Liverpool ActionAid Event: The UN, sustainable development and how you can help!

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Last week I posted a blog about an upcoming event in Liverpool, hosted by the international charity ActionAid, as part of their Fearless campaign.

If you didn’t catch this post you can click the hyperlink to see ActionAid’s page about the campaign or, as a quick recap, here’s a basic rundown of what Fearless is about and what ActionAid are setting out to do.

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The Fearless campaign seeks to end violence against women and girls worldwide. How? In September, global governments will agree a target on eliminating violence against women at the UN General Assembly.

ActionAid are asking David Cameron to push for a target on ending violence at the assembly, to put proper resources behind it, and to make sure women’s organisations are involved from the start. (You can get involved by signing their petition here!)

So! Now that you’re up to speed I’ll get back to last week’s event on the 3rd September 2015, in Liverpool’s Quaker Meeting House. Joining us in speaking at the event were Tiwonge Gwondwe, a women’s rights activist from Malawi and Dan Hale, who manages ActionAid’s Women’s Rights Campaign.

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Due to Tiwonge’s visa not arriving in time she was, unfortunately, only able to join us via Skype but her story and her work were vital, moving and enriching none the less. I won’t go into the details of Tiwonge’s own domestic abuse, so as not to detract from her own voice, but her strength and the work she does now to support women suffering from violence (domestic and otherwise) is truly inspiring. According to Dan, who has met Tiwonge in Malawi, she is a bit of a livewire too and I hope I have the pleasure of meeting her when she gets to the UK this year.

Next, Dan talked to us about the campaign and why September is important. This is where I learned some of the finer details about the Fearless campaign and what’s happening at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

On September 25th 2015, 193 world leaders will commit to and launch 17 goals to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years.

These extraordinary things are to:

  • End extreme poverty.
  • Fight inequality & injustice.
  • Fix climate change.

The Global Goals for sustainable development could get these things done. In all countries. For all people.

There are 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) with 169 targets in contrast to the 8 Millennium Development Goals with 21 targets which although productive were quite narrow. Confusing right? I couldn’t keep track of the numbers either but hey, complex issues call for complex solutions and the UN agrees.

“The complex challenges that exist in the world today demand that a wide range of issues is covered. It is, also, critical to address the root causes of the problems and not only of the symptoms.” (1)

So how do these SDGs relate to the Fearless campaign?

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The bottom line is, even the greatest politicians often over promise and under deliver. SDG No.5 is to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” The Fearless campaign wants to make sure that our world leaders see this one through.

So, after Dan had clued us all up on the nitty gritty of the Fearless campaign, I talked a bit about the problems that women face closer to home, in Liverpool specifically and the UK more broadly. I also spoke about Reclaim the Night Liverpool, a women’s rights group that I am involved with who campaign for an end to violence against women as well as other issues such as street harassment and victim-blaming.

I discussed the problems women face for being outwardly feminist in the UK, as well as for simply just ‘being’. I dissected the notion of ‘asking for it’, as well as the anti-feminist backlash that many feminists face in their daily lives.

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By backlash I’m referring to the tide of anti-feminism that seems to be sweeping the UK and other ‘first world’ countries. Where women and feminists are repeatedly told to, ‘calm down’, ‘take it as a compliment’, or my personal favourite, ‘there are people dying in the world and you’re moaning about this?’

Giving up on one fight because there’s a nastier one happening on the other side of the world isn’t going to solve anything.

BUT it is going to halt gender equality in its tracks. And that’s exactly the kind of thinking that fuels patriarchy and gender inequality.

So the next time you point out flagrant sexism in advertising, on the internet or in your workplace and somebody tells you to stop moaning because some other bad things are happening somewhere else too – (side note: umm ok thanks for ur amazing input u shud right a book srsly) – just remember that inequality is inequality. It happens all over the world, it’s all crappy, it all deserves empathy and remaining silent in the face of any type of inequality never solved anything. So if you want to speak up, then do it!

After my talk there was a round-table discussion with the attendees that I am loathed to admit I was originally nervous for and skeptical of. But it was fantastic. I moved around different tables being asked questions and engaging in discussion with different people, of all ages and backgrounds. We talked about Reclaim The Night Liverpool’s campaign and history, Fearless women and icons we might know or look up to, what we can do to further the campaign as well as touching on allyship, feminist movements and even feminist film!

By the end of the night there was such a buzz in the room that Wiz, the Activism Officer for ActionAid UK, had to break up talks as we’d run over and the ActionAid team had a train to catch back to London. After summing up and hearing some poetry from little old me the event concluded with a final call to sign and spread the Fearless petition so I believe it’s fitting that that’s how I close this post.

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“Together we must make 2015 the year that marks the beginning of the end of gender inequality. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to end violence against women and girls everywhere in the world.” 

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women, 2014. (3)

Please, sign the petition, and email your local MP, with ActionAid’s easy to use form, to demand an end to violence against women and girls for good.

_______________________________________

Read a simplified breakdown of the 17 SDGs here.

(1), (2) – http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/summit/

(3) – Taken from ActionAid’s pocket guide to women’s rights, pg 15.

Awful picture of me talking is my own. All other picture copyrights belong to ActionAid.

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