2030 Agenda, CSW, Habitat III

CSW60 | Women Take Center Stage in the 2030 Agenda

Women hold up the Sustainable Development Goals.  Credit: UN Women

Women hold up the Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Women

New York, NY. The priority theme of the the 60th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60), the first following the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), challenged governments to recognize the importance of the link between empowering women and the achievement of the ambitious ‘Global Goals’. Not only is there a singular SDG dedicated to “Achieve[ing] gender equality and empower[ing] all women and girls,” highlighted as Goal 5, there is no one Goal that can be accomplished without the dedicated inclusion of women into Member States’ implementation and monitoring efforts of each goal. Huairou Commission’s (HC) leadership at CSW60 over its two weeks from 14 to 24 March 2016 brought much needed grassroots women’s voices to into this important conversation.

Building off of the CSW60 priority theme “Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development,” the parallel event “How Will You Join Rural Women in Implementing the SDGs?” (jointly organised with IFAD and United Methodist Women) successfully convened a rich and open conversation about the role of rural women within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  A  clear outcome  was that rural women are agents  of  change  who have dedicated their lives to improving their community and country; as an organized constituency, rural women and theirorganizations stand ready to assist national governments to achieve inclusive and gender equitable results.  Ms. Clare Bishop-Sambrook,  Lead  Technical  Specialist  in  Gender and Social Inclusion for IFAD, set the global context by highlighting the complexities of rural women’s livelihood as as well as the potential areas of impact of the SDGs. Huairou Commission leaders Violet Shivutse and Marling Haydee Rodriguez Cerros gave key insights into the dialogues they held with local and national authorities as part of the HC-IFAD Rural Women’s Empowerment initiative; the voices of Via CampesinaGlobal Fund for Women, and the Kenyan National Gender and Equality Commission rounded out the discussion and highlighted the importance of partnering with and creating an enabling environment for rural women leaders.  The event wrapped up with a rousing vote of solidarity from Dr. David Nabarro, Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition. In his own words, 


“The women of the world, particularly the rural women, are the professors- because they have the knowledge and the know-how that really matters.” – Dr. David Nabarro, Adviser on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Key to bringing attention to the Huairou Commission campaign to engender the New Urban Agenda were two back-to-back side events focusing on Safer Cities – “Habitat III Agenda and Gender Equality: Safe Public Spaces for Women & for All” and “Safe Cities +20: Public Space and Gender.”  Lana Finikin, Executive Director of Sistren Theatre Collective and GROOTS Jamaica, spoke of the city we need, in which urban poor and grassroots women are at the center of the design, development, and operation of public spaces, and that those public spaces contribute toward building social cohesion and generating economic development.

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Ms. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, drew attention to the 2030 Agenda and Goal 11 “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” as an unprecedented opportunity for achieving people-centered urban planning and management, ultimately ensuring that sustainable development is for all.


The theme continued with a parallel event co-sponsored with United Methodist Women on “Women and Urbanization: Celebrating Their Leadership in Ensuring Sustainable Development.”  The diverse panel included John Hendra, Senior Coordinator “UN Fit for Purpose” for the Post-2015 Development Agenda; Jane Anyango, Founder and Leader of The Polycom Development Project, Nairobi Kenya; Patricia Cortes, Programme Specialist on Mainstreaming Gender, UN Women; Maité Rodriguez, Fundación Guatemala and Executive Committee, Huairou Commission Board of Directors;  Dr. Young  Mi  Cho,  Director,   Division  of  Women’s  Policy Research, Seoul Foundation of Women and Family (SFWF), Seoul, Korea, Kathryn Travers, Executive Director of Women in Cities International (WICI) & Habitat III GAP Women’s Partner Constituent Group member. The panel was moderated by Sri Husnaini Sofjan, Senior Program Administrator and Strategist, Huairou Commission and Cathy Holt Toledo, Governance, Policy and Organizational Consultant for Huairou Commission acted as the discussant.

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Participants of “Women and Urbanization: Celebrating Their Leadership in Ensuring Sustainable Development” agree that the New Urban Agenda, along with all 17 Global Goals, can only be achieved with empowered women acting as full partners. Credit: Laura Toledo

The lively discussion led to several key conclusions, key among them being that the SDGs are not merely about sustainability. They are, at this point, about survival. Additionally, women are a key component of localizing implementation of the Goals. Governments must think about the multitude of ways women can be incorporated  and partnered with to bring about the vast changes called for in cities. Statistical information was presented that shows women’s empowerment and participation are key to lifting cities from poverty, and panelists sounded the call for disaggregated data collection to be prioritized to continue gathering such facts. The panelists highlighted that women and grassroots women should be recognized for their role in achieving sustainable urban development and resilient cities. Their contributions surface from their expertise in their communities, and they should be included in decision-making processes. Their value as key resources is often understated. Women and girls need to be empowered because of their capacity to drive change. The actors leading the process of planning of cities should also listen to and consider voices of local communities, youth and elderly, persons with disabilities, grassroots associations and other marginalized groups, and promote and support local and indigenous practices and solutions to building resilient cities.  

The New Urban Agenda (NUA), to be announced at Habitat III in Quito this October, along with all of the Global Goals, will only succeed with empowered women’s equal participation in urban policy development, implementation and monitoring.  The Panelists concluded with the caution that the NUA must acknowledge the role of organized women’s groups and communities as social capital and as major resources in sustainable urban and community development. Growing inequalities must be addressed in order to end discrimination in all sectors. Effective mechanisms of implementation must be created and monitored that will resource, mainstream, scale up, and institutionalize the practices and work of organized constituencies of communities, grassroots women, slum dwellers, informal economy workers, and other groups living and working in marginalized areas.

On March 21st, representatives from Huairou Commission’s networks, FAO, the International Land Coalition (ILC)’s networks, Landesa, and Oxfam spoke to a packed room inside UN Headquarters to catalyze action around SDGs implementation, demonstrating the importance of women’s land rights in the 2030 Agenda. In this panel, chaired by Zak Bleicher, Partnership Officer at IFAD, panelists shared effective approaches and best practices to localize the SDGs, highlighting what this means for grassroots women, how to collectively advance development at the local level, and identified instruments and strategies to drive and support effective contributions at the local level. Women’s secure and equal access, control and ownership of productive resources, particularly land feature prominently in four SDGs: to end poverty (Goal 1), to achieve food security (Goal 2), to reach gender equality and empower women and girls (Goal 5), and to make cities and regions inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable (Goal 11).


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Violet Shivutse, Founder and Coordinator of Shibuye Homebased Care Givers in Kenya and part of the Huairou Commission network, emphasized the importance of incorporating and bringing grassroots women’s community and grassroots driven initiatives on land rights to the 2030 Agenda. Too often organizations and development partners overlook the issues of women’s livelihoods and social security as they are related to agriculture and land, however grassroots women’s groups are bringing women together to amplify their voices, bring awareness to these issues, and implement

Panelists and panel organizers from left to right: Violet Shivutse, Everlyne Naiersiae, Zak Bleicher, Katia Araujo, Aisling Walsh, Martha Osorio, and Tzili Mor.  Credit: Sadie-Evelyn Gillis

Panelists and panel organizers from left to right: Violet Shivutse, Everlyne Naiersiae, Zak Bleicher, Katia Araujo, Aisling Walsh, Martha Osorio, and Tzili Mor. Credit: Sadie-Evelyn Gillis

initiatives that creating sustainable and equitable change in their communities. The 2030 Agenda serves as an opportunity to bring grassroots women to the center of organizing and as key partners in the SDGs to address land rights in a way that brings local level advancements to scale at the global level. Everlyne Naiersiae, Gender Advisor at Oxfam, shared alarming global statistics around gender inequality and land rights, but spoke to how progressive international and African regional legal mechanisms around women and land rights and on-the-ground programming are actively working to reverse these inequalities. Oxfam has partnered around successful rural women led initiatives in Tanzania and Niger, which bring grassroots women’s voices together to drive change and articulate their rights to land and natural resources in policy spaces. These initiatives unify their voices and secure land for them. Aisling Walsh, Communications Officer at Trócaire in Guatemala and member of ILC, presented the violent hurdles that women and women’s movements in Honduras and Guatemala face in their resistance against large scale extractive and resource exploitative land projects. As women are increasingly organized, demanding for their rights as women and to the land, and participating in key decisions about their rights, they continue to face stigma from their communities that is perpetuated by the media and the government and which leads to increasing threats and acts of violence, including death.  Violence  against  women  has  been  and  continues to be  used as a means to destroy communities’ and their claim to their territory, by controlling women’s bodies and suppressing indigenous movements that defend their rights and territory. Martha Osorio, Gender and Development Officer at FAO showcased a capacity development program that FAO launched to support the implementation of the gender equality principles of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGTs). The e-learning course enables participants to understand the main principles, guidelines, and examples of good practices and engages them in a blended learning program with multi-stakeholder groups through online, face-to-face workshops, and a mentoring phase. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are embedded throughout the VGGTs and this e-learning course acts a resource on VGGT implementation at the country level. Tzili Mor, Director of the Center of Women’s Land Rights at Landesa, laid out how the SDGs have integrated gender and land. Three goals mention land (Goal 1 – to end poverty, Goal 2 – to achieve food security, and Goal 5 – to reach gender equality and empower women and girls) and three indicators explicitly mention gender and land, 1.4.2, 5.a.1, and 5.a.2. While the language is strong, there remain gaps that can be addressed through collaborative advocacy and accountability actions that link powerful grassroots initiatives around land rights to how governments are enshrining these rights. To do so, collaboration at the national level should focus on piloting and scaling up practices and interventions, ensuring they are replicable and grounding the framework for sustainable development.