Educating for Gender Justice: Stepping Stones to Achieving the SDGs

A blog by Karen Marshall

“Between 5,000 and 6,000 people participated in the three-day United Nations Civil Society Conference. There were people from all over the world in attendance, and probably about one-half were under the age of 50. The organisers were exceptionally pleased with the positive response for the first conference in the United States outside of New York City since 1949. I chose to attend the 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference ‘Building Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and Communities’ because I wanted to learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals and how our work as Soroptimists can connect with others. This was my first UN-coordinated event.

“There is simply no way that we can achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals without achieving gender equity and empowering women and girls.” – 2019 UNSG Report


What does a healthy world look like? Is it one free of gender discrimination? Is caring for women and girls also caring for the future of the earth? These big-picture questions opened a session of exploration of the causes of inequality and highlighted the work of three organisations to promote gender equity.

First, essential facts were shared that gender equality is a systemic issue:

1) Power: class and gender is the nexus of economic and political power. Inequality stifles democracy, leads to more poverty, and more violence against women and girls;

2) GDP Based Development: women’s work of caring for others or one’s home is discounted or not seen as work at all;

3) Capitalist Patriarchy: displaces women from their livelihood;

4) Culture of Commodification: everything has a price; a person has no value.

Secondly, ideas were shared to defeat inequality. The most essential tools are education, breaking stereotypes, and promoting the value of women and girls. A multi-stakeholder approach is required to change policies and societal norms. Government, faith-based organisations and others must play a critical role in shifting beliefs. The use of media for education is vital, but the digital divide and the 62 million illiterate girls are a massive challenge for learning. Podcasts are becoming the new best way to reach audiences and the sharing of stories that make a lasting impression.

Among the crucial takeaways from the session was a discussion about how to communicate the sustainable development goals to external audiences. The workshop concluded with an activity that asked a series of questions of all participants in the room. Contemplating and responding to the questions drove home the gender inequity in our world that we may not even be aware of in day-to-day life.”

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different than my own.” — Audre Lorde


Closing Plenary Session by Karen Marshall 

“The closing session was a mixture of informative, inspirational personal stories and reports. Many speakers throughout the late afternoon gave thanks to the tremendous amount of support and contributions for the event. The highlight for the majority of the audience was the reading of the Youth Climate Compact. This document was created during the youth workgroups at the conference and then adopted at the closing session. The Youth Climate Compact urges a wide range of actions to be taken by citizens, communities, governments, and other stakeholders.  The document also outlined 25 actions that the youth in attendance pledged to do. One action is advancing the education of women and girls.

You can find the details at:

Time and time again, the importance of empowering women and girls was referenced as the only way to create lasting change. It was noted that global agendas are only as good as the stakeholders who can facilitate change through goals that resonate in local communities around the world.

The Outcome Statement to advance the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals combined all of the work accomplished by individuals and drafted by a large team of adults over the three-day period is available on the website: Within the document are pledges that anyone can take to ensure the monumental task of completing all of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”

“The power lives in us to make these changes.” Barbara Lee, Congresswoman for the 13th District of California.

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