By Nazra for Feminist Studies in Egypt, July 18, 2016 —

***The following blog post was submitted by Nazra for Feminist Studies, an Alliance member from Egypt.***

Gender equality and women’s empowerment (SDG 5) cannot be achieved without taking the issue of violence against women seriously. We believe that sustainable development cannot happen if women are left behind, and violence against women stands as a true hindrance in the achievement of gender equality. Nazra works specifically on the issue of sexual violence against women in the public sphere. We believe that SDG 5 and the very concept of sustainable development promoted by the 2030 agenda, requires us to work holistically on the issue of sexual violence. That is, in addition to the legal and psychological support that Nazra has been providing to survivors of sexual violence for years now, we are also working on more structural and long-term aspects of ending violence against women. This includes the monitoring of the national strategy to combat violence against women issued by the National Council for Women (NCW) in May 2015, to ensure that the issue of violence against women is addressed holistically and systematically throughout the next five years, in a way that the progress made is irreversible.  Moreover, we are working on documenting and hopefully improving services given to survivors of sexual violence. This year, we paid a special attention to shelters, and we plan on extending our research to other services such as the Forensic Medicine Administration and the Ministry of Interior’s Unit to Monitor Crimes of Violence against Women. These are only examples to illustrate that in our endeavour to achieve SDG 5, we do not only provide immediate assistance to survivors of violence, but rather work on long-term processes and services to ensure sustainability and structural change.

Furthermore, we believe that part of combating violence against women and achieving SDG 5 is to actually empower those women who are rights defenders and who experience violations themselves, hence our work with Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) whether in capacity building, empowerment, or advocacy is necessary to limit violations against them and create an enabling environment for those who fight for women’s rights, and for the development and prosperity of our societies in general.

We also believe that our work on violence against women is not solely limited to SDG 5. In fact, SDG 5 intersects with various other SDGs such as goals 10 (reduced inequality), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (Partnerships for the goal). For instance, violence against women cannot truly end without working on the creation of safe cities that are gender sensitive (goal 11). Also, the extension of SDGs (other than goal 5) to women is not evident, it needs to be actively sought.  As a feminist organization, Nazra is not only concerned with the implementation of Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda, we are also concerned with the implementation and extension of the other 16 SDGs to women in Egypt. Goal 5 on its own, and the fight to combat violence against women is more meaningful when brought together with other SDGs.

Nazra does not work in isolation, but rather in partnership with other NGOs as well as state actors when necessary. Nazra has conducted meetings and roundtables with parliamentarians to advocate for women’s demands. We have also worked with the department of forensic medicine in issues regarding survivors of sexual violence.  We believe that an implementation of the 2030 agenda will not be possible without a strong partnership between different stakeholders. To ensure the inclusive representation of all stakeholders in the 2030 agenda monitoring and implementation, relevant NGOs (Women’s Rights NGOs) should have better and more effective role internationally. This can be achieved if relevant UN agencies, such as UN-Women, facilitate better representation of these NGOs during the international meetings and events in which decisions are made. We are also particularly concerned with the implementation of the agreed conclusions that stemmed from the 60th session of the CSW this year, which had as a main topic the implementation of the SDGs with regards to women. We will pressure for the implementation of many of these agreed conclusions, whether by CSOs or governments (such as gender-responsive budgeting).

Regarding the Egyptian context, there is a current crackdown on civil society organizations, which is a real hindrance in the way to implement the 2030 agenda. It is impossible to foresee a future for sustainable development and an implementation of the 17 goals without civil society, for two reasons. First of all, CSOs play a crucial role in promoting many of the 2030 goals, something the government cannot do alone. To speak of Nazra for instance, we have a hotline for survivors of sexual violence and provide psychological and legal support for them (with many other feminist organizations in Egypt), something the government does not do and cannot do alone anyway. Second, without an enabling environment for CSOs, there is no way to promote government accountability, or public ownership over the 2030 agenda, or inclusiveness of different societal actors for the implementation of these goals. The current crackdown concerns Nazra and many active human rights organizations, a situation that might be present in other parts of the world as well.  To create an enabling environment for the implementation of the 2030 agenda, states must actually facilitate the work of NGOs and human rights defenders instead of targeting them.

Also, to ensure the alignment of national plans and policies with SDGs, there has to be a constant participation and conversation between national governments and international mechanisms, whether through ECOSOC (and mechanisms like the CSW) or the human rights council (with mechanisms like the UPR) and a significant attention to not only official reports, but also shadow reports and statements submitted by NGOs.  The results and outcomes of these mechanisms have to be closely monitored by different actors.

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