Decade of Action: Accelerating action to achieve sustainable development goals
From the 24th to 26th of February, Education as a Vaccine (EVA) supported five members of the African Young Women Leadership and Advocacy Alliance (AYWLAA) from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda to participate in the 6th session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development convened in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The theme for this 6th session was “A Decade to Deliver a Transformed and Prosperous Africa through the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063”.
The year 2020 has been termed the Decade of Action, and this serves as a basis for African countries to deliver on promises and global commitments made on attaining the SDGs. The forum was focused on reviewing Africa’s progress on the SDGs through Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) as vehicles for monitoring the implementation and review of development strategies to align them with Agenda 2030/Agenda 2063.
The interrelation between the SDGs; 3 (Good Health and Well-being); 4 (Quality Education); 5 (Gender Equality); 13 (Climate Action); 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions); 17 (Partnerships for the Goals) spiralled conversations and side events to specifically address each goal and the mechanisms in place to achieve it.
The regional conference focused on how African countries should make provisions that cover all strata of the population without any form of exclusion. This buttressed the need for countries to invest in statistics, data and indicators for accountability and more strategic approaches at national levels.
This Forum was an important platform for EVA through the AYWLAA to amplify our work around goals 3, 4 and 5. As part of the Women’s Major Group, we addressed some of the gaps in the implementation of the SDGs and made recommendations/key messages
with stronger language that captured the rights of all women and girls including those who are marginalized. The members of the African young women through multilateral stakeholder meetings discussed key priorities such as universal health coverage, gender equality and youth participation to ensure that these key areas are not left behind.
Young People as drivers of change
60% of Africa’s population is below 25 years. This depicts the need to invest in adolescents and young people. Young people are diverse with diverse needs and a sure way to boost participation is by engaging them in spaces where – conversations around the SDGs are happening, platforms where their Sexual Reproductive Health needs are not ignored and in decision-making spaces in their communities. There is great need to leverage existing youth-led mechanisms, provide comprehensive sexuality education in schools and out of school and prioritize adolescents and young people health.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. – Nelson Mandela
Education illuminates a person’s mind and prepares one for life experiences, career choices and societal challenges. Through education, more citizens become skilled, dependent, and resourceful in contributing to the social and economic growth of the nation. In sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of girls marry before the age of 18, and this is a barrier in accessing education. Many girls are dropping out of school due to unintended pregnancies and gender bias. This is a gap that needs to be addressed if we are to achieve SDG 4 by 2030.
Our call to action was for African leaders to accelerate actions towards attaining the SDGs by 2030. With an emphasis on the Decade of Action, Africa needs to strengthen the pace and scale up actions that leave no one behind through the implementation of targeted policies and programmes aimed at meeting the sustainable development goals.
On Gender Equality, Olabukunola Williams, EVA’s Executive Director called for governments to be gender-sensitive in making interventions and provisions for their respective countries. She highlighted that countries will be sending their reports on the Beijing
declarations this year which makers 25 years post Beijing; Platform for Action.
“It would be imperative to reflect on progress and intensify efforts towards safeguarding the rights of women and girls, putting them at the centre of development and creating an enabling environment for them to thrive”, she emphasised.