Who Will Listen to Their Stories
A journey from unknown to representation, by Donatus Lili
In a period of uncertainties, when the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity were merging with the Good Shepherd, I was the Justice Peace link for the Kenya province in 2016, and later the NGO Regional Designate for Africa in January 2017. On my first to-do list was to take a course on Sustainable Development (February –March).
Sounds good, but no way, it is complex, demanding and engaging. The High Level Political Forum, the UN process which reviews Member States’ implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was to be held in July, and Kenya was one of the States in the list of reviews. Owing to this a lot was expected of me: to search for the Organizations spearheading the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including non-governmental organizations as well as government ministries, and locate the United Nations Offices in Nairobi to get started. I identified and was endorsed in the SDGs Kenya Forum ‘Leave No One Behind’. This platform has around 38 Organizations, among these groups like GCAP, FEMNET and CIVICUS. It was established to strengthen the capacities of civil society groups working at the county level to engage communities to progressively embrace the new development priorities. In a Forum Dialogue held on Tuesday, 9 May 2017 at Ufungamano House, Nairobi, I was involved in the panel that drafted the review of SDG 3 and was able to advocate for insertion of free or subsidized medical treatment for fistula into a statement to be pushed to the Kenyan government.
I attended the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa on 17-19 May 2017. My contribution to the Forum resulted in the mention of fistula and cancer treatment in Para 18(b) of the official Input of the ECA to the HLPF: Key Messages from the ARFSD. From the different workshops during the Forum I learned the importance of the African unified approach towards eradicating poverty, zero hunger, quality health, and gender equality.
From Regional to Global level, I came to the GSIJP-Office in New York from June 25th - July 27th to participate in the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Orientation at the GSIJP-Office involved trainings in social media, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Good Shepherd position papers and multiple activities with the aid of Sr. Winifred Doherty, Sr. Clare Nolan and Cecilie Kern. These included preparing a presentation for a side event at which I was a panelist. The event, titled ‘Poverty to Prosperity:
Shared Stories from NGO’s Working with Communities,’ was held at the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN, on July 11th. This was co-sponsored by the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. Ambassador David Donoghue, from the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN was the moderator.
I attended the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), a UN process to review implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals at the UN Headquarters in New York. This is the main United Nations process on sustainable development that provides political leadership, guidance and recommendations. It was divided in two parts. The first five days, July 10th to 14th was dedicated to a thematic review of SDGs 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14, 17, and their inter-linkages. The second part, July 17th – 19th was dedicated to Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) from 43 Member States: 7 from Africa, 11 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 12 from Europe, and 13 from Asia. Kenya was among the 7 African Member States to be reviewed.
The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd is fully involved in grassroots activities, as I have been and love to be. The GSIJP-Office has enlarged my horizon to see that we have been responding for over 300 years to the SDG’s, while walking in the footsteps of our founders St. John Eudes and St. Mary Euphrasia. My background in counseling, psychology, and involvement with women living in vulnerable situations, children living in the streets, and children who are trafficked prepared me to not only listen, counsel and empower them but to advocate for their rights. Mark this, although I have been using concepts like “street children” and “trafficked children,” I am now aware of people and human rights, thus differentiating the person from the situation, and now refer to “children who live in the streets,” or “children who are trafficked”.
All the SDGs are interlinked, i.e. to eradicate poverty, there must be zero hunger, clean water, healthy land and sea ecosystems, good infrastructure and innovation, education, equality and equitable share of resources, peace and justice, an end to harmful practices such as FGM and Child, Early, and Forced Marriage, and most of all gender equality. As much as gender inequality persists worldwide, our new ministries will need to address not only gender equality, but all the SDGs to offer a holistic model for development. The persistence of violence against women and harmful practices continues: 1 in 4 women aged 20-24 were married before age 18 in 2015, and 1 in 5 women and girls 15-49 faced violence by an intimate partner.
One of the sessions revealed that grassroots women are not meaningfully consulted in the review of the SDGs, and for the few who are consulted; they are only consulted on gender issues, not all SDGs. In a workshop held on 15th and 16th July at the Church Center for the UN on cross-cutting Civil Society platforms, one of the participants questioned “are women not affected by climate change?” This is one of the many gaps and regularities in data reporting. More than often women at the grassroots level are invisible in policy implementation, and consequently in national reviews. This is reflected in the case of pensions, where women are covered less than their male counterparts. From the Voluntary National Reviews, most developed countries have set up mandatory pension plans, either public or private, that together achieve quasi-universal coverage. In contrast, in less developed regions the old age pensions cover only a fraction of older persons. The following are a few of my observation from the reviews: it was clear that patriarchal governance is a threat and major challenge to gender equality and there is a need to change the stereotypes for women and girls; pension coverage is typically lower among women than men, owing to their over-representation in the informal sector, self-employed and in unpaid family work.
In solidarity with the Kenyan delegates, the Kenyan NGOs were invited to attend a preview of the Kenyan Voluntary National Review at the Kenya Permanent Mission to the UN on July 13, highlighting the need for inclusive collaboration between government and NGOs in the implementation of the SDGs. After Kenya presented its statement at the UN, we were invited for dinner by the Honourable Irungu Nyakera, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure on July 18th. This was sign of colaboration and solidarity.
Conclusion: As the annual holding of the High Level Political Forum closed its 2017 session, it hoped to accelerate the pace of implementation, ignite political will, and encourage governments and the world community to mobilize the required resources to fully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to lift millions out of poverty.