Quito Round Up: Events that Brought Grassroots and Women’s Priorities to the Forefront
Focused on implementation and action-oriented initiatives for the New Urban Agenda, the Huairou Commission and its network hosted two robust networking events during the Quito Conference. The first, “Who is Aiding Whom in Realizing the Commitment to Equitable, Inclusive Sustainable Development and the Transformation of Poor Communities?” was a joint effort between GROOTS International, Huairou, SDI, WIEGO and Habitat Norway. This was a provocative dialogue over current development financing models, and the relationship between donors and recipients. It was noted by Erik Berg (Chair, Habitat Norway), that many international donors tend to replicate their own development models rather than invest directly in local civil society organizations (CSOs), giving us the statistic that a mere 8% of development funding goes to the latter. The event furthermore engaged actors from donors SIDA and Ford Foundation, both of whom reaffirmed their commitment to work with grassroots organizations as equal partners, as well as to move towards more equitable governance in international development structures. SIDA representative Mikael Atterhög shared the agency’s vision of reforming the financing infrastructure, defined by a more equitable partnership between donor and recipient.
With a focus on resilient urban development, Huairou partnered with UNISDR and the UN-Habitat Global Land Tools Network (GLTN) on a second networking event entitled, “Grassroots Women Call for Ecological and Resilient Cities: Integrating the Localization of the New Urban Agenda and the Sendai Framework for DRR.” Representatives of grassroots women’s organizations and their institutional counterparts at the local, national, and regional levels expounded on successful experiences in localizing global policy frameworks. Panelists were keen to point out that disaster risk reduction (DRR) requires a gender-inclusive approach and an integrated strategy that features concrete, bottom-up proposals. In this vein, GROOTS Kenya and CONAMOVIDI Peru offered successful examples of monitoring country commitments to gender equality, scaling up women’s practices, building coalitions with key stakeholders, organizing for policy change, and using the Community Resilience Fund to help grassroots women build resilience to climate change, disaster risks and ecological threats. These prompted Ms. Nayoka Martinez-Bäckström, SIDA Program Manager/Specialist, to acknowledge that the expertise in DRR is at the grassroots level.
“We aren’t waiting, we are leading.” – Relinda Sosa, CONAMOVIDI
“We must be able to have a continuous process of tracking results.” – Esther Mwaura-Muiru, GROOTS Kenya
Our side events were equally impactful. At a session co-sponsored by Community Organizers Multiversity, World Resources Institute, and National Democratic Institute, panelists considered the topic “From Rhetoric to Reality: Cities that respond to the needs of all.” Esther Mwaura-Muiru of GROOTS Kenya opened with challenges and opportunities for women in cities, and NDI’s Sandra Pepera spoke on engaging women to build democratic resilience, followed by three practitioners working to make global frameworks a reality on the ground in India, the Philippines, and Peru. Women activists in the Huairou family similarly sought to bring rhetoric to life in the event “Women-Friendly City Challenge: Make Your City the Most Women-Friendly in the World.” Undeterred by a blackout partway into the event, the audience held up flashlights and listened with appreciation to the gains made by Women Transforming Cities International Society in Vancouver and Seoul Foundation of Women and Family to create safe cities for women. The two organizations launched a call to action to take transformative steps to ensure that cities around the world are responsive to women.
“Women and girls work for cities but cities do not work for women and girls.” – Ellen Woodsworth, Women Transforming Cities
Apart from the traditional event spaces, Huairou delegates took their nontraditional priorities and commitments to the stage. At the behest of the Habitat III Secretariat, Huairou and SDI presented “From Quito to the Grassroots: The Grassroots Leaders Project” on the Urban Stage. Effectively launching the project, this presentation discussed the work of grassroots practitioners on the ground and how it can be used to advance the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. The discussion illustrated regional differences and universal communalities among grassroots approaches to community and urban development; leaders additionally shared their impressions from the Habitat III Conference, as well as engagement and partnerships strategies for localizing the NUA and for reporting back at the Kuala Lumpur World Urban Forum in 2018. Mr. Kumaresh Bistra, Habitat III Deputy Secretary General, congratulated all women who joined the initiative, recognizing their commitment to and crucial role in local implementation. Outside of the official programming, Huairou network leaders made a big splash at the World Stage by Next City. Opening up their exhibition space was a performance by the Sistren Theatre Collective about land rights and grassroots women’s voices in development; both powerful and fun, audience members were unwittingly dragged onto the stage in this moving piece. Later that day, led by Rut Kolinska (Network for Family) and Hepi Rahmawati (YAKKUM Emergency Unit), the Grassroots Speak-out offered powerful testimonies of organized groups of women leading urban development in their communities.