In early February, more than 60 feminists from 31 countries and 47 nongovernmental organizations gathered in upstate New York over three days to meet, strategize, and collaborate on a common feminist agenda for the next two years. The historic meeting resulted in a call to action to world leaders to prioritize gender equality and women’s human rights in order to achieve sustainable development. This hard-hitting declaration has now been endorsed by nearly 350 organizations, representing millions of women and girls around the world.
Specifically, activists demand that world leaders create a stand-alone goal for achieving gender equality as part of the new sustainable development framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Activists also insist that governments include gender-specific targets and indicators across all development goals, strategies, and objectives.
As we approach the 2015 deadline for the MDGs, it is clear that the goals furthest from being achieved are those focused on women and girls. This is a direct result of persistent gender inequalities, inadequate investment by governments into sexual and reproductive health and rights education and services, and a failure to address discriminatory social norms and practices, including early and forced marriage, gender-based violence, and discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.
The feminist declaration addresses a broad range of issues that impact the lives of women and girls—from armed conflict to environmental degradation, discrimination to poverty, lack of access to education to poor health services. The declaration calls on world leaders to commit to the following goals:
- Advance gender equality, including efforts to end all forms of gender-based violence including sexual violence, especially during and after conflicts and natural disasters; end early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation and honor killings; end all forms of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, cultural background, and health status; guarantee full participation by women at all levels of political and public life, leadership, and decision-making, including in all peace processes; protect women’s equal rights to land and property; and respect women’s sexual, bodily, and reproductive autonomy.
- Ensure the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, and guarantee access to safe abortion, contraception, maternity care, prevention and treatment of STIs and HIV, and services for those who have experienced sexual violence. Health services must be integrated and comprehensive—free from violence, coercion, stigma, and discrimination—and be accessible, affordable, and of quality.
- Achieve universal access to education by addressing the social, cultural, and community practices that prevent girls, adolescents, and women from accessing and completing their education; creating a supportive environment by addressing related issues such as hygiene, mobility, and safety; and developing and implementing comprehensive sexuality programs that promote respect for human rights, freedom, non-discrimination, gender equality, non-violence, and peace-building.
- Ensure economic justice by shifting society from over-consumption and over-production to one where consumption and production are more sustainable; eliminating subsidies to cash crops that harm small producers; promoting equitable and development-oriented trade; recognizing the value of unpaid care work (such as childcare and domestic work); and creating a “universal social protection floor” for access to basic health, education, food, water, sanitation, energy, housing, and employment.
- Promote ecological justice by ensuring the health of ecosystems; ending the commodification of natural resources; establishing legally binding safeguards against land- and resource-grabbing for those—especially indigenous women—who rely on their own land for their livelihoods; and strengthening the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which defines nations’ rights and responsibilities for use of the oceans and marine natural resources.
Underpinning the feminist declaration is the call for meaningful participation of women in the design, delivery, monitoring, and evaluation of development goals. Activists also urge world leaders to prioritize public financing over public-private partnerships to increase transparency and accountability in the implementation of any sustainable development framework.
IWHC helped convene the landmark meeting and supported activists from Latin America, Africa, and Asia to participate in this critical moment for feminists.
Activists will use the declaration during upcoming government negotiations at the Commission on the Status of Women in March and the Commission on Population and Development, which will convene at the UN in April to assess progress on the International Conference on Population and Development’s Programme of Action.
If your organization would like to endorse the declaration, email the organization’s name and country to [email protected]