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Soroptimist International Position Statement: the Post 2015 Agenda
Soroptimist International speaks on behalf of over 80,000 women from 3,000 communities
across 127 countries. We are founded on the principles of being a global collection of
women who join our movement to serve women and girls locally, nationally, and
internationally. Our positions are based on their voices, perspectives, and opinions. We are
a bottom-up organisation of like-minded individuals who all want the same thing – a world
where women and girls together achieve their individual and collective potential, realise
aspirations and have an equal voice in creating strong, peaceful communities worldwide.
Soroptimist International has been working towards this goal since 1921, and, while we have
seen extraordinary progress in some areas, many of the barriers facing women in 1921 are
still prevalent now – albeit in different forms. Women and men still do not have access to the
same capabilities, resources, or opportunities.
Much of the discussion for the post-2015 agenda centres on the idea of creating ‘the future
we want’. The members of the global Soroptimist movement believe that the shared vision
of a future we want means, at bottom, one thing – that no matter where you are born,
whether you are male or female, whatever colour your skin is or who your parents are,
whatever economic or political climate surrounds you, it is your human right to be free to
achieve your fullest potential, and it is the global community’s responsibility to ensure you
have the tools to do so.
No one government, private institution, or civil society organisation can achieve this alone.
Each player in this tripartite system brings different incentives, perspectives, priorities, and,
most importantly, expertise. It is only when all are working in concert that the vision for the
future can be realised. It is absolutely critical that appropriate accountability mechanisms
are not only in place, but enforced without exception to ensure that all actors – including the
private sector – are realising their responsibilities.
While there is rhetoric around ensuring the next set of goals do not allow for ‘business as
usual’, we are seeing many position statements and reports which do not challenge the
status quo or push the global community to transform. Simply labelling something as
‘transformative’ does not make it so. Soroptimist International agrees with many of our sister
organisations, concerned primarily with the High Level Panel’s most recent report, that:
 • gender is not cross-cutting enough in the draft goals and targets;
• a human rights based approach is noted only in rhetoric, and that the aspirational
narratives presented do not translate into progressive, action-oriented goals and
• there is a total silence on gender-responsive budgeting; and
• the report leaves a massive gap with a lack of suitable accountability mechanisms.
What we actually have is a story about what we’d like to do, followed by a very retrogressive
and stagnant approach to actually doing it.
The MDGs were ground-breaking. While most, if not all of the goals and targets already
existed in international treaties, agreements, or platforms for action, never before had the
global community, together, agreed on a simple and achievable set of priorities, with such
clear targets and indicators. The MDGs changed what we did and how we did it.
It is time to break ground again. The post-2015 agenda must act as a catalyst to change the
way we approach development. Development simply is not possible without including those
affected by the decisions in the decisions. No longer should we give individuals what we
think they need. Now, the time has come to turn the tables and give individuals what they
say they need to achieve their fullest potential.
Soroptimist International welcomes the focus on the three pillars of sustainable
development, the recognition that the MDGs did not pay enough attention to violence against
women, and the acknowledgement that women need access to resources and capabilities to
be on equal footing with men.
However, there is still much work to be done on the content of the potential goals and
targets. With this in mind, the global Soroptimist movement makes the following specific
recommendations to transform the lives of women and girls in the Post-2015 Agenda:
• Whatever goals and targets are eventually agreed, the data collected on each and
every one MUST be disaggregated by gender. True achievement of the new set of
goals will only be realised when there is gender parity across the entire set. The
global community knows that what you measure significantly impacts on what you do
and how resources are distributed. Ensuring that gender equality is measured is
thus central to success.
• To support individuals to overcome barriers to the achievement of their fullest
potential, Soroptimist International advocates for the ‘3E’ approach – educate,
empower, and enable. Ensure individuals have the skills they need and want, give
them the confidence to use those skills, and work within the wider community to
enable opportunities for those skills to be deployed. There must be additional
attention paid to community-wide transformations or else society will remain status
quo. A woman with vocational skills is no better off if she is barred from using those
skills in stable employment.
• ‘Gender equality’ is dangerously close to becoming synonymous with ‘women’s
rights.’ Empowering women and girls without involving men and boys will achieve
minimal, short term results. Men and boys must be an integral part of empowerment
programmes as we work to address the underlying social and economic
determinants of the vulnerabilities of women and girls. Therefore,
o approach sex or gender based quotas with careful planning and ensure that
women, from an early age, are fully equipped with all of the knowledge and
skills necessary to take on leadership roles for which there may be allocations
or other similar mechanisms. A woman who is given a position because of
her sex, not her qualifications, is not achieving gender equality. On the other
hand, a woman who is given a job because she has had equal and
meaningful access to education through her life, has been afforded the same
opportunities as men, has achieved her fullest potential, and is fully qualified
for the position – that achieves true gender equality;
o consider also that by encouraging women to enter into traditionally ‘male’
dominated fields, there may be an inherent and underlying message that
traditionally ‘female’ dominated fields are of lesser quality and importance.
Alongside encouraging women to enter into traditionally ‘male’ dominated
fields, we also must work to encourage men to enter into traditionally ‘female’
dominated fields to truly overcome and change occupational segregation.
The unconscious bias in job selection works both ways; and
o take extreme caution to avoid implying that gender equality is about women
taking on male roles. If a woman wants to be a mother and stay at home,
then our job is to ensure that she can do so without judgment. Many of the
gender equality targets and indicators measure women taking on male roles,
thus creating a world where neither women nor men are given the fullest
spectrum of choice and opportunity to shape their lives as they want. Women
may not want to climb a career ladder, or sit on Boards, or become
executives or national politicians. They may want to be mothers or teachers
or caregivers. We, as the global community, must not judge or impose but
rather support and enable. We must also look at creating work environments
which are conducive to both men and women having families.
• While we welcome a standalone goal which focusses on eliminating violence against
women, we want to ensure that this is measured in a progressive and reliable way.
Rather than tracking reported incidents, which could create perverse incentives or
unintended negative consequences, instead we should measure access to services,
sensitivity training for law enforcement, laws which protect women from violence, and
criminal justice systems which do not allow gender-based violence to continue.
• We must guarantee that discussions around the financing and resourcing for the
Post-2015 agenda take a gender-responsive approach and include gender audits.
This is non-negotiable to ensure that goals and targets for gender equality are not
just lip service.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, we believe the world is up for a challenge – a truly
new approach to measuring success and data metrics. We want to make the world a better
place, socially, economically, and environmentally. We want people to be able to live happy
healthy lives. So why aren’t we asking them? Soroptimist International posits a
revolutionary yet simple idea – we ask as many of the 7 billion global inhabitants as possible:
1. Within reason, do you feel stable and secure?
2. Are you able to carry out decisions to make your life as you want it to be?
3. Do you live free from insurmountable barriers to achieving your fullest potential?
When every single man, woman, and child in the world can answer “yes” to those questions,
then we will have achieved ‘the future we want.’
September 2013