This is a big week for global anti-poverty efforts. Later this week, world leaders will gather in New York City at the United Nations to ratify the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, a framework to end extreme poverty for the world’s poorest people. Rock star Bono of U2 fame and co-founder of the ONE Campaign described the excitement as only he can.
If you are allergic to fanfare you’d better bolt your doors and shutter your windows on September 25, because there is going to be a lot of it that day in the vicinity of the United Nations, when world leaders ratify the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This is a genuinely big deal, of large consequence — let’s hope — especially for the poorest people on the planet.
During the lead-up to the Global Goals ratification ceremonies, people around the world are celebrating with unveiling events in more than 100 locations across the globe. The Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta hosted Global Goals Illumination on September 21, 2015 as part of the worldwide celebration. High school and college students from around Atlanta introduced the goals one by one, and local international aid experts discussed their expected impact, particularly for women and girls in developing countries. The evening ended with a moving interfaith prayer service.
The goals themselves are wide-ranging and ambitious, with emphasis on ending extreme poverty in the developing world, defined as living on less than $1.25 per day. They are the work of more than 150 nations and represent a vision of a more peaceful and prosperous world.
1. No Poverty
2. Zero Hunger
3. Good Health and Well-Being
4. Quality Education
5. Gender Equality
6. Clean Water and Sanitation
7. Affordable and Clean Energy
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
12. Responsible Consumption and Production
13. Climate Action
14. Life Below Water
15. Life On Land
16. Peace and Justice/Strong Institutions
17. Partnerships for the Goals
As I listened to the optimistic voices of the students reading the goals, it struck me just how small the world has become in my lifetime. We can easily see outside the small confines of our communities and feel compassion for people a world away living in dire poverty and indescribable circumstances. It is unbelievable that slightly more than a billion people worldwide live on less than $1.25 a day—a third of the cost of a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks.
The United Nations 2015 Global Goals remind all of us that we are global citizens. There are ways that you can contribute to the success of these goals internationally. Advocacy groups like the ONE Campaign are a fantastic source of information on initiatives that are going on around the world. CARE, led by Georgia’s own Michelle Nunn, works directly on poverty fighting initiatives in the world’s poorest nations. Groups like Compassion International and Heifer International are also avenues to directly affect the lives of children and communities in the poorest areas of the world.
I encourage you to take the time to click on the links above and take a closer look at the Global Goals and their potential impact on the world we live in. I could not help thinking how impossible some of these goals seem. No Poverty. Zero Hunger. Really? Then it hit me: to shoot far you have to aim high, and if we each do our part in our own spheres of influence and in the global community, we can alleviate extreme poverty at home and abroad and end the suffering that comes with it. It will take all of us.
Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women. She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish. She is also a proud supporter of the ONE Campaign.
The Georgia Commission on Women had the honor of hosting a delegation from Egypt touring the United States to learn more about our efforts for equal rights and opportunities for women. Six women and one man were here to exchange ideas and find ways they can better advocate for women at home.
We met for lunch at Mary Mac’s Tea Room on March 2, 2015 for a true cultural exchange—really, what is more southern than this Atlanta institution? Over fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread, we discussed the lives of women in Egypt and our guests’ efforts to make things better.
We learned a very unshocking truth—women in Egypt want what women the world over want. They want safety. They want opportunities for women to raise the standard of living for their families, and they want to be part of the political process.
Our new friends listed violence against women as one of their top three problems to address. This surprised me. We discussed how our legal system works to protect women in the United States. We also discussed our efforts with our partner organizations to lobby our state legislature for stricter laws and harsher penalties for human trafficking.
Economic opportunity also made the Top 3 for our Egyptian guests. They shared with us that in Egypt women are the sole supporter in twenty-three percent of families. Most of these women make just enough for daily sustenance. Women who want to start businesses in Egypt need more training and greater access to loans. We learned the private sector does not supply small business loans, only the government, and Islam does not allow interest so loans require collateral which poor women in rural areas lack. There are local programs by non-profits in place at the village level to bring women together in agricultural businesses—raising chickens, rabbits, etc.—and to provide training and interest-free loans. The trick is to expand those programs and make them available to more people.
Our friends are also seeking political empowerment to ensure wider opportunities for women in Egypt. They want a seat at the table in their government. They want a hand in making the laws that will affect them. They are finding some success, but they still have a long way to go. As do we. Most of the women we met are lawyers, and they are on the front line working to make changes in their laws and government policy.
The whole conversation intrigued me. I was fascinated to hear about the lives of women in Egypt, and the passion of our guests inspired me as they work to make women’s lives better in their country.
My thoughts turned to our own efforts to achieve equality of opportunity, and I realized that we have come a long way in the United States in equality for women. There are many more women working as doctors and lawyers than there were a generation ago. Women have joined the top ranks of corporate offices and led companies as CEOs. Women are in positions of power in Congress as well as state legislatures across the country. We are governors, mayors, and city council members. We head non-profits and start small businesses.
Our futures are wide open. Today we have choices and options our grandmothers only dreamed of. Our daughters and granddaughters will take us further still. I grew up hearing that I could be anything I wanted to be if I worked hard enough. I have a twelve-year-old daughter. I don’t have to tell her she can be anything she wants to be; all she has to do is look around and know that this is true.
Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women. She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish.