One hundred of the world’s most promising artists, business leaders, public servants, social entrepreneurs and technologists under the age of 40 have been invited to join the World Economic Forum’s community of Young Global Leaders. The aim is to enable them to shape an inclusive and sustainable future for the world.
They will join a community and a five-year programme that will challenge them to think beyond their scope of expertise and make a stronger impact as leaders.
They have been nominated because of their creativity and innovation; their ability to build bridges across cultures and between business, government and civil society; and their pioneering work in arts and culture, business, design, energy, health, public policy, sustainability and technology.
The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a multistakeholder community of leaders from all walks of life, from every region of the world. Current members head governments and Fortune 500 companies, hold Nobel Prizes and Academy Awards, and have become UN Goodwill Ambassadors and Social Entrepreneurs.
Over half of the YGL Class of 2018 are women, and the majority of the cohort are from emerging economies. Together, they represent the very best potential of their generation and are advancing new models of sustainable social innovation. The full list can be downloaded at http://wef.ch/ygl18.
“We’re challenging these 100 women and men to do more and be more. They’ll join a community of enterprising, socially minded leaders working as a force for good, and highlight the potential for innovation to correct the shortcomings in our economies and societies,” said John Dutton, Head of the Forum of Young Global Leaders at the World Economic Forum.
The Class of 2018 includes the following people from:
Iyinoluwa Aboyeji (M), a Nigerian Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is changing the way payments are made in Africa as Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Flutterwave, an API start-up that attracted $10 million in investment in 2017. He also co-founded Andela, which trains and connects African developers to global companies for work.
Samuel Alemayehu (M) is Managing Director, Cambridge Industries, Ethiopia. He is a Stanford engineer and Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is developing Africa’s first waste-to-energy plant and the continent’s largest wind farm.
Fatoumata Ba (F) is Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Jumia Group, Africa’s first tech unicorn. She is also Chief Executive Officer of Janngo, Africa’s first social start-up studio.
Akim Daouda (M) is Chief Investment Officer of the Gabonese Sovereign Wealth Fund, Gabon. Outside of work, he supports a youth education NGO.
Khaled Igué (M) is Founder and President of Club 2030 Afrique, Benin, a think-tank focused on economic and social development in Africa. He is also Head of Public-Private Partnerships for Africa at OCP mining company.
Sébastien Kadio-Morokro (M) is one of the youngest CEOs in the African oil and gas industry as Chief Executive Officer of Petro Ivoire, Côte d’Ivoire. He is also Chairman of the Board of Clinique Procrea, which specializes in maternal health, child health and fertility.
Unathi Kamlana (M) is Deputy Registrar of Banks & Head of Department, Prudential Policy, Stats & Support, South African Reserve Bank.
Karabo Morule (F) is Managing Director, Personal Finance, Old Mutual Emerging Markets, South Africa. She is the first woman to sit on the company’s executive committee.
Natalie Payida-Jabangwe (F) is the Chief Executive of Ecocash, part of Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe. She runs the second-largest mobile financial service in Africa, managing the operation and financial transactions for 6 million customers.
Anushka Ratnayake (F) is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of myAgro, Mali. She supports small-scale farmers to pay for fertilizer and seeds through a mobile platform and is planning to reach 1 million farmers by 2025, increasing their income by $1.50 per farmer per day.
Deng Adut (M) is Co-Founder and Partner at AC Law Group, Australia. He also founded the John Mac Foundation, which provides higher education scholarships to students from refugee backgrounds.
Nami Chung (F) is Managing Director at the Asan Nanum Foundation, Republic of Korea. She is leading efforts on youth empowerment and entrepreneurship.
Ren Hua Ho (M) is the Executive Director of hospitality brand Banyan Tree Holdings, Singapore, and Chief Executive Officer of Thai Wah, a food conglomerate. He volunteers as a mentor at a prison in Singapore and serves on several NGO boards.
Elaine Kim (F) is the Co-Founder and Partner of CRIB (Creating Responsible and Innovative Businesses), Singapore. She helps women become entrepreneurs and is a doctor and Chief Executive Officer of HCA Hospice Care, providing care for the terminally ill in their homes. She also co-founded Singapore’s first co-working space for families, Trehaus.
Nadiem Makarim (M) is Chief Executive Officer of GO-JEK, a motorcycle ride-hailing app that has evolved into payments, food delivery and other lifestyle services in Indonesia. The fleet includes 400,000 drivers and over 3,000 service providers.
Lucy McRae (F) is Principal, Lucy McRae, Australia. An artist and inventor, she is recognized as an early identifier of emerging technologies, leading Philips Electronics research lab.
Kaila Murnain (F) is General Secretary, New South Wales Branch, Australian Labor Party, Australia, the first woman to hold this position. Her aim is to change the culture of the party, making it more inclusive.
John Riady (M) is Director of Lippo Group, a business conglomerate based in Indonesia that includes real estate, retail, hospitals and internet services.
Simon Sheikh (M) is the Founder and Managing Director of Future Super, Australia’s first fossil-fuel-free pension fund.
Taejun Shin (M) is the Founder and Representative Director, Living in Peace, Japan. A former investment banker, he runs an NGO committed to education for peace.
David Sin (M) is Chief Executive Officer of SIN Capital Group, Singapore, and Deputy Chairman of Fullerton Health, a health foundation, where he is spearheading projects to help the elderly, low-income families and disadvantaged youth.
Shoko Takahashi (F) is Representative Director at Genequest, Japan. Her start-up gathers customers’ genetic information to develop drugs specific to their treatment.
Wai Wai Nu (F) is the Founder and Director of the Women Peace Network, Myanmar. A former political prisoner, she has been at the forefront of human rights activism and helps women fight abuse such as sexual harassment and domestic violence.
Hannah Yeoh (F) is Speaker, Malaysia Democratic Action Party. She is the country’s first female speaker for Selangor State Assembly and the youngest speaker of any legislative assembly in the country.
Vivy Yusof (F) is a Malaysian fashion entrepreneur, social media influencer and advocate for women’s empowerment. She founded dUCK, a fashion brand and FashionValet, a multimillion-dollar online retail start-up.
Europe and Eurasia
Heba Aly (F) is Journalist and Director of IRIN, Switzerland, a leading source of original, field-based journalism on humanitarian crises.
Barbara Ann Bernard (F) is the Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer of Wincrest Capital, a global equity fund. An Irish national, she also chairs Ultera Technologies, a clean energy company.
Oana Bîzgan (F) is a member of Parliament of Romania, representing Bucharest and works on equal opportunities for women and men and economic policy. She ran Romania’s NoHateNoFear campaign.
Valeri Chekheria (M) is Chief Executive Officer of Adjara Group Hospitality, a hotelier and agricultural entrepreneur from Georgia and business advocate for sustainability, human rights and anti-corruption.
Xavier Duportet (M) is Chief Executive Officer of Eligo Bioscience, France. His company developed antimicrobial medicines that can be programmed to target bacteria based on their genome – a treatment that can be used for illnesses like Crohn’s disease. He also runs Hello Tomorrow, a non-profit that helps promising science-entrepreneurs trying to solve the world’s most pressing issues.
Mathieu Pierre Flamini (M) is the Founder of and Partner at GFBiochemicals, United Kingdom, and a professional football player turned environmental entrepreneur. GFBiochemicals produces levulinic acid, a substance that could be an alternative to petrol.
Gloria Fluxa Thienemann (F) is Co-Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Grupo Iberostar, Spain, a tourism multinational operating in 30 countries with over 100 hotels, travel agencies and operators, employing over 28,000 people. She is also a campaigner for marine sustainability.
Maya Foa (F) is Director of Reprieve, the legal charity based in the United Kingdom that has a team of lawyers fighting human-rights abuses such as the death penalty, assassinations and secret prisons.
Sanni Grahn-Laasonen (F) is the Minister of Education and Culture of Finland. The Nordic country’s school system has consistently come at the top of international rankings for education systems.
Camilla Hagen Soerli (F) is the Executive Manager of Canica, one of the largest privately owned investment companies in Norway. She also manages the Canica Foundation, investing in medical research with a focus on women’s health.
Solveigh Hieronimus (F) is Partner at McKinsey & Company, Germany, who specializes in refugees, migration, welfare and employment. She is a speaker at the European Parliament, the European Summit on Youth Unemployment and the Chatham House Conference.
Gwenaelle Huet (F) is the Chief Executive Officer, France, Renewable Energy, ENGIE Group, France. Formerly with the French government handling climate negotiations, she is now responsible for hydro, wind, geothermal, solar PV and marine energy projects at Engie.
Ipek Ilicak Kayaalp (F) is Chairwoman of the Board of Directors, Ronesans Holding, Turkey, a group of companies specializing in construction, real estate investment, energy, health and education.
Christian Kroll (M) is the Scientific Co-Director of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Index and Dashboards at Bertelsmann Stiftung, the German think tank. The index and dashboards measure country performance on the UN SDGs and show how world leaders can deliver on their promises for reforms.
Gaurav Mehta (M) is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Dharma Life, India. A former private equity professional, he runs a social enterprise that enables entrepreneurs in rural areas to improve their local communities.
Miroslava Duma (F) is the Founder of Future Tech Lab, Russian Federation. She is an entrepreneur who is commercializing new, sustainable technologies and innovations for the fashion industry. Her work includes founding an investment company, experimental fashion tech lab, lifestyle digital platform, and a women and children’s online store.
Albert Rivera Díaz (M) is President of Ciudadanos – Partido de la Ciudadanía, Spain. A Spanish attorney and politician, he is also an anti-corruption and diversity champion.
Susannah Rodgers (F) is a British Paralympic swimmer who won 30 international medals, including three bronze medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and a gold and two bronze medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. She is a Non-Executive Director of the British Athletes Commission.
Nico Rosberg (M) is a German-Finnish Formula One race driver and 2016 Formula One World Champion who drove for Williams F1 and Mercedes AMG Petronas under the German flag.
Marlene Schiappa (F) is a French politician serving as France’s Secretary of State in charge of Equality between Women and Men.
Mustafa Suleyman (M) is one of the three co-founders of DeepMind, an artificial intelligence lab in the United Kingdom that was acquired by Google in 2014 for a reported £400 million.
Leo Varadkar (M) is the Taoiseach of Ireland. A medical doctor, he became the country’s youngest-ever prime minister in 2017.
Kent Ho (M) is Founder and General Partner of s28 Capital, Hong Kong SAR. His company is one of the largest new early-stage venture capital funds in Silicon Valley.
Li Jia (F) is Head of Research and Development, Google Cloud Artificial Intelligence, Alphabet, USA. Previously head of research at Snapchat, she now heads the Google AI China Center and is an adjunct professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Jingfang Hao (F) is a Researcher at the China Development Research Foundation, People’s Republic of China. A researcher in macroeconomics, she also writes science fiction and leads a non-profit, Tong Xing, working on social impact projects.
Wang Huai (M), a former Facebook engineer, he leads Linear Venture, a technology investment firm. He is also Chairman of the Youth Group of China’s Future Forum, a non-profit establishing an interdisciplinary platform to promote science that helps humanity.
Xiao Liu (M) is Senior Vice-President of China Vanke, one of the largest property companies in China.
Wenjuan Mi (F) is Chief Executive Officer of VIPKID, People’s Republic of China. She empowers children through her English language education institution, which connects Chinese students to an international learning experience.
Li Sixuan (F) is Anchor for China Central Television, People’s Republic of China.
Wen Wang (F) is a Research Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Singapore. A biochemist, she focuses on using technology to address sustainability, healthcare and food security.
Huiyan Yang (F) is Chairwoman of Country Garden Holdings, China’s largest property developer. She is China’s richest woman and her company has sold properties to 1.5 million homeowners and employs 70,000 people worldwide.
Carol Yu (F) is Anchor for Phoenix Satellite Television, Hong Kong SAR. She hosts Visionaries, which reaches over 400 million viewers in Asia alone.
Lu Zhang (F) is the Founding and Managing Partner of Fusion Fund, USA, a venture capital firm that specializes in early stage healthcare and technology investments. She made her mark in the industry after founding a company focused on non-invasive technology for early diagnosis of Type II diabetes.
Kerstin Forsberg (F) is an ocean conservation activist based in Peru and Founder of Asociación para la Conservación de Ambientes Marinos y Costeros and Planeta Océano, a non-profit fighting to protect marine environments.
Sebastián Alejandro Kind (M) is Undersecretary for Renewable Energy, Ministry of Energy and Mining of Argentina and leading a national plan to generate 20% of the country’s power by 2025.
Juan Jose Pocaterra (M) is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ViKua, Venezuela. His company develops smart city technologies and he is Venezuela’s representative to the White House Emerging Entrepreneurs Initiative.
Alejandro Malgor (M) is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Xinca, a company based in Argentina that makes shoes from discarded car tyres. Xinca partners with sustainable brands like Patagonia and has produced 20,000 pairs from 13 tons of recycled tyres since 2013.
Kapil Mohabir (M) is the Founding Managing Partner of Plympton Farms, Guyana. His social enterprise is the largest exporter of tropical products in Guyana, and he seeks to alleviate rural poverty by working with smallholder framers.
Juan Pablo Larenas (M) is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Sistema B, Chile. His organization promotes collaboration between businesses, government and civil society towards social innovation.
Middle East and North Africa
Faisal Abbas (M) is Editor-in-Chief of Arab News, Saudi Arabia.
Razan Al Mubarak (F) is Secretary-General of the Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi (EAD), United Arab Emirates.
Sarah Al-shuhaimi (F) is the first woman to chair Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange and is Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of NCB Capital, Saudi Arabia.
Riad Armanious (M) is Chief Executive Officer of Eva Pharma, Egypt. A philanthropist and entrepreneur, he turned his family’s small business into one of the region’s fastest-growing pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Reem Fadda (F) is an internationally recognized art curator based in the Palestinian Territories.
Rayan Fayez (M) is Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Banque Saudi Fransi, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest banks.
Reem Khouri (F) is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Kaamen, Jordan. She runs a social enterprise that supports organizations in designing their economic and social contracts with society.
Tamer Makary (M) is the Founder of Ethica Partners in the United Arab Emirates. He established Africa’s first not-for-profit eye hospital in Cameroon and he is launching local eye care interventions in Indonesia.
Alisha Moopen (F) is Executive Director of Aster DM Healthcare, United Arab Emirates. She oversees 85 clinics and focuses on initiatives for village development, ranging from small children to women’s education. She is also a trustee and active member of the Aster DM Foundation, working with children with congenital heart disease.
Angela Baker (F) is Head of Qualcomm Wireless Reach, USA, a strategic initiative of Qualcomm that brings wireless technology to underserved communities around the world, reaching over 10 million beneficiaries.
Kelly Buchanan (F) is Senior Vice-President, Commercial Solutions, Mastercard, USA. She led the efforts to initiate Mastercard’s Women in Technology programme and is involved in Girls 4 tech, a programme that teaches science, technology, engineering and mathematics to schoolgirls across the world.
Joy Dunn (F) is the Lead of New Product Introduction, Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX), USA. She leads the task force taking new spacecraft from design concept into production. She co-founded the Women’s Network and LGBTQ employee groups at SpaceX and is involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics outreach.
Michael Faye (M) is Executive Chairman of GiveDirectly, USA. His charity allows donors to send money directly to the poor with no strings attached and is researching the effects of unconditional basic income in developing economies. He also runs Segovia, a technology company that aims to make charitable payments safer.
Joseph P. Kennedy (M) is Congressman from Massachusetts (D), 4th District, United States House of Representatives, USA.
Maggie MacDonnell (F) is the teacher from Ikusik School, one of the most northern communities in Canada, who won the Global Teacher Prize 2017. With the $1 million award, she is planning a non-profit for youth to engage on issues such as culture, climate change, health and global citizenship.
Nadeem Meghji (M) is Senior Managing Director at Blackstone, USA. Working in the Real Estate Group and Head of Real Estate Americas, he oversees $60 billion of investor capital. He is also a board member for the Lupus Research Alliance.
Subha Nagarajan (F) is leading GE Capital’s emerging markets investment portfolio. Previously, she managed over $2 billion worth of investment deals in Africa at the Overseas Private Investment Corp, the US Government development finance institution.
Billy Parish (M) is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Solar Mosaic, USA. An author, businessman and philanthropist, his company is the largest lender for home solar in the United States. He also founded, Power Shift Network, one of the largest youth climate change advocacy organizations in the world.
Catherine Raw (F) is Chief Financial Officer at Barrick Gold Corporation, Canada, one of the largest investors in mining.
Lily Sarafan (F) is Chief Executive Officer of Home Care Assistance, USA. Her start-up is the largest consumer health company in ageing services, generating $100 billion with 5,000 employees. She was a Chairwoman of the National Iranian American Council, an activist for Moms Against Poverty, and pioneered educational programmes for orphaned girls in Cambodia and Iran.
Arvind Satyam (M) leads global business development for Cisco’s Smart Cities Initiative, supporting cities in their efforts to improve energy management, disaster preparedness and public safety.
Fern Shaw (F) is President of UPS, USA. She oversees 15,000 employees in finance, sales, package and transport operations, industrial and plant engineering, human resources, automotive, security and labour relations.
Jagmeet Singh (M) is a Member of Ontario Provincial Parliament and leader of the New Democratic Party, Canada.
Edward “Smitty” Smith (M) is a Partner at DLA Piper, USA. He delivered broadband to underserved communities as a member of the Obama Administration, advised the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and ran for Attorney General in the District of Columbia.
Alexander Soros (M) is the Owner of Soros Fund Management, USA. He founded the Alexander Soros Foundation, promoting civil rights, social justice and education through grants. He is also Deputy Chair of the Open Society Foundations, which supports civil society groups around the world.
Tom Szaky (M) is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of TerraCycle, USA. A champion of the circular economy movement, his company repurposes hard-to-recycle consumer waste such as chip bags and cigarette butts.
Leana Wen (F) is the emergency physician taking on Baltimore’s health crises as the city’s Commissioner of Health. As the head of one of America’s most experimental health departments, she tackles everything from the city’s crippling drug abuse problem to high infant mortality.
Nighat Dad (F) is the Founder of the Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan. A lawyer and internet activist, her non-profit is helping Pakistani women fight against online harassment.
Bhairavi Jani (F) is Executive Director of the SCA Group of Companies, a major logistics firm in India. An entrepreneur and one of the most powerful women in India, she has advised governments and private organizations.
Rhea Mazumdar Singhal (F) is Chief Executive Officer of Ecoware Solutions, India. She is tackling plastic waste by manufacturing a biodegradable – and cheaper – alternative to plastics. She also volunteers to help cancer patients.
Hamdullah Mohib (M) is a diplomat who is the Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States of America.
Armstrong Pame (M) is Joint Secretary, Government of Manipur, India. Known as “the miracle man”, he took up an ambitious road project without government funds, leading to the opening of a 100-kilometre road that links poor communities in Manipur with the outside world.
Suchi Saria (F) is the John C. Malone Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University, USA. She runs one of the leading labs at the intersection of artificial intelligence and healthcare to make early detection and diagnosis a reality.
Alok Shetty (M) is Founder and Principal Architect of Bhumiputra Group, an architectural firm in India that designs flood-resistant homes, costing as little as $300, for low-income housing in Bangalore. He is on a mission to improve people’s quality of life in poor districts and was named “Young Leader for Tomorrow” by Time magazine.
Kanika Tekriwal (F) is the Chief Executive Officer of JetSetGo, India’s largest private jet company. Often called the “Uber of air travel”, JetSetGo manages and operates private jets that are owned by others.
To Achieve the SDGs We Must Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls
During the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence from the 25th of November to the 10th of December, the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens contributes to the Orange the World Campaign globally and in Austria, calling for the elimination of violence against women and girls.
Five years ago, in 2015, the member states of the United Nations (UN) agreed on 17 global goals to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Since then, these Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have evolved into a guiding roadmap for finding long term solutions to global challenges. “Leaving No One Behind” has become the key message of this agenda, as the global community emphasised that the SDGs can only be achieved if peace and prosperity holds true for everyone.
Women make up half of the world’s population, but they still struggle to even exercise their fundamental human rights. A staggering one in three women experiences physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Violence against women and girls is, thus, one of the most pervasive human rights violations and perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the deeply rooted imbalances in power in our societies. How will we ever reach the SDGs if such inequalities still exist?
In 2008, the UN, under the leadership of its 8th Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, pushed for a multi-year effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls around the world, called UNiTE to End Violence against Women. The campaign called on governments, civil society, women’s organizations, young people, the private sector, the media and the entire UN system to join forces in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.Ithas, for example, worked to adopt and enforce national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls, in line with international human rights standards.
In 2015 UN Women became the agency entrusted to lead the UN’s efforts to advocate the elimination of violence against women and girls. To strengthen UNiTE, UN Women announced the “Orange the World” campaign, to take place annually during the period between the 25th of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the 10th of December, Human Rights Day. During these16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the world’s most prominent monuments and buildings are illuminated in orange, representing a future free from violence against women and girls.
Hosting the United Nations and located in the heart of Europe, Austria plays a key role in boosting the campaign on a local and international level. UN Women Austria, Soroptimist International Austria, HeForShe Austria and the Ban Ki-moon Centre are working in close partnership on the Austrian contribution to Orange the World. In 2019, the partners counted over 130 Austrian buildings in monuments illuminated in orange during the 16 Days of Activism. In 2020, the aim is to surpass this number and to shed light on current challenges regarding gender-based violence with the support of the Austrian actress Ursula Strauss as the campaign’s spokesperson.
2020 has been rattled by the Covid-19 pandemic and emerging data has shown that the lock-down measures around the world were accompanied by a spike in reported domestic violence cases. This alarming development demonstrates that action must be taken to prevent the aggravation and contribute to the elimination of what UN Women has named ‘The Shadow Pandemic’.
Image Reference: https://www.unwomen.org
To spread the message of the campaign to a wider audience and discuss the issues of the Shadow Pandemic with high-level actors, two online events will take place during the Orange the World timeframe.
At a virtual high-level roundtable on November 26thtitled “Tackling the Shadow Pandemic –Violence Against Women During COVID-19 Times”, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark, Regional Director of UN Women Asia and Pacific Mohammad Naciri, CEO of Avon Angela Cretu, and women’s rights activist Trisha Shetty will discuss what steps can be taken to address the spike in violence against women during COVID-19. The event will be hosted by the Co-chairs of the Ban Ki-moon Centre, 8th UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and 11th President of Austria Heinz Fischer.
On December 1st,the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Ban Ki-moon Centre will host a Virtual Expo called “Education, Empowerment, and Effective Policies: Innovative Initiatives Preventing Gender-Based Violence”. As part of UNODC’s Education for Justice Global Dialogue Series, changemakers from around the world will come together and present how they take action to prevent violence against women and girls.
To make the world a safer and better place for all, we must all do our part to eliminate violence against women and girls in all its forms. We encourage you to get active in the Orange the World campaign by hosting an event, sharing its messages, and becoming part of this global movement!
About the Ban Ki-moon Centre:
In 2018, Ban Ki-moon and Heinz Fischer founded the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens (BKMC), to empower women and youth to become global citizens within the framework of the SDGs. Acknowledging that gender-based violence restricts, if not prevents individuals to be a part of and contribute to the 2030 Agenda, the BKMC, based in Vienna, Austria, also advocates for the elimination of violence against women and girls. The Ban Ki-moon Centre has been an active contributor to the Orange the World Campaign in Austria since 2018.
Reach out and learn more at www.bankimooncentre.org
Gender equality agenda of SDGs and Feminist Mobilization
The revolutionary result of a two-year long process of intergovernmental debate and deliberation was a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that was formally declared in a UN summit from 25th to 27th September 2015. Also known as the Global Goals, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations General Assembly aim to push highly relevant agendas to be addressed by the year 2030. Amidst the targets set that facilitate basic human existence, such as no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, there is the equally important strong Goal 5 that need special focus. The increasing wave of feminism and feminism-educated individuals created on bringing to fruition the agenda of Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality.
Goal 5 holds world governments accountable to their role in putting an end to gender inequality. According to the UNDP’s official manifesto, it proposes to stamp out discrimination and gender-based violence; eliminate child marriage, educate women on their sexual and reproductive health and their reproductive rights, ensure that they have adequate access to PHCs for sexual health check-ups; work on making education and the workforce and equal-opportunity platform for men and women; expand economic opportunities for women and girls; and finally, attempt to reduce the unfair conditions of unpaid work on women. As compared to the earlier designed MDGs that focused minimally on gender roles, these edicts represent a paradigm shift in the thinking of policy makers.
When we talk of feminist mobilization, we often start with a bleak picture that progressively improves. Women with radical opinions are ignored or dismissed as being inexperienced. Out of the many roadblocks faced by feminist groups, a primary one is a general feeling of not being heard. This ranges anywhere from a despondent acceptance to abject frustration. Moreover, this does not exist only in the context of men. Smaller feminist movements are often drowned by larger, more populist feminist agendas. Younger women who are developing their philosophy on feminism tend to choose offbeat paths as they aggressively reject traditional governmental structures. In a large number of instances, there is enough initiative but a dearth of resources.
Since the 1990s, there have been the advent of a number of structures that are, at their core, against the idea of an independent woman, who sees herself as equal to a man in every way. A few of these include; an unstable global economy that is also wrestling with economic inequality among nations; a completely disregarded worldview on climate change and global warming that pays no heed to an increasingly large number of climate refugees, out of whom women and children survive the least; an increasing number of non-liberal governments and organizations in both high and low income countries where women are discriminated against and seen as second-class citizens; a large mass of migrant displaced populations that keep exponentially increasing due to new clashes daily; and a regression of popular opinion into what seems like medieval times, with no respect for integrity, bodily autonomy, and sexual and reproductive rights, as well as basic human rights to refugees and migrants in receiving countries. Not to mention, the gamut of telecommunications in the present times coupled with the massive volume of information exchange have pushed us as a people into a world where social media is regarded as the gospel truth, and the messages sent via these platforms are used to spread ideas of hatred, inequality, false perceptions and discrimination.
These increasing societal challenges, go hand in hand with deeply unsettling evidence on the widespread inequalities and gender crimes that seem almost entrenched in the fabric of our existence. The Global Gender Gap Index is a system of ranking a total of 144 countries according to their education, economic opportunities, health delivery systems, and political participation. The most recent version of this index was published in 2017 by the World Economic Forum, whose findings show that some parameters of the gap may have worsened in recent years instead of getting better. In terms of estimating earned income in USD, the gap increased considerably after the financial global meltdown in 2008. The index has made an estimate that going forward from 2017, it will take 217 years to completely abolish this gap only in the workplace, and over 100 years to close this gap overall. It seems that only the health and education sectors are somewhat progressing when it comes to achieving some kind of equality, but the same equality in the economic and political sectors between women and men seem to be but a distant dream – they are exponentially increasing each year.
However, there has been renewed interest from funding sources and policy makers on ‘investing in women and girls’ and combined with this strong push from the UN, has made some significant headway.
In The Context of India
As with feminist mobilization, one tends to take on a slightly defeatist attitude when talking of India’s role in global feminism. However, by no means can it be said that India as a country has not been making strides.In 20 years (1994-2014), India has lifted nearly 144 million people out of abject poverty under various government schemes, including the largest employment scheme in the world, the MNREGA, almost half of whose members are women.
In a historic 2016 legislation the law promised 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, to ensure that women do not quit the workforce after planning a family. A renewed push towards gender equality in education is seen by the advent of programs such as the Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan and the Right to Education Act, 2009, which have been instrumental in helping to exponentially increase the gross enrolment rate for girls at the primary school level. Further, there have been similarly encouraging statistics recorded at the secondary school level – the rate of enrolment for girls has increased from 55.5% in 2008 to 78.9% in 2014-15 and at the higher secondary school level it has gone up from 31.6% in 2008 to 53.8% in 2014-15.
While these findings are highly significant, it points to the gamut of work that is still to be done. While India seems to progress in the right direction in terms of policy, it tends to lag behind in understanding the cultural applications at the grass-roots level. According to a study conducted by the Oxfam Organization, there appear to be deep stigmas attached to women working in agriculture. There is also a statistic that might seriously impact India’s feminist movement – that highly educated women tend to leave the workforce to make ‘respectable’ marriages to higher caste and higher income households.
This points to a shocking number, that being that the contribution of women all over the world to the global GDP is 35%, but Indian women represent less than half of that at 17%. Based on the rankings released by the Labour Force Participation,India comes in at a rank of lowly 120 out of a total of 131 countries, even though 42% of Indian women graduate by education.
Between the years of 2005 and 2012, the Indian workforce was severely depleted by almost20 million women, due to various reasons. This staggering figure is almost equal to the collective population of Sri Lanka. Every one of these women who chose to discontinue their professional aspirations should be regarded as a lost opportunity for their families and for their country, but most importantly, for themselves. The Indian feminist movement that has paved the way for these discussions to take place in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, has played an important first step in reaching a state of equal respect and opportunity by 2030.
According to policy makers at the ECOSOC Youth Forum held at the UN Headquarters in New York, Mr Ravi Karkara (Senior Adviser to the Assistant Secretary General, UN Women) and Mr Rohith Porhukuchi, the young feminist movement has been indispensable in cementing the SDG agenda. Further, they recommend a greater number of educated women taking up the mantle at advocacy campaigns related to the equality and women empowerment sectors. For example, the UNiTE campaign is creating a large impact through its global, regional and multinational advocacy initiatives and is actively working to mobilize individuals and communities to its cause. This campaign supports the efforts of women’s initiatives and organizations dedicated to their upliftment, but actively engage in work with men – to sensitize and educate them to their cause – along with celebrities, artists, sportspeople, media, corporates and a whole host of others.
The UN Women’s “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” campaign, again holds world governments accountable to make national public commitments to uplift women and eliminate the challenges that prevent them from reaching their full potential. The HeForShe and MAN UP campaigns also take a stand on gender equality and women’s rights.
During the ongoing process of deciding the SDG agenda, it was common knowledge that key economic issues such as financing, investments, trade, tax laws and unlawful transactions, while extremely important, grossly outstripped and took precedence over issues of feminist advocacy. This problem was further complicated by the decrease in the authority of the UN, and the rise of ultra-conservatism in many powerful nations across the globe as a result of rapidly spreading religious fanaticism and evangelism.
In spite of these issues, the global and Indian feminist movements have been extremely organized and have used their resources effectively to bring about small facets of change, using techniques learned from the time of the 1990s conferences and their 5-yearly regional and global reviews. According to the paper Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Feminist Mobilization for the SDGs, by Gita Sen, some of these almost ground-breaking reforms include:
- Recognizing in the initial stages that there is value in being awarded an official status as part of the Major Groups and utilizing the Women’s Major Group as a platform to voice feminist issues, especially bas civil society is moving more into a zone of closed spaces.
- Utilizing bodies such as WWG in order to involve concerned persons in critical aspects of campaigning, such as financing and media engagement.
- Actively seeking out other bodies with similar interests and agendas and networking with them in order to reach shared goals.
- Being able to coordinate with and mobilize these bodies peacefully with effective and quick conflict resolution when required
- Making it a point to never compromise on technical support, language and expertise on processes, so that they can come across as trustworthy and strong in their dealings with official negotiators.
- As an extension to the above, further honing the negotiation abilities of young budding feminists.
Feminist advocacy platforms need to be constantly discussed and negotiated periodically. Feminists need to forge valuable partnerships with select organizations and perhaps even corporates that are sympathetic to the feminist cause, but also are able to effectively bring about long-term changes in areas such as finance, education, trade, investment and climate change among others. The annual Spotlight Report on Sustainable Development is the result of a feminist group working with tandem with such an organization (www.2030spotlight.org). The first report was unveiled during the UN High Level Political Forum in July 2016 and was received well among both UN member states and civil societies, being the first major media published which was critical of ongoing responses to feminist needs.
The ability of feminist organizations to defend their vision will need a clear manifesto, exceptional analytical skills, better communication and organizational strategies, and the ability to form collaborations where the youth plays a strong role.
In totality, this work makes the claim that is that the size of the environment affected is directly proportional to the strength, organization and nature of facilities involved in bringing about a significant social mobilization.
1. Gita Sen. Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Feminist Mobilization for the SGDs. Global Policy Volume Jan (2010); 10(1)
2. United Nations Development Programme
3. UN Women
4. Mary Hawkesworth. Policy studies within a feminist frame. Policy Sciences Jun (1994); 27(2-3), pp. 97-118.
5. Paola Cagna, Nitya Rao. Feminist Mobilization, Claims Making and Policy Change: An Introduction. Wiley Online Library. doi
6. Eric Swank, Breanne Fahs. Understanding Feminist Activism among Women: Resources, Consciousness, and Social Networks. Socius. doi
Why is the International Community silent on caste-based violence in India?
“Silence is Golden” is what I learned in my school but it’s not a coherent decision to consciously opt for silence when every new day 8-12 Dalit women (ladies belonging to the ‘untouchable’ caste) are raped in India. To stay apolitical on this contemporary issue is a matter of vociferous ignorance and ‘privilege of elitism’. The predicament does not stop here. The Dalit community, even in today’s century, continues to experience exploitation and discrimination in different forms, despite of the fact that the architect of Indian Constitution (Dr B R Ambedkar) was a Dalit. It’s assumed by the toadies of the ruling party that ‘casteism does not exist’, but little do they know that cowbelt states (Madhya Pradesh: 53%, Himachal Pradesh: 50%, Chhattisgarh: 48%, Rajasthan and Bihar: 47%, Uttar Pradesh: 43%, Uttarakhand: 40%) often practice untouchability or casteism willfully than other regional states in India. Majority of the caste-apologists here are Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. These findings come from a report (2011–12) by NCAER which conducted ‘India Human Development Survey (IHDS-2)’ across 42,000 households.
The buck does not stop in India alone. Wherever a Hindu travels, casteism inherently travels with his soul. A survey (2016) conducted by Equality Labs figured out that around 1,500 people of South Asian origin in the United States confirmed that Dalits often face various types of caste discrimination in South Asian American institutions. This discrimination ranges from derogatory jokes and slurs to physical violence and sexual assault. In the survey, around 26% of Dalit respondents said they had faced physical violence because of their caste while 20% reported discrimination at their work places. When it came to religion, 40% were made to feel unwelcome at their places of worship, the report said. And, 40% of Dalits said they had been rejected as romantic partners because of their caste. In all, 60% of Dalits reported that they had experienced caste-based derogatory jokes and comments.
Casteism is a social structure founded on the tenets of Brahminical hierarchy that determines the caste of a person based on birth and colour. On Wikipedia, it’s defined as “a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a style of life which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy, and customary social interaction and exclusion based on cultural notions of purity and pollution.Its paradigmatic ethnographic example is the division of India’s Hindu society into rigid social groups, with roots in India’s ancient history and persisting to the present time.” It does not just openly exist in the rural areas of India, but it is also existing in meso and micro forms (even in urban areas) too. From separate utensils to casteist slurs, from arranged marriage systems to ghettos, casteism is horrendously and vociferously practiced. In fact, urban cities are known to be the ‘path of development and prosperity’ but unfortunately the very privileged ones residing in the non-rural spheres (not just on the realm of facebook and twitter alone) often condemn and scorn affirmative actions, inter-caste marriages (6% as per the 2011 census report, against the total population), compartmentalization and social equity, etc. A recent series ‘Indian Matchmaking’ on Netflix also tells how educated Indians consider caste to be an important parameter before tying the knot. To add to this woe, the Lok Foundation-Oxford University survey(2018) administered by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) ratiocinated that maintaining caste-based endogamy still remains an important feature of marriage in India. Interestingly, the report also found that lower caste communities slightly practise more inter-caste marriages or exogamy than the upper caste.
What astonishes me is why the international community, other than few UN reports on HR or some renowned NGOs, is unable to collectively call-out the issue? The epoch in India is presently infected with Hindutva nationalism and it continues to ‘otherises’ the minorities, including sexual minorities. Rape culture is something India conserves, excuses, and ignores when crimes are committed against women. It’s the system and the society that has vociferously failed to emancipate and free the Dalit community from a web of oppression. More than ever, it is brutally important to make people aware that casteism, not just caste alone, remains a bitter reality today that stimulates bigotry and sexual exploitation of vulnerable communities. Discussions around abolishing the caste system have been long ongoing. One seminal text is ‘Annihilation of Caste’ by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, written in 1936. Ambedkar was part of Jat-Pat Todak Mandal (Society For The Abolition Of Caste System), an anti-caste platform that challenged conventional societal norms and orthodoxy of Hindu Society. There is a dire need to think out of the box in abolishing casteism and freeing people from the age-old matrix of slavery. The Annihilation of Caste was a radical work for its time, and it continues to be, although it is not introduced in the exercises of parenting and schooling. The book’s theme revolves around the effect of casteism (as it matters for ‘untouchables’ like Ambedkar himself). The caste system is a conventional, misogynistic, and a very rigid social order that discriminates and exploits people, except the upper-caste (Brahmins), on the basis of birth, color, gender, identity, and community. It is proven that casteism lynches the very scope of social mobility, cultural emancipation, and freedom of individuality.Ambedkar sought to comprehend and thrust the inequality of casteism into the Hindu consciousness, to divulge social and economic inequality. This question or the social question of political reform is coupled with economic reform, thinking through the characteristics of ‘Indian’ society, but from the perspectives of Dalits. For Ambedkar, it is casteism that prevents a human being from practicing humanity with other humans and nevertheless deprives ‘segmented’ individuals in the hierarchy of caste from experiencing empathy and fraternity.
In 2016, a report on caste-based discrimination by the United Nations Human Right Council’s special rapporteur for minority issues Rita Izsák-Ndiaye irked the present Indian government. It was expected that the government would turn schizophrenic against the report. Her report quoted India’s National Crime Records Bureau data highlighting that there has been an increase in reported crimes against the Dalits by 19% in 2014 compared to the previous year. It mentions that despite prohibition through legislation, the state has institutionalised the practice with “local governments and municipalities employing manual scavengers”. Further, the SR’s report notes that casteism directly affects the health of the discriminated, citing an Indian study which “demonstrated stark disparities between Dalit and non-Dalit women in terms of life expectancy and access to prenatal and postnatal care”.
Buddha aka Siddhartha Gautama himself condemned and scorned the practices of casteism and untouchability in his discourses. He welcomed Hindu untouchables like Prakriti, Suneet, Uppali, etc in his sangha (community). The scripture ‘Majjhima Nikaya’ records it. Thus, it is a logical error to blame the introduction of casteism on Britishers alone, as assumed in today’s India, when casteism has been the core practice since ages. At the same time, currently, not just the academic textbooks of History, international communities too have ignored divulging India on circumventing caste-based massacres: Kilvenmani massacre (1968), Karamchedu massacre (1985), Dalelchak-Bhagora massacre (1987), Tsundurmasscare (1991), Bara massacre (1991), Bathani Tola massacre (1996), Melavalavu massacre (1996), Laxmanpur Bathe massacre (1997), Senari massacre (1999), Kambalapalli massacre (2000), Khairlanji massacre (2006), Mirchpur massacre (2011), Dharmapuri massacre (2012), Saharanpur violence (2017) and other individual cases that unfortunately experienced bigotry, rape and lynching. All these massacres stem from the cultural philosophy of casteism. There have been many cases of Dalits killed, beaten and abused for riding a horse, flaunting moustache, eating in front of upper caste, sitting on a chair, etc. It’s high time for the international community to call-out the culture of casteism that is practised in India and enshrine accountability over human rights violations on the global level too.
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