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International Women’s Day 2022 - Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow

The theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2022 is, “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. In our increasingly interconnected world, it seems appropriate to have an intersectional theme encompassing gender and sustainability. For our work in the health and development sector, we know how crucial it is to consider cross-cutting issues and to adopt intersectional standpoints. We also know that gender equality is a key issue that underpins our most pressing global challenges.

hera is a long-standing rights-based cooperative committed to working for gender equity and safeguarding women’s rights and human rights. In our thirty-plus years of operations, we have developed extensive experience working in the field of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Gender, Women’s Empowerment and Violence against Women and Girls.

On Women’s day 2020 we signed and committed to the Women's Empowerment Principles, a UN Women and UN Global Compact initiative geared towards promoting women’s equality and empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community. This year we continue to stand for gender equity and acknowledge that women and girls will bear the burden of environmental and climate impacts and that they are also the leaders that will drive change and ensure our sustainable future.

A recent project for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) exemplifies this understanding and approach. Led by our long-term colleague Nyasha Madzingira in Zimbabwe with support from hera partners Ingeborg Jille-Traas, Justine Jensen, Marta Medina and external consultant Canford Chiroro, the project supported the revision of the Gender, HIV and Youth Mainstreaming Strategy for the Seed Knowledge Initiative (SKI).

SKI is comprised of 16 partner organisations in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa that are collectively working to improve farmer-led seed systems and helping smallholder farmers to become more seed, food and nutritionally secure. Supporting the revision of the existing strategy to mainstream a set of cross-cutting issues spanning gender, HIV and youth, was seen as a necessary step to ensure the success of the initiative. Specifically related to gender, the hera project team identified that for project partners and participants “unequal power dynamics lead to a lack of knowledge, resources, voice and decision-making power for women and can ultimately have a negative impact on food security. This is magnified by women’s double burden with their responsibility for both domestic and agricultural tasks.” The mainstreaming strategy is aimed at fostering learning and dialogue, enhancing coordination, and building ownership and accountability for its implementation. After several rounds of consultation and research, the hera team proposed a set of objectives for integrating the cross-cutting issues and improving the project. The team also provided guidance for the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework for ensuring and tracking success.

In her statement for Women’s Day Sima Bahous, UN Women’s Executive Director points out that gender equality is not just the target for sustainable development goal (SDG) #5 (a goal we have worked on directly), but gender equity also underpins all the other 17 SDG’s. Without gender equality today, a sustainable tomorrow is not within our grasp. For this IWD2022, hera joins the global call for women-led climate solutions and we continue to work towards an equitable and enduring future for everyone.