So that must mean day two is underway. Thankfully the temperature had increased a little so I could have my ankles showing and wear my apparently very British outfit. British outfit…..
Anyways we walked over to the United Nations Headquarters all rather excited as we had a little clue what was going to happen and what we had to do on day two. Of course we had breakfast and headed directly to our chosen conferences.
My first conference was called Girls Tool Kit: Micro-finance, Livelihood and Youth. It was led by BRAC USA. BRAC are a NGO that work in Africa and Southern Asia with offices around the world. The NGO works to move people out of poverty. At first in its early days with a reactive approach but as stability has grown they follow proactive methods with prevention at the forefront of their efforts. They reach 138 million people around the world in 11 different countries. Pretty awesome! A big part of their work is empowering girls and women to be recognized in society, enable them to become self sufficient and support them in accessing the aid to live their lives with dignity. So they created Girls Clubs. An innovation that is designed to provide women in that area with the skills and education they need in the hope it will bring them up out of poverty themselves with out it being done for them. And the best thing it is completely sustainable.
To explain we were given the example of a Girls Club in Sierra Leone. The country has a 77.5% poverty rate. That’s 7 million people in poverty. The life expectancy is 48 and 70% of the youth are unemployed so as a result struggle to get themselves out of poverty meaning their family have no chance. The situation for girls isn’t great either. With 42% of girls between the age of 15-19 out of school as 92% of girls are married. And just to top it off 47% of women die in child birth or shortly after. So BRAC set up one of their Girls Clubs with three sides. A Skills Development Program, Adolescent Program and Empowerment and Livelihood. The club is a safe space ran by women from the local are that were helped by BRAC themselves and have received training enabling them to teach and lead the community of girls to a new era where poverty is history with women at the heart of the change. It is open two-three hours everyday for women to socialize, learn about contraception, play sports and games, learn how to become self reliant, taught how to budget and how to run small businesses. It is also a big family that are able to support each other through the hardship of poverty.
BRAC has a procedure in which it follows to assess what a community needs and where BRAC can help. It starts by mapping the area that allows BRAC to see who is there, what needs to be done, who is willing to lead and then recruit members. They then develop the curriculum of the group focusing on health, social and economic. Finally they allow the group to have access to micro-finance. That could be helping them access grants from governments, setting up a collective empowerment approach with goals and targets or providing funding directly.
The outcomes are awesome! In areas with Girls Clubs, in whatever form they take, the teenage pregnancy rates has fallen by 26% across the 11 counties. Within house hold were Girls Clubs are present in their communities women are 72% more likely to be involved with income generating activities. Success story indeed! I loved this conference and I think it was up there as my favourite. On Saturday I head out to Tanzania with some fellow travellers to become a part of a Safe house for a short time that is available for girls to come and stay when they flee FGM. The girls receive support, an education and are taught how to become self sufficient if they cannot return back to their families. The Safe house has a wonderful leader, Mama Rhobi, who also visits local villages performing a road show with her amazing group to teach people that FGM is wrong and although already illegal in Tanzania needs to be stopped completely. The work is very similar to that of a Girls Club so if there is a potential to form a Girls Club that acts as a prevention aid so girls never have to leave their homes and flee to the safe house that would be awesome. Let’s see shall we.
My second conference of the day was called Ending Child Poverty as part of the SDGs-Empowering Youth to make a lasting difference. The panel was led by UNICEF who have started a new group of 20 NGOs and organisation to combat child poverty called End Child Poverty Global Coalition. Each panelist worked for UNICEF itself or for one of the 20 bodies working within the End Child Poverty Global Coalition. The coalition has three main issues it is trying to allow everyone to realize. The first is that children disproportionately suffer the impact of poverty in all its dimensions. The second is that in every country around the world children are more likely to live in poverty that any other social group. And the final is about what the solutions are.
The panel asked us to participate in a quiz after introducing what they do and how the world is slowly moving forward on this issue. They reminded us of the obvious fact that this a world problem and can only be solved as a world. This means that everyone. They have engaged the private sector, governments, World Children’s Day-20th November, The Ethics and Education for Children and Global Network of Religion on Children to name just a few.
A great member of the Global Coalition is World Vision. A Christian organisation working to overcome child poverty. They have three areas. Relief in particularity to overcome conflicts. Development that is community based but that is sustainable. And advocacy for justice and change for children in poverty.
The floor was opened up for questions and there were some rather controversial ones too. The panel suggested that to truly understand the problem and try to create a solution the population needs to be fully understood. Once this has been achieved then governments and charities can get to work but to allow successful work people need to commit to these children for a long term solution to allow improvements to really happen. Including the children in the decision making and allowing them to question it allows participation and therefor ownership to many solutions, often producing more success. But this is the point I thought was most interesting was about education; Should education stop being tailored to the perfect child or the way to tick the boxes and perhaps worldwide should be adapted to allow children and young people gain a job and be ready to tackle to the world? I am fully behind this idea as each child and student is different and therefore requires a more tailed education approach but surely if you are more equipped to work in the world then each child’s success will be higher. Does it not have the potential to raise a respectful and supportive community of youth around the world, creating people who are genuine and awesome? Perhaps. As you will find out soon enough in my next few blogs this is going to be my area of focus trying to get children, to start just within the UK, learning about the Sustainable Development Goals so they are more aware of the world and the problems so hopefully are more respectful and supportive. There is also a chance that they will be inspired by what they learn about the wonderful United Nations and the 17 goals for the world an maybe even use their knowledge to change this place we called our home-Planet Earth. I hope so! Let’s see how that goes.
The most awesome and inspiring morning. Lunch. Toilet. Grand Ballroom in the Barclay Hotel for an climate change afternoon!
P.S. Loving writing my blog. Great opportunity to reflect and hopefully inspire.
Picture: Girl’s Club Toolkit. Day 2. Conference 1. United Nations Headquarters, New York. 2017