With the blessings of our Founder/Chair at the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance( GIWA), Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, and Secretary General, Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Miss Sohini Jana, the Senior Development Officer at GIWA represented the organization virtually at the High-Level Political Forum and Women Major Group’s side events this year as a member of the Women’s Major Group (WMG) from the 10th -13th of July 2023. The Women’s Major Group is an official participant in the United Nations process on Sustainable Development and has the responsibility to facilitate the active participation of women’s civil society which includes information sharing and providing the space for interventions and inputs into the policy space provided by the United Nations through proposals, access to documents, sessions, side-events, advocacy campaigns and putting together position papers every year.
The Women’s Major Group is a unique organization that is self-organised and open to all interested civil society organizations working to promote human-rights-based sustainable development with a focus on women’s human rights, the empowerment of women and gender equality. At the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF ) which is an outcome of Rio +20, the forum was provided with the mandate to have a central role in overseeing the follow-up and review of Agenda 2030 at the global level, including through voluntary national review and thematic reviews. The Women’s Major Group in this context, serves to provide an entry point to women’s civil society organizations and grassroots feminist movements across the world to advocate for more gender-inclusive and gender-responsive policies within the paradigm of the sustainable development goals and their implementation in different regions at the High-Level Political Forum as one of the official participating bodies at the prestigious event. The High-Level Political Forum meets every year for eight days under the auspices of ECOSOC and every four years for a period of two days at the Levels of Heads of State and Government under the auspices of the General Assembly.
This year, Miss Sohini Jana was invited to be a part of the Strategy and Comms team of the Women’s Major Group where she attended the meetings that determined the online advocacy component for the different themes that the Women’s Major Group took up for each day of the 8 days forum. GIWA participated actively to particularly highlight our alignment with the advocacy on Sexual and Reproductive Rights for Women and Members of all Genders, the Right of Access to Clean Water and Sanitation, and the importance of environmental conservation to Combat Climate Change or to support Climate Action. Miss Sohini also participated in the group discussion and input-gathering meetings for the official interventions on SDG 6 presented at the HLPF. The intervention was presented in person by Miss Olga Dianaeva from the Rural Women’s Organization in Kyrgyzstan at the HLPF on behalf of the Women’s Major Group.
Official Intervention on SDG 6 at the High-Level Political Forum 2023
The intervention presented on SDG 6 at the High-Level Political Forum addressed the need to recognize the imperative of taking into account the gender-related challenges linked to access to clean water and sanitation, and the important role that women can play to fulfil this need through support provided to them strategically.
The intervention mentioned how the lack of proper sanitation facilities and proper menstrual health management tools that are safe and affordable, negatively impacts the overall well-being of women, girls and diverse gender people in terms of affecting their privacy, and dignity.
The intervention further addressed how besides being an important need for dignified living, WASH provisions also benefit and support rural communities by helping them maintain their health and also the health of water resources that they use to directly sustain their communities.
The call for increased public financing in gender-responsive water and sanitation infrastructure, capacity-building efforts and knowledge dissemination efforts was emphasised. There was also mention of the need to find fresh resources such as climate finance to meet the water and sanitation challenges exacerbated by climate change.
There was an effort to urge governments to prioritize the needs, specific challenges, and vulnerabilities of women and girls in all their diversity over profit. This would include gender-segregated sanitation facilities to be ensured to women and girls in every locality and neighbourhood to ensure their safety, privacy and dignity.
The intervention also incorporated the point of integrating access to water and sanitation into broader development plans linked to health, education, and economic justice targets. There was an emphasis placed on the need for data disaggregation by gender to effectively track and monitor progress and impact for further accountability check mechanisms that will serve to reinforce the commitments to gender equality.
Women’s Major Group Position Paper 2023
A brief summary of the Women’s Major Group Position Paper entails a review with a non-siloed approach, grouping multiple goals under four main pillars: economic, social, environmental and cross-cutting.
For the purpose of this report, I will only be mentioning the points collated under the pillar of the environment in the position paper. This pillar includes SDGs 6, 7, 9,13,14,15.
The Women’s Major Group clearly mentions that it rejects the “net -zero pledges” that is still up for discussion in formal climate negotiations. WMG believes that this approach only supports carbon colonialism and is implemented in the Global South to offset emissions from the Global North which amounts to the West shifting the responsibility of the damage onto the backs of the more vulnerable people in under-developed or developing parts of the world. As feminist activists, the members of WMG recognize that the current environmental crisis is also an “economic one” with “its roots in colonial plunder, exploitation and consumption as seen in contemporary unsustainable and illegitimate levels of debt and domination of domestic policy space by powerful economic actors”.
The Recommendations provided under this pillar are as follows:
- Abandon false solutions to the climate crisis in favour of gender-just and human rights-based climate solutions that prioritize people over markets, protect sustainable food systems and uphold the right of indigenous people over their land, resources, and the right of free, prior, informed consent as a human right.
- Prioritize investment in a just transition towards low-carbon, renewable energy infrastructure and technology that is community-owned and democratically controlled while ensuring compliance with ethical and human rights standards and sourcing.
- Ensure sufficient, safe, acceptable, accessible, and affordable access to water and sanitation through public, adequate and community-owned services and reject the pressure to privatize or commodify water services.
- Address inter-linkages between climate change, disaster risk reduction, and the health and human rights of women and girls in all their diversity. National policies, plans, and budgets need to be inclusive, intersectional, and gender-responsive.
- Increase and deliver on climate finance pledges.
- Immediately halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by, among other actions, transforming current unsustainable agriculture systems into regenerative and nature-positive food systems while ensuring the rights of women, small producers, and indigenous people in order to further implement all existing international and regional environmental agreements and ensure policy coherence with the three Rio Conventions.
- Take targeted actions to improve menstrual health and hygiene among other things by designing water and sanitation services with the specific needs of women, girls and all menstruating people in mind, especially in educational settings and sensitizing, increasing knowledge about menstruation as a healthy, natural and normal part of development; incorporating menstrual health education into school curricula, and addressing the stigma around menstruation and menstrual hygiene.
Side Event: Menstrual Health Rights and Gender Equality
Menstrual Health Rights is one of the Human Rights that further includes the Right to Health, the Right to Education and the Right to Effective Public Participation.
The Panel presented cases of policy best practices seeking to support menstrual health rights in the case of Spain and Northern Macedonia. Spain has recently implemented policies that ensure that there is a provision of paid leave for menstruating individuals, access to appropriate water and sanitation facilities, and access to free-of-cost safe period products thus addressing period poverty in the country. The speaker from Northern Macedonia who joined the panel online through his video message spoke about the important case of including menstrual hygiene into the education curriculum to further empower women and girls with information and awareness on hygiene practices. Professor Kocubovski further emphasized the need to encourage climate-friendly menstrual products like menstrual cups, especially with respect to engaging low-income groups to enable them access to the products and guidance on how to use them. He also mentioned that there is an ardent need to challenge any kind of stigmatization associated with menstrual health and hygiene practices.
Mr. Rio Hada from OHCHR presented on the human rights angle of menstrual health and hygiene practices with a special focus on the need to support inclusion of all menstruators including women with disabilities. He emphasized on how important it is to consider the role of adequate menstrual health rights as a pre-requisite to combat and prevent violence against women thus ensuring their dignity, privacy, safety and security as important markers of their overall well-being. He also drew the attention of his listeners to the importance of menstrual health management as an essential component of Disaster risk reduction, climate security and general peace and security.