It’s that time of year again: the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly is on in New York City, and this year also includes a focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with an SDG Action Weekend on September 16-17 including the Generation Equality Midpoint Moment, and an SDG Summit on September 18-19 ahead of the General Debate and several other high-level meetings and summits. While there won’t be as many civil-society-run side events as we see at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Equality Now and our partners are still present and active, making sure we’re “in the room where it happens”.
Why does Equality Now take part in events like UNGA, SDG Action Weekend, and the SDG Summit?
Gender discriminatory laws are still present in a vast majority of countries, and discrimination is even more prevalent when it comes to family laws where governments kowtow to customary and religious leaders/practices in contravention of international law. Gender-discriminatory nationality laws continue to rip families apart or leave women and their children in a precarious state of limbo with no legal protection, thus vulnerable to further discrimination, economic hardship, and violence. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still happening on every continent except Antarctica, even in the United States, and existing laws are not enough. Global forces such as climate change are exacerbating inequality and vulnerability to discrimination and violence of all kinds, including gender-based violence. The longer it takes to achieve these changes and end gender discrimination in law and practice, the more society as a whole will suffer and miss out on its collective potential for peace and prosperity.
In short, there is still a long way to go to fulfill the SDGs, including SDG 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” to ensure a better, sustainable future for not just women and girls, but for everyone. The combination of these three important fora creates a unique opportunity for advocacy and networking. Equality Now is leveraging this opportunity by co-hosting and participating in major side events, as well as participating in the SDG Action Weekend and meeting with UN member states. The UN focus on the SDGs shows that UN officials and member states know that time is running short to fulfill the promise of the SDGs. This is why Equality Now is pulling together key partners and working with the many coalitions we are a part of to ensure our advocacy messages are heard by UN member states and reminding governments that the deadline for fulfilling the SDGs is drawing near, so they have no time to waste.
Where will Equality Now and our partners be during this time?
Equality Now works with several global and national coalitions, and as part of these groups we are taking part in two important events, both on Thursday, September 14:
- “Accelerating Action toward Equality in Law for Women and Girls by 2030”
- When: Thurs., September 14, 2023, 10:00 AM – 11:45 AM EDT
- Where: Virtual. Register here for virtual attendance.
- Who: Speakers from two coalitions Equality Now is a founding member of: Hyshyama Hamin on behalf of the Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law (GCEFL) and Catherine Harrington on behalf of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights (GCENR), as well as speakers from UN Women and several other great organizations.
- “Mapping Progress, Charting the Future: Utilizing Legal Tools to End FGM/C in the United States “
- When: Thurs., September 14, 2023, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM EDT
- Where: Scandinavia House, in-person only. Register here for in-person attendance
- Who: Moderated by Jill Thompson of Equality Now with speakers from member organizations including Caitlin LeMay of the US End FGM/C Network, Absa Samba, from the Washington Coalition to End FGM/C, Mariam Anaïs Gnakra, of the World Bank, and Shivangi Misra on behalf of Equality Now.
In addition, Equality Now staff will be in attendance at the SDG Action Weekend on September 16-17, including the GEF midpoint moment, as well as at the SDG Summit on September 18-19 and meeting with UN member states.
What do we hope to accomplish, and what else are Equality Now and our partners doing?
Time is running out to fulfill the promise of the SDGs, including SDG 5, before the 2030 deadline that was agreed to. Governments know this, but are concerned about the obstacles and challenges they believe they face in meeting these goals. That’s why Equality Now is collaborating with partners and enabling coalitions to engage with governments on the need for urgent change, and also giving them the tools to implement the change in a gender-sensitive, intersectional, realistic, and practical way.
In addition to the GCEFL, GCENR, and US End FGM/C Network coalitions mentioned above, Equality Now is part of many more global, regional, and national coalitions, including Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR), and the Alliance for Universal Digital Rights (AUDRi). Together with our coalition partners, we work tirelessly to bring together stakeholders from governments, civil society, and even the private sector, to change the law and find solutions that protect against gender discrimination. To support this work, Equality Now has a host of tools, knowledge products, and informational resources to offer to stakeholders. These include:
- Reports and briefs such as the Words & Deeds policy briefs, The State We’re In, 20 Years of the Maputo Protocol: Where are we now?, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Call For A Global Response, our series of reports on sexual violence laws around the world, and reports we collaborate with partners on such as Legislating and enforcing the minimum age of marriage.
- Numerous submissions to UN and regional treaty bodies, crafted together with partners, and from which our points are often included in the treaty bodies’ final published recommendations. Equality Now and our partners are then able to use the submissions and recommendations as advocacy tools with governments and other stakeholders, and to bring more partner organizations into the movement.
- Manuals and toolkits such as Effectively Investigating, Prosecuting And Adjudicating Sexual Violence Cases: A Manual For Practitioners In Georgia and Reporting on Female Genital Mutilation among others
We look forward to connecting with you at the UN General Assembly, but if you can’t join any of the events, consider joining our Changemakers Network, and do check out other ways you can get involved in this important work!