Girls call on world leaders to turn rhetoric into reality

29 September 2015
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A delegation from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts attended the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, calling on the 193 world leaders gathered to agree the Sustainable Development Goals to ensure that the 15-year global development agenda puts girls at the heart of its implementation and ambition.

092015_USA_WAGGGS delegates at UNGA 2015The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents an historic agreement of unprecedented scope, setting out a far-reaching and ambitious collection of goals to structure our collective efforts to achieve a more just and equitable world. 

As the leading voluntary organization for girls and young women, with 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in 146 countries, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) celebrates the agreement of this document and the potential it represents for transformative change in the lives of girls and women. WAGGGS particularly welcomes:

  • The explicit recognition within the Introduction that gender equality is critical to progress on all other goals
  • The existence of a stand-alone goal on gender equality that includes specific targets on the elimination of violence against women and girls 
  • The ways in which gender issues have been mainstreamed and highlighted throughout the large majority of the other goals and targets
  • The recognition of the importance of education for sustainable development and of creating life-long learning opportunities.

092015_USA_UNGA hallYet while there is much to commend in the new framework, WAGGGS remains extremely concerned about the allowance for implementation of certain targets on gender equality as ‘nationally appropriate.’ We are disappointed to see the inclusion of this language, which substantially undercuts and weakens the ambition of these targets, and opens the door to continued discrimination against girls and women. Girls’ and women’s rights should not be contingent on or subject to national context; rather, the sustainable development framework should do more to advance its stated ambition to achieve the human rights of all. 

“The 2030 Agenda has the potential to deliver significant positive change for girls and women. The key challenge now is to turn rhetoric into reality and to deliver on the promises made. Key to success will be allocating substantial resources and attention to girls’ programming and, more importantly, listening to girls’ voices and perspectives. In order to effect real change in the lives of girls and young women around the world, we must equip and empower young people to be the drivers and agents of the 2030 Agenda,” says Nicola Grinstead, Chair of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts World Board. 

To ensure implementation delivers on the promises set out in the Global Goals, WAGGGS calls for particular attention to:

1. Invest in girls

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in and recognition of the multiple benefits of investing in programming for adolescent girls. However, at present, the rhetorical commitment to girls is not matched by actual investment levels. Today, fewer than two cents of every international development dollar goes to girls. Moving forward, development agencies must commit more substantial levels of resources to specialized programmes aimed at girls and young women.    

2. Tackle the structural barriers to gender equality 

It will be critical that national governments and development agencies commit to directly addressing the underlying structural barriers to gender equality. This must include: 

  • improving their access to social, political, and economic resources; 
  • reforming norms, attitudes, and cultural & institutional practices that systematically discriminate against girls and women. 

Governments and NGOs must not attempt to sidestep these more difficult or intractable issues, but must instead recognize that genuine empowerment of girls and women must go beyond change at the individual level to address relational, cultural, and institutional issues as well. 

3. Build the capacity of girls & young women to participate in and drive change 

Girls & young women must be considered more than just the objects or beneficiaries of the new development agenda – they must be the agents of change. For this to happen, it will be essential to adopt a rights-based approach to development in which girls & young women are:

  • educated through both formal and non-formal channels about the enactment of 2030 Agenda and their rights and entitlements
  • substantively involved and consulted in the design and implementation of national action plans and non-governmental programming

4. Measure what matters

Most immediately, we now need a robust framework of indicators that measures progress against the targets and helps hold governments to account.  It is essential that, for all targets, data is disaggregated by both age and gender (among other variables) so that girls’ experiences are visibly captured in all monitoring.  

Three of WAGGGS’ delegation - Emily Rodriguez from Sweden, Kristen Grennan from the USA, and Tsinjoharinosy Rahaingoarivelo from Madagascar - were selected to participate in the opening ceremony of the UN summit.  These outstanding young leaders carried a torch on behalf of their country, representing the hope and promise of the youth generation. 

“It is a great honour to attend the UN General Assembly on behalf of WAGGGS. For me, it is an opportunity to raise up Malagasy and African girls’ voices. This does mean a lot hard work and a big responsibility for me, as I will play a specific role in trying to make the world we want for girls a reality. Over the two past years, WAGGGS has run consultations on what the post-2015 development agenda should look like and gathered the voices of girls and young women all around the world. Now, as the largest volunteer association for girls and young women in the world, WAGGGS will play a key role in the implementation of this 2030 agenda and carrying these goals forward", said WAGGGS delegate Tsinjoharinosy Rahaingoarivelo from Madagascar. 

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