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Sustainable Development Goals – Good news for African women?

At the end of this year, the Millennium Development Goals will make way for the Sustainable Development Goals.  With its 17 proposed goals, many are already praising the inclusive character of the Sustainable Development Goals.  In fact, one of the criticisms of the Millennium Development Goals was the fact that it did not take into account the voice of those people for whom the goals were set up in the first place.

On the issue of poverty reduction for instance, failure to truly address the link between gender inequality and poverty was held up as a major oversight.  As it is, the deadline is approaching but 1 billion people are living on less than $1.25 a day – the World Bank measure on poverty.  In many countries, but especially African countries, women are still fighting for their rights and infant mortality is still high.  Even in areas where the UN praises the great work achieved, caution needs to be exercised.

In 2012, the Ivorian government passed the marital equality law, but regardless of the anger it sparked among religious people, how sustainable was that law going to be in a country where only 13.7% of adult women have received a secondary education, compared to 29.9% of men.  Or recently, with the passing of the law in parliament offering free education to every child aged between 6 and 16.  The question on everyone’s lips in the country however is how will that look in practice?  In some areas, numbers of pupils in classrooms can be up to 100.  Infrastructures are sorely lacking and there just aren’t enough trained teachers for that law to be effective.

So in the wake of the Sustainable Development Goals, one wonders how Africans, but especially African women will this time truly benefit from the goals?  In Côte d’Ivoire, the youth is already preparing about using technology to spread those proposed goals.  And this might be a way of at least creating awareness about the goals if they are to be sustainable.

One ambition for the Sustainable Development Goals is to provide “inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”, and for Tony Elumelu, “Africapitalism”, or the “effective use of Africa’s private sector to transform the natural wealth and human capital into an engine of global growth that is inclusive and sustainable” is called for.  Rightly, he calls for governments to create enabling societies, which many of them have started doing even if a lot of work still needs to be done.

But for Africa to achieve the implementation of those goals by 2030, its women will need to fully engage, letting go of the pressures of culture and traditions where their governments have provided them with a legal blanket, and fighting for their rights, using the sustainable development goals as their weapon.  Only in such a way, will true equality and end of poverty come about.


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