By Emily Bove and Anne Shaffer Myers, Solid Ground Campaign Director, Habitat for Humanity International —

This blog was originally published on Solid Ground on June 13, 2017, and can be found here.


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets forth 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to eradicate poverty and inequalities by 2030. Together, Women Thrive Alliance and Habitat for Humanity not only embrace the holistic approach the framework presents and the interlinkages of all goals, we especially support goals 5 and 11. SDG 5 calls for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, containing 9 targets that focus on gender-based violence, discrimination, women’s leadership and political participation, economic empowerment, technology, and legislations. Recognizing the impact of rapid, global urbanization, SDG 11 calls on governments to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” The first target under this goal states that by 2030, the world must “ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing.”
In October 2017, 167 governments adopted a second global strategy that builds on the 17 SDGs and provides a path to achieve many of them in urban areas. Habitat III, the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, was a pivotal moment in history, determining how governments, civil society, academic institutions and private actors respond to the challenges of urbanization in the decades ahead. The outcome document of the conference, the New Urban Agenda, offers a compelling vision for the future of cities – resilient, sustainable, equitable and inclusive – in many ways, a framework for the ideal city. The agenda rightly argues cities should be people-centered, providing access to critical amenities that enable residents to live fulfilling, self-determined lives.

Sustainable urbanization includes a broad range of issues, including transportation, infrastructure, and environment, among others, but it must maintain a focus on meeting the housing needs of urban residents. Without the basic human right of adequate shelter, the billions of current and future urban residents will not be able to thrive and contribute to a vision of sustainable cities. It’s important to remember that housing is a gender issue too. In many countries, gender, land and housing issues intersect, with undermining cultural and social norms leading to discriminatory practices that see women be affected disproportionally by limited or no property rights, lessened access to housing and threat of forcible evictions. Given this truth, we are particularly encouraged by the New Urban Agenda’s emphasis on housing, focus on secure tenure, attention to community-led development, and centrality of gender equality.

The challenge, however, lies in moving from ideas to implementation. Despite the widespread acknowledgment of inclusion and responsiveness to providing women’s equality, implementing the New Urban Agenda still requires a commitment to truly advance the challenges of gender equality in aspects of decision-making at all levels, economic opportunities, access to and control over resources, and level, institutional or physical barriers. The New Urban Agenda is to be celebrated, but, like all other international agendas and agreements, its implementation will face many barriers. And, while civil society has been recognized as an important actor within this process, its role as an equal partner in the citizen-led effort to implement this agenda must be codified and upheld. Further, the needs of women and girls – often the most marginalized in access to housing, land, and resources – must be active and meaningful participants in decision-making, so that urban policies and programs reflect their unique priorities.

The global community is at a unique point in history that calls for combined forces to ensure these agreements are implemented. This is why we – Women Thrive Alliance and Habitat for Humanity’s Solid Ground campaign – are combining our unique strengths as a leading voice for global women’s rights and a global advocacy campaign to improve access to land for shelter. We are coming together to prepare national-level advocates to hold decision-makers accountable to ensure that gender equality is front and center throughout the New Urban Agenda implementation process, and further that this process is addressed holistically with other global frameworks that forward gender equality such as the SDGs.

Specifically, our concept’s vision is to equip local advocates – beginning with pilots in India and Nepal – to conduct evidence-based advocacy focused on ensuring gender equality remains a priority in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, as well as ensuring that civil society representatives and women leaders, in particular, are meaningful partners in the process. The 24-month pilots will include a three-day workshop drawing from and building on Women Thrive Alliance’s established Raise Your Voice curriculum, leveraging Habitat for Humanity’s expertise on urbanization and the New Urban Agenda, and utilizing local participants as co-facilitators. The workshop will culminate in a lobby day with participants taking their advocacy messaging directly to decision makers. Following the workshop, Women Thrive Alliance and the Solid Ground campaign will launch a competition for seed funding for participants to further hone their skills, implement their plans, leverage funds, and work with partners to influence local and national decision makers. Both organizations will also provide follow-up coaching with participants to assist and monitor the implementation of their advocacy campaigns and magnify their advocacy messages at the global level.

After carrying out pilot projects in India and Nepal, Women Thrive Alliance and the Solid Ground campaign will be poised to roll out additional training in countries of mutual and strategic interest. Our process will connect and prepare grassroots advocates to hold decision-makers accountable to ensure that gender equality is front and center throughout the New Urban Agenda implementation process and that this process is addressed holistically with other related global frameworks that further gender equality.