In one of their songs, the Eagles rock group sings “things in this life change very slowly if they
ever change at all.” The lament of many a social activist!
To be fair, one exception would be gay marriage rights, which seem to have come more quickly
than most struggles for equality. But generally it is true that real change demands significant
patience and insistent efforts over a long period. Think of the long painful struggle in the US for
civil and voting rights, and even these are under attack once again as racism rears its ugly head.
In terms of gender equality, this aspect of justice has been slow in coming. Although we are
definitely at a better place than we were many years ago, we still have a lot of work to do.
Around the world, both laws and cultural norms are holding many back from reaching their
potential simply because of their gender identity. According to the UN, “1 in 5 women and girls
between the ages of 15 and 49 report experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate
partner within a 12-month period” … and that’s not all. Many women around the world are still
being held back from property ownership, from proper education and forced into unsafe work
environments, marriages and female genital mutilation. With all of the resources that we have
today, this is unacceptable. We must raise awareness of these issues and continue the struggle for
From healthcare to personal security to social protection and economic opportunity, fighting for
gender equality means analyzing every societal system from its root and breaking the glass
ceiling that has held back some of the best and brightest from achieving their potential.
Now is the time to recognize the gender inequalities that surround us, especially because during
the pandemic, lockdown measures severely cut access to helpful services for those suffering one
or more of the results of gender inequality. A significant example: COVID has forced many
women to be trapped at home with their abusers and left without a place to feel safe, adding to
the fear and trauma many people already endure in this very different world we now live in. We
must focus on women and girls as we build back stronger from the COVID-19 Pandemic, for as
the UN states, “women are not only the hardest hit by this pandemic, they are also the backbone
of recovery in communities.”
As we work towards equality for all genders, let us not forget the power that lies in local action.
We can make our work environments inclusive and set rules that prohibit gender discrimination.
On the global scare, we can become aware of the targets of this SDG, listed below and explained
on the UN’s website: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/gender-equality/ in summary
form as follows:
● End all forms of discrimination and all forms of violence against women and girls
everywhere including trafficking and all forms of exploitation;
● Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female
● Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, women’s full participation
and equal opportunity for leadership in political, economic and public life while
recognizing the value of (normally unpaid) domestic work and enhancing the rights of
women for ownership and inheritance of property, access to technology and all social
Together, and only together, can we create a world that adopts and strengthens sound policies
and enforceable legislation to promote gender equality on a path to a more inclusive and just
world. Some “things change very slowly” but they can and will change.
Three questions to answer quickly: how long can we live without food? (Typically about three
weeks). And without air? (About three minutes). And without water? You guessed it—three
days. The rule of 3’s.
Water is essential for healthy life, yet according to the UN, 2.2 billion people lack easy access to
safely managed potable water. We cannot even absorb food without water. And what about
basic sanitation? The figure jumps to 4.2 billion lacking decent sanitation. Although a recent
article here talked about the value of cell phones for people living in poverty, it doesn’t help that
today there are more cell phones than toilets around the world! Far too many children, estimates
say 1,000, die every day from totally preventable water and sanitation disease.
Water is key for so many issues throughout the world. How could something that many of us
simply take for granted be so fundamental to an almost endless list of issues? If drinking water is
unavailable and/or not filtered properly, it can become fatal. Health experts would say that most
of us do not drink enough water on a daily basis. By the time we really want to drink water, we
may already be a bit dehydrated. And if children do not drink enough water, they cannot
perform at their best in schools.
If water is not in ample supply in an area, it is not an exaggeration to say that wars will be fought
over water rights. And that’s only considering the impact on human health. Global environments depend on water
to live. Water is the heartbeat of us all. Without water, plants and entire ecosystems will suffer.
Even tourism, in many places around the world a critical component of national income, is
affected by dwindling sources of clean water.
During COVID-19, we are all reminded to wash our hands frequently, but what if there is no
water at hand? In fact, only two out of every five people have basic hand-washing facility with
soap and water (UN). So much for global health and the safety of us all.
So at the very least we should not think of water as limitless, but as an extremely valuable and
fragile resource. There are many organizations worth our support working to ensure equal
universal access to clean water through investment in simple, efficient irrigation technology and
the promotion of rainwater harvesting. There are many important actions we can take to ensure
this right for everyone. We can sign petitions to government and international organizations that
every human being has the critical right to water. When we drink water, we can pause to remind
ourselves about the importance of water as a critical resource, and when we use water for other
purposes we can try to limit the usage. This SDG asks us to prioritize the importance of water as
another way of living human solidarity, building sustainable development for the common good,
and caring for creation.
Congregation of the Mission UN NGO