Sustainability Needs Equality. The Experience of the Global Fund for Children Partner Organizations
At the end of September, Camelia Proca, director of A.L.E.G., attended a retreat in Istanbul with the leaders of non-governmental partner organizations of the Global Fund for Children (Global Fund for Children). These are organizations that carry out activities for children and young people in vulnerable situations in Romania, Great Britain, Serbia, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Kenya, Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala. During the retreat, A.L.E.G. held a workshop on Gender and Sustainability, looking at how organizations for children and youth are impacted by environmental and inequality issues, but also how they can concretely integrate sustainable development objectives into their work, including gender equality – SDG 5. The definition of sustainability we used was „ensuring human well-being, ecological integrity, gender equality and social justice, now and in the future”. As for gender equality, many fear that this means erasing differences between sexes, when it fact it means ensuring that a person’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities do not depend on the sex they are born with.
The workshop revealed a number of links between the exploitation of the planet and the exploitation of vulnerable groups in various parts of the world. Development as understood and practiced in the last two hundred years by the white man colonizing new territories has led in many regions of the world to depleating non-renewable resources, loss of natural habitats, increased pollution, which then contributed to climate changes. However, the exploitative relations to nature and the planet have also been replicated towards people from vulnerable groups, especially indigenous populations, generating social-economic inequalities, conflicts and multiple forms of violence. Vulnerability is deepened when when several criteria of marginalization and exclusion intersect. In most regions of the world, the richest 10% of people own about 60% of assets, according to the 2020 Global Wealth Distribution statistics published by Credit Suisse. Poverty continues to be feminized, with women having the most precarious employment and economic situations, which means implicit risks for children and the elderly who continue to be most often in women’s care due to gender norms. All participating organizations perceive these social-economic and gender inequalities as some of the main sources of the problems affecting their communities. However, the resources available to deal with these problems are always scarce.
Organizations in Central America and India have highlighted that indigenous peoples hold an ancient wisdom that we must learn again if we seek sustainability: to see ourselves as part of the natural circle and not above it. Our relationship pattern to the planet and other people must give way to an equal partner-like approach. Among the solutions proposed by NGOs in Africa, as well as those in Europe, were creative actions to inform and empower young people regarding sustainable development and gender equality, the best results being obtained through peer-to-peer education, with the involvement of new communication media, but also support for activism regarding equal rights.
The Global Fund for Children has created the CEO Circle already during the pandemic as an exchange platform for the organizations it partners with on various continents, offering youth NGO leaders support for championing wellbeing of their teams, communication adapted to the needs of young people, but also support for youth leadership transitions in the life of the organizations. Global Fund for Children is a funder that promotes sustainable changes also in philanthropy, based on flexible funding approach that meets the ever-changing needs of NGOs and the communities served.