
  • buying loose fruit and vegetables and encouraging retailers to charge less for these than for pre-packaged items;
  • avoiding take away coffee or, where possible, use you own re-useable cup;
  • continuing to use and advocate for use of non-plastic shopping bags – something we have encouraged at conferences over past years;
  • continuing to carry out clean-ups in public places such as beaches, rivers and parks.

At a UN level the UN Environment Programme cites events which took place on 5 June – World Environment Day – stretching from Sweden via India, Egypt, Romania to Australia. What can we do in our own countries? Too late now for this event but ‘Plastic Free July’ and our Day of Action? Please increase your efforts at awareness raising, advocacy and action!

There is much we can do individually and throughout our organisation. Come and join us to help achieve a sustainable planet – every little helps!

Kay Richmond
SIGBI Programme Director