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Why It Is Necessary To Look At Sustainable Goals Through A Gendered Lens

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Written by: Gracy Singh

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) is an intergovernmental body that works primarily towards gender equality and women empowerment by emphasising that women’s rights are equal to human rights. The body documents the reality of women’s lives across the world and shapes global standards with respect to gender equality. It was established as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on June 21, 1946.

The UNCSW has devoted itself to ensuring the implementation of the Platform for Action, which imagines a world where each female can exercise her freedom and choice, and realise all her rights, such as to live free from violence, go to school and participate in decision-making. Since the commission propagates gender equality, it has a direct correlation with SDG 5, which aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere.

However, to achieve its objective of a non-discriminating society, the UNCSW adopts a holistic approach and employs a gendered perspective to all the SDGs. It is evident that by their nature that SDGs are interdependent and can be realised to their full potential only when there is harmony among all of them.

Representational image

The UNCSW works along three action lines to progress towards its objective of ending gendered power relations.

Firstly, it aims to strengthen accountability through gender-responsive processes and institutions. This has a direct bearing with SDG 16, which aims to develop strong institutions. Hence, we find that the interdependence between the SDGs requires a coordinated response to a particular issue. Secondly, it calls for the improvement of gender data statistics to effectively monitor progress for women and girls across all goals and targets. Lastly, it aims to generate a positive response by converting policies into practice by ensuring their efficient implementation.

Both nationally and internationally, administrative institutions are highly patriarchal in their functioning. The very nature of governance has a male bias to it. Hence, when it comes to making the SDGs a reality, the specific needs of women must be taken into consideration.  This is true for all the goals — SDG 3 that aims at good health and well-being cannot be achieved unless the experiences of women with maternal mortality, pregnancy complications and nutritional requirements are taken into consideration by the institutions that frame these policies.

Similarly, having accurate statistics is of utmost importance to understand how far we have come from the point of origin and how much more we have to travel. It is often found that gender-based statistics are inaccurate due to numerous factors like the prevalence of conservative norms in society or the very patriarchal nature of administration.

When employing a gendered perspective to the SDGs, only a formulation of policies or programmes through a gendered lens is not sufficient. The very implementation of policies needs to be conscious of the existence of this gendered perspective. Power relations with respect to gender are deeply rooted in society and have reinforced material realities that oppress women. This further creates inequality in the life chances of men and women. It is this very notion that the UNCSW aims to highlight by bringing in a gendered perspective in order to achieve the objectives of the SDGs.

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  1. Mansha Uppal

    This article has given a very meaningful description on why is it necessary to have a genderd perspective. All these years have passed by with mostly women not having a right to express themselves in any platform and have been so dominated by the world and have not even had the opportunity to go to school and educate themselves but now the world is improving and becoming more welcoming towards women empowerment. It is very important to have a perspective and share opinions for anything we will is wrong or unacceptable, we must help the people specially women to overcome this fear of not expressing as they will be dominated. There are many women who are empowering themselves and others but still there are a few left and as young change makers we must try to change that.

  2. mahika govil

    The article is comprehensive and explains the role of the UNCSW well. It is important to realise the interrelation of gender and its role in policy formulation. Acknowledging the gender disparity is the first step to remedy it, however it definitely cannot be the last step. Conscious implementation of a safe space for women is crucial to achieve the SDG 5.
    Another important aspect pointed out in the article is that we must adopt a holistic approach that includes the goals of all the SDG’s in order to progress as a society.

  3. Prerna Chugh Gupta

    It has been aptly called out in this article the fact that all SDGs are interlinked and to achieve any 1, it’s important that others are also achieved. I also appreciate the aspect related to practical implementation of policies that has been brought out in this article.

  4. Shirley Khurana

    From our interpersonal relationships, identities, emotions and sensibilities, to broader economic, cultural, social and political arrangements that we participate in, gender is omnipresent. Gender-based power relations, though not always visible, occur all around us. A study of inequalities can therefore never be complete or completely true without an understanding of how these biases affect different genders differently. Bearing that in mind, the article talks about how the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) is working towards employing a gendered perspective to the SDGs and taking the specifics needs of women and girls into consideration while formulating and implementing development policies. Sex disaggregation of data is necessary to understand the differential impacts of any crisis on people with different gender identities, but the collection of gender-based statistics is often inaccurate due to the patriarchal nature of administrations and the society we live in. It’s imperative to understand that the SDGs are interrelated and can only be truly achieved by applying a gender lens to their objectives, beneficiaries and policies.

  5. prince sachdeva

    The given article very clearly highlights the urgency of having diversity. Whenever there’s an issue to be solved, best solution are only generated when we have perspectives from all sides and stakeholders, which in the given article are women. It indeed is a sad fact that in 21st century, we still have so much left to do to provide almost half of our population with basic rights. The role of UNCSW is going to be very essential on our way to a more just and equitable world.

  6. Harshaa Kawatra

    The United Nations Commission on the Status Of Women (UNCSW) is an intergovernmental body that works towards gender equality and women empowerment by emphasizing that women’s rights are equal to human rights. It tries to ensure that each female can exercise her freedom and choice and realize all her rights in all possible fields. It has direct correlation to SDG 5. The UNCSW has a holistic approach of employing all SDGs with a gendered perspective. It works along three action lines, firstly bearing to SDG 16, then SDG 3 and having accurate statistics.

  7. Dhriti Nijhawan

    It is no secret that we live in a male dominated, patriarchal society where even talking about something as basic as menstruation is frowned upon. Women, who, on one hand are looked up to as warrior goddesses, are also discriminated against and denied basic healthcare and human rights.

    No doubt, the SDGs cannot be fulfilled unless we, as humanity, drop the patriarchal way of thinking and look at everyone with an unfiltered outlook. Numerous national and international organisations and governments are biased towards the “stronger sex” because of macabre, baseless beliefs and myths passed down from generations. The fundamental needs and rights of women, such as the availability of feminine hygiene products and gynecological support, are often overlooked. Thousands of women die every year due to pregnancy complications and menstrual health problems that are easily preventable and treatable.

    There is no shortage of laws and policies for empowering and supporting women worldwide. The main problem is that these perfect and well framed laws aren’t properly implemented. Misogynistic beliefs and views continue to exploit women and many men in power continue to overlook this scenario. Often, powerful positions aren’t offered to women because of their soft, weak, stereotypical nature, and the myth that they aren’t fit for such duties. The very existence of such abysmal and atrocious beliefs must be taken into account while implementing these policies.

    Statistical analysis is the first step to battling any issue, but what if the numbers themselves are inaccurate? Various factors such as orthodox norms of society and a weak female representation in many organisations are responsible for this. In order to improve the status of women in the society, these deep rooted, paramount problems must be rectified and worked out as soon as possible

  8. Riya Saini

    As we see women’s are seriously the most suffered ones in rural areas the men’s are too but many times men’s came to cities for work but then at home the women’s are the ones who take care of their kids and sometimes also they work at farms and go far to collect waters. As we look at SDG2 and SDG3 we can assume that every one should be equal and have every opportunity to eat good to stay healthy and in rural areas women’s face domestic violence too! If we see this as a gender role it is also good and helpful to support those women who are sufferers! Because we are the change-makers. In many houses in rural areas girl’s aren’t allowed to go to schools the reason is not the parents the reason is the upbringing of her parents and the previous generation of that child.

  9. Babita Khuttan

    Gender roles in Contemporary World have inherited a shade of traditional stereotypical world ranking one gender over another . This is not a mere opinion but rather naked truths so depited by the article written . From a women making it to the cabinet table from rural kitchen is still a dream in this 70 year old Independent India , the situation is not about glorifying one gender but rather upliftment to point of bringing equality and why just women? , out of 4.9 million transgender population only 1 or 2 or maybe none make it to the decision making positions. And its not only about administration but rather the very silk cloth of patriarchy that cloaks this society . Something which other genders have tear their way out of and that can be only done through the sharp scissor of laws which bear significant gendered perspective.

  10. nishita popli

    I strongly agree with the approach about SDG’s in the paragraph , and that all the SDG’s are interlinked for example ; if we look at discrimination against certain castes ,that can only be resolved if there is unity between men and women amongst the caste . Mentioning that the UNCSW is directly related to SDG-5 , which it is is not infact the concern here ,the concern is that the very functioning of the United Nations is a problem as the veto power of the 5 permanent members refrains the UN from taking stricter measures against these countries in order to reach the goals quicker . Hence, making the implementation more efficient.

  11. Gurteshwar

    Empowering women and promoting gender equality is crucial to accelerating sustainable development. Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health, and affording women equal rights to economic resources such as land and property, are vital targets to realizing this goal. In my opinion, Ending all discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right, it’s crucial for sustainable future; it’s proven that empowering women and girls helps economic growth and development. UNDP has made gender equality central to its work and we’ve seen remarkable progress in the past 20 years.

  12. Anushka Gupta

    Gender discrimination has been a part of society for a long period of time. This unfortunate practice has cultivated more patriarchal thoughts amongst the coming generations. From a very young age, children are taught the distinction between the characteristics of a woman and a man. The male has always been a dominating gender in the household and even in a society as well. On the economic front, the Gender Gap still prevails, males are given a preference over females in job selection. On the political front, we see that only 14% of women acquire Lok sabha seats. In rural areas, education is neither promoted nor even thought of to be given to a girl child. Despite numerous initiatives, the condition of women is still deteriorating and requires immediate attention. Therefore, we all have to come together to improve this condition and contribute to the development of society.- Anushka Gupta

  13. Ridham Gandotra

    A gender lens allow us to see the ways in which gendered power relations permeate structures and institutions, so that gender is never absent. a gender lens notices such distributions, but also reveals how gender hierarchies that are often as natural operate in households and other institutions through economically and socially determined relation-which are actually based and evole over time…

  14. Ridham Gandotra

    A gender lens on the sustainable development opens up the space for novel insights and different ways of understanding resilience and sustainability by providing evidence on how women who work with men in community confront crisis as subject rather than objects of policy.

  15. Rangareddy Ruchitha

    Patriarchy is still followed in many areas around the world. I appreciate UNSCW for not only formulating policies but implementing them efficiently. As told when SDG 3 is considered the accurate health statistics of women like menstrual hygiene, menstrual cramps, maternal mortality, pregnancy complications must be evaluated. Harmony among all people is needed to perform to their full potential. There are many aspects in considering gender equality which must be taken into consideration to follow up the issues keenly. By reading this article I understood the difficulties an intergovernmental body faces to achieve their goals. I understood the UNSCW goals and the ways they follow to implement their goals. I will definitely try my best to be a changemaker by smashing patriarchy wherever I see it.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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