Now the launch is over… what will the SDGs mean for IFAD’s work with rural women?

By Clare Bishop-Sambrook, Lead Technical Adviser (Gender and Social Inclusion) and Zak Bleicher (Partnership Officer)

After lengthy deliberations and a highly consultative process, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – also known as the Global Goals - and their 169 targets have finally been approved. What will they mean for IFAD’s work to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment?

In order to amplify the voice of rural women in the post-2015 development agenda, IFAD has partnered with the Huairou Commission – an NGO and network of grassroots women’s organizations. As part of the 12-month partnership, five grassroots women leaders who are champions of rural priorities - from Jamaica, Kenya, Nicaragua, Peru and Zimbabwe – attended three days of participatory training in New York to build up their knowledge of the SDGs, develop a collective advocacy and action plan, and learn to effectively communicate rural priorities within this new paradigm. A session led by Zak Bleicher and Clare Bishop-Sambrook focused on where IFAD’s efforts to empower rural women stand within the SDG framework. 
From L-R: M. Crawford, translator V.Glab, trainers D.Goldenberg and V.Shivutse, H.Rodriguez, S.Chitongo and J.Nyokabi Gitau. Photo credits Huairou 
The new agenda recognizes that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the goals. It states categorically that the achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities.
The first two goals focus specifically on: ending poverty in all its forms (Goal 1) and achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture (Goal 2). Goal 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

In contrast with the targets for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a great many of the new Global Goal targets resonate with the lives of poor rural women. In addition, they address the three strategic objectives of IFAD’s gender policy, which focuses on:

- economic empowerment
- voice and participation
- equitable workload balance and sharing in the benefits.

The targets include the usual fundamental objectives, such as promoting women’s equal rights to economic resources – including land and other forms of property, women’s leadership in decision-making bodies, and women’s access to financial and other services.

A focus on reducing women’s workload hits the spot
Crucially, a few targets also address the key issue of workload and this could be hugely important for rural women. As we know, in many settings, rural women spend hours every day fetching water and fuelwood, as well as undertaking a wide range of care and domestic work around the home. Hence the targets that recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work including the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family; access to safe and affordable drinking water, and reliable and modern energy services for all are hitting the mark.

Significantly, the targets are not just about strengthening women’s productive and household roles but also improving the quality of their lives. Attention is paid to eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, and eliminating all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

How will this be achieved? 
The agenda talks of activities that relate to IFAD’s core business …. ‘promoting development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services’.

It talks of enhancing international support for implementing effective and targeted capacity-building to support national plans to implement all the sustainable development goals, including north-south, south-south and triangular cooperation.

The ability to track progress from the perspective of different players is also recognized. Data should be disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics that are relevant in national contexts.

Let’s use the post-2015 agenda to strengthen the impact of IFAD-supported activities at field level, with a strong commitment to realising the potential of rural areas through promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. As noted by the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, “Rural women are critical to the success of almost all of the SDGs”.