Women & SDG


There has been a lot of attention on women’s maternal health, not least because of the MDG targets, and this has continued with the SDGs. But how much of this work should be focused on bringing men into the world of maternal health?  At one level, men are often the ones who control women’s access to health seeking and health care. At another level, women’s maternal health remains a domain, which is intimately based on their bodily integrity and laden with social significance, such that some argue that women should exert exclusive power.

In Bangladesh, some mHealth activities have sought to recognize the roles of men as gatekeepers to women’s health. Instead of only sending SMS messages to pregnant women, they also send them to husbands or other significant men who have been identified by the women. This seems to play two roles: it encourages men to take women’s maternal health seriously and makes it harder for these men to block women from using maternal health services. But does it also play a role engaging men in maternal health?  Does it also give men maternal health information which they find interesting and useful?  Is it helpful at all, or potentially harmful (i.e. does it increase their power over women)?

This leads us to ask: is there an inherent tension in involving men in maternal health – are we, in fact, increasing male authority in a domain that was at least partly in women’s control? Brazilian feminists have argued for a long time against the ‘maternal infantilization’ of women, i.e. that women should still have primary authority about what happens to their health and bodies, including when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. When we seek to engage men in maternal health, we need to ask whether it is done in a way that would be considered unethical or would, in fact, inhibit women’s autonomy (e.g. encouraging forms of community surveillance that take away women’s right to privacy).

Questions that need to be asked include: when is it acceptable to share health records of one person with another and what are the gender dimensions involved? Under what conditions should men be encouraged to actively participate in women’s maternal health?  Are there ways to involve men, to promote gender equality and sustain women’s autonomy? What kind of services and support mechanisms do we need to navigate this?

This is not to say that engaging men is necessarily counterproductive. In India, an experience shows that the framework which guides such engagement is what matters – it should not be instrumental, i.e. should not engage with men because they are “decision makers”/ “gatekeepers” and can affect service uptake, but as partners who have a responsibility to share the burden of contraception, childbearing, and rearing, and who have a responsibility and interest in advancing gender equality. Rather, that the basis of engagement aims to foster a recognition of, and discussion around, men as fathers and male privilege. As feminists have long known, men must be involved in the dismantling of structures and harmful social norms that jeopardize women’s well-being – norms such as early marriage, early childbearing, violence, restriction of mobility and so on. Even then, there is a temptation to persuade men to support women’s health and empowerment through an easier route by making utilitarian appeals like “if your daughter is well educated, she will be a good mother”. While this may help to convince the community to not force their girls to drop out of school, will it not further essentialize women’s roles as mothers?

What is the role of health systems researchers in addressing this issue? Health system researchers are in a unique position to support policy champions and bridge the gap between research and policy by linking appropriate policy audiences in developing research, disseminating research findings effectively to different stakeholders, and supporting a policy community to work on issues informed by research. A recent review, critically examining the emerging evidence base on interventions that engage men in maternal and newborn health, has found important gaps in how male involvement is conceptualized and recommends more research to document the gender transformative potential of these interventions.

Building on this, it is important to call on health systems researchers to investigate the context-specific gendered determinants of maternal health and be aware of how interventions interact with these contexts. Such informed investigations would ensure that evidence-based approaches to engage men to keep gender equality, women’s autonomy and rights at the center, rather than focusing instrumentally on health outcomes alone. There is a need for efforts that engage policy makers and implementers in supporting long-lasting change, rather than superficial measures that further involve men in maternal health in ways that may not be helpful and indeed in some instances be harmful.


By Sana Contractor, A.S.M. Shahabuddin, Linda Waldman, Asha George and Rosemary Morgan



I was speaking to a friend of mine whose mother is a farmer, and as one discussion led to another we found ourselves talking about how a bag of fertilizer mean so much to her mother than a piece of brand new wrapper.

I was stunned because I used to know that women in the villages cherished their traditional attires more than many other things you could mention, so when did that change?

Then it was clear, it changed when a bag of fertilizer became more expensive than five pieces of native wrapper put together.

This is outrageous seeing that about 75 percent of the world’s low-income earners reside in the rural areas, and a large number of them are dependent on agriculture as means of livelihood, so the question goes; how do they survive since one bag of fertilizer is about $30?

Fertilizer is a synthetic or natural supplement used by farmers on soils and plant tissues to add nutrients to the crop and help them grow amidst environmental challenges. This is a kind of sustainable agriculture, practiced by most farmers in order to produce food without affecting the environment as well as the surrounding ecosystem.

Fertilizer is as important in farming as the seed that is to be planted, and as we continued further in our discussion my friend mentioned that her mother has more than seven farmlands and each land consumes nothing less than two bags of fertilizer then I paused for a second to do a gross calculation in my head on how many bags she will be needing in total.

I was shocked knowing that the family may not be able to afford it. In the same vein, there are about 500 million smallholder farms in the world, and most of them grow their crops on less than two hectares of land, therefore following the global demand of food crops, sustainability level for farmlands must be at its peak.

However, we do not see that necessity becoming a priority all we see is minimum attention paid to the importance of subsidizing the amount of fertilizer all over the world and especially in low and middle-income countries.

This should be more than a priority considering the fact that women constitute the large percentage of the world’s total number of farmers and majority of these women are from the rural areas. The role of women in agriculture is fundamental and can never be overemphasized; any attempt to undermine the role of women in the sector is equal to hunger and starvation. Globally, they make up over 40 percent of the sector’s labor force.

This is significant even though their participation differs across and within countries and regions, from 20 percent in Latin America to 50 percent in parts of Africa and Asia. However, their inputs and achievement have catapulted the sector’s competitiveness into a higher pitch. But the bottom line remains that small-scale women farmers are still constrained by various limitations that restrict them from making equal inputs.

One of these is the high price of fertilizer.The constraint of the cost of fertilizer for small-scale women farmers is faced at the early stage of cultivation.

This stage is crucial because it determines the output. Having had access to lands and seeds to plant, the woman-farmer must help the plant to grow well in order to avoid low output. But when she is limited by some unavailability that makes her effort futile, it makes the whole system deteriorate.

My candid solution is simple; the government should subsidize the price of fertilizer thereby making it as affordable as a packet of sweet.

Why is this important? It is important because the whole world must feed, and if the world must eat, the woman in agribusiness must succeed. Therefore, it is important for the government and private investors to begin to look into reducing the price rate of fertilizer for the woman in agribusiness.

So as to:

  • Increase the amount of food supply in the world.
  • Increase the income of rural women farmers.
  • Encourage more women to join the agribusiness.
  • Raise the standard of living of every woman in agribusiness.
  • Prevent erosion problems and avert environmental decadence.
  • Reduce farmland nitrogen losses and increase its efficiency.
  • Boost the global agriculture sector.

The Sustainable Development Goal that is focused on “ending poverty in all its forms everywhere” may seem unachievable if the prices of essential commodities to the poor are inaccessible.

Women cannot be empowered when stifled by pain, physical, emotion or psychological trauma. An action that impedes on women empowerment hinders the process of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is considered one of such action that impedes on women empowerment in certain areas of life. We are taking the time to consider the Psychological and physical impediments of FGM to the empowerment of SDGs in the lives of many affected women.

Have we considered the Psychological effect of fear on a woman who is suffering from shock, having experienced the process of her genitals being cut off at a tender age? Such woman will constantly live in fear and curtailment because she is not bold enough to dare the unknown; this is a type of impediment to the achievements of SDGs.

Women can only be empowered if and only if they are ready to face the requirements of empowerment, these women may not necessarily avoid empowerment, but they are restrained by some invisible and Psychological forces like fear.

According to WHO, one of the health risks of FGM is Shock, which comes from the pains, infection and/or haemorrhage, experienced during the process of genital mutilation. There are no health benefits to the ritual of FGM; it rather leads to various health dangers for women whose traditional practices it as a norm.

For some women, the shock or fear ceases after a while, but others continue to live with the problem for life. The fear and shock are aside other health risks that may occur as a result of FGM, which WHO classified into two types, the short-term and the long-term risks.

The Short-Term Risk Includes:

Severe pains: which is as a result of the injuries acquired during cutting of the nerve ends and sensitive genital tissue causes, and even though the healing periods (that is if the child or woman was not infected) the person continues to feel severe pains until the wounds have healed.

Excessive bleeding or haemorrhage: may occur if the clitoral artery or other blood vessel is affected during the process, which is a great danger to the health and wholeness of the child or woman.

Genital tissue swelling: this is also bound to happen if the part is infected.

Infections: this is also expected to happen in careless situations when contaminated instruments are used during the cutting process and the healing period.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): note that FMG does not cause HIV, but the use of contaminated and unsterilized instruments during the process may lead to HIV.

Urination problems: This may happen due to tissue swelling, pain or injury to the urethra, causing urinary retention and pains when urinating.

Impaired wound healing: can lead to pain, infections and abnormal scarring.

Death: can be caused by infections, including tetanus and haemorrhage that can lead to shock.

Psychological consequences: due to physical force by those performing the procedure the patient is thrown into the trauma of fear and shock.

In considering the long-term risks, there are some short-termed risks that may eventually become a stigma if the problem remains permanent, such as the pains caused as a result of tissue damage and scarring that may result in trapped or unprotected nerve endings. As well as Infections such as:

Chronic genital infections: with consequent chronic pain, and vaginal discharge and itching. Cysts, abscesses and genital ulcers may also appear.

Chronic reproductive tract infections: May cause chronic back and pelvic pain.

Urinary tract infections: If not treated, such infections can ascend to the kidneys, potentially resulting in renal failure, septicaemia, and death. An increased risk for repeated urinary tract infections is well documented in both girls and adult women.

Painful urination: due to obstruction of the urethra and recurrent urinary tract infections.

Other long-term risks include:

Female sexual health, Obstetric complications, Obstetric fistula, menstrual problems, Keloids, and Perinatal risks, as explained by WHO.

Going through the health risks caused by FGM to a woman’s health both physically and emotionally, it is advisable that proper solutions should be proffered towards healing the already affected persons plus the total elimination of FGM tradition, in order to have a healthy and whole women society ready to be empowered.

Therefore, all Authorities, NGOs, and organizations must work towards achieving first the sanity of women whose tradition engages in such practices, so as to stop the continuity of the ritual because girls who grow up in such tradition want a continuation of FGM in the next generation when they become parents.

The danger of FGM is too great an effect for a girl-child because it causes them to grow abnormally in terms of health and their minds.

If elimination of FGM is achieved, sustainable development goals for women could be achieved.

“Without peace, no development is possible. And without development, no peace is achievable. But without women, neither peace nor development is possible.”  
– By Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury Fmr. Under-Secretary General of the UN

The exemption of the role of women in an ongoing development process is often a risk that goes against attaining progress. There are no options or second choices to the role of women in achieving sustainable development goals even when it has to do with peacebuilding. This is because women are and would always remain agents of change.

The former under-secretary-general and high representative of the Bangladeshi ambassador to the UN Anwarul Chowdhury, once said that “Without peace, no development is possible. And without development, no peace is achievable. But without women, neither peace nor development is possible.”

Key findings report that when women participate in peace processes, a peace agreement is more likely to be reached and implemented. According to World bank data  women account for 49.6% of the total world population  which is almost half the world’s population, therefore, the participation of women is critical to the success of any peacebuilding process because if this half of the world’s population is removed or suffers disparity then it will be impossible to achieve peace

Women are the most vulnerable and affected group in many global conflicts, and they make up a majority of displaced and refugee populations, but on the contrary, they are largely or never the causes of these problems.

Women and girls suffer hunger, diseases, loss of their children and pregnancies, drop out from school and even death when crisis emanate. This remains a valid point to why it is essential to include the participation of women in peacebuilding, peacekeeping, conflict prevention and mediation processes in any part of the world.

In many cases, women have led peace movements and driven community recovery after a conflict, however, they are very little records or report about women in many peace negotiation processes. These exemptions have led to limitations in achieving recovery, justice and total peace in many conflict areas.

Based on the ravaging conflicts and disaster that is spreading around the world, there is a dying need to allow for the participation and influence of women in decision-making processes that are targeted towards preventing and resolving conflicts. Governments and authorities should push for the inclusion of women in all aspects of peacebuilding, which is one key factor to achieving gender equality and ending violence in many conflict zones.

Conflicts are effectively prevented through women’s meaningful participation because women are better users of anti-conflict tools so they should be engaged with programmes that educate them and prepares them for conflict.

All around the world, women groups play important roles in determining the end to violence and proffering sustainable solutions to the conflict.

One of the reasons why women have been neglected in peace processes is because they are often perceived as not having the necessary skills, knowledge or social status needed to bring about change in post-conflict environments. But this is not correct because often times it is always recorded in the news, of how women campaign, organize prayers and take certain steps to avert problem that arises in their countries. They are naturally built with a unique disposition that allows them to push for peace and harmony. This is another reason why they should be given the chance to express such inherent characteristics in any global peacebuilding process.

Powerhouses and policymakers MUST move beyond pursuing gender mainstreaming and start putting words into practice.

Peacebuilding is key to sustainable human security and equitable development in countries emerging from conflict and it can never be achieved without the conscious inclusion of women.

It has been evidently revealed that gender mainstreaming can only be effective when accompanied by strong empowerment structures, which includes allowing the voice of women to be heard in the public sphere especially when it has to do with human development priorities, therefore, authorities must consider this.

By: Miracle Nwankwo


The increased report of maternal mortality in many parts of the world especially in developing countries in recent times calls for the attention to more solutions to the problem.

Maternal mortality has become unbearably high as everyday women and infants die of Pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. In as much as countries have directed their agendas to key developmental areas, it is also important to put into consideration the critical role of Women, Children and Adolescents’ Health to the global Sustainable Development Goals.

In recent times, the emergence of female-owned small businesses around the world have exceeded its record of the past, this is largely dependent on the fact that each day, women develop unique ideas and business strategies towards improving their lives and participating in the global economic development.

Research has shown that female-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up to 30 percent to 37 percent of all SMEs (8 million to 10 million women-owned firms) in the emerging markets. This result does not exclude the rural women in developing countries.

However, these women and their businesses are faced with a general challenge which has to do with finance.

Due to several issues ranging from collateral, trust, and so on, women entrepreneurs face difficulties in obtaining bank credit compared to men. This limitation has crippled the general access to finance majorly for the women entrepreneurs in rural areas.

In India, several financial institutions have initiated new measures to expand the access to finance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), yet women-owned MSMEs continue to suffer complications.

Although there are other varying challenges, the bulk of the problem rest solely on the access to finance. Gaining access to adequate credit for business expansion remains a huge barrier to most female entrepreneurs.


  • Collateral

The issue of collateral is the first and major problem that the women are often faced with. This explains why many rural women never make the move of approaching the banks for loans. Most developing countries are patriarchal oriented and their culture is strictly favorable to the men. Collaterals such as lands and other assets are not accessible to the women but for the male folk, assets are passed down to them through inheritance (by their fathers).

  • Limited Awareness and Illiteracy

Most of these women are unlearned and do not know how to go about it. This category of women constitute widows who have access to lands and other properties passed down to them by their late husbands or female children from royal clans. But lack adequate information and understanding of the formal financial sector’s products and services limits their access.

  • The Hostile Methods

While others face the issue of collateral and education, a large number of the women find the process too complicated. This is because, most banks employ more men than women, and most female employees are assigned desk jobs. The communication becomes deterred and as a result, financial institutions miss the opportunity to rapport with and fully understand women entrepreneurs. On the other hand, the women, based on the lack of negotiation, they fail to familiarize with the complex processes of the banking and financial systems and then they end up quitting concluding that they will never get the loan.

  • Lack of Trust

The banking sectors displace trust for the women-owned enterprise and do not encourage the women to hang on through the complex processes posed at them during the period of loan acquisition. This is very discouraging for the women as it frustrates their plans and weakens their decision. Banker’s perception about women-led enterprises is that it is risky because they are usually smaller businesses with limited/no collateral.



It is important for women to have access to adequate funding in all developing countries as it is an obvious fact that this move will push for development in both global and individual economies. This, therefore, calls for the involvement of stakeholders, government, and non-governmental organizations, private sector organizations in addressing the constraints women are faced with.

Creating unique packages tailored to suit different kinds of businesses, and reducing requirements for obtaining loans for small and medium-scale businesses will help solve this issue with an overall goal to improve the lives of women around the world and bridge gender gap. The banking sector needs to make some important adjustment to their systems in order to accommodate these women.

Why is this important? Evaluating the significant contributions of female entrepreneurs in developed countries like the United States in the space of three decades, the growth of women-owned firms have exceeded and doubled the rate of all other firms (23 percent and 9 percent respectively).

Research has shown that they contribute nearly $3 trillion to the U.S. economy and are directly responsible for 23 million jobs. This heavy input has resulted to a projection that predicts the emanation of future job growth in the United States primarily from women-owned small businesses.

Looking also at Canada, in 2004 it was recorded that 47 percent of small enterprises and 70 percent of new business start-ups were run by women.

This explains why they are referred to as the developed countries because they allow the huge contribution of the women in their economy. This is also a pointer to all developing countries to seek for increasing opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

In providing access to adequate finance to women entrepreneurs in every part of the world, the role of the government is highly required. The government can make and change laws that abolish the restriction of land and property ownership to women; empower women with the right information that will enable them to acquire loans, and push for easy access to finance for all women in their respective countries.


The Challenges Faced by African Women Farmers

Nwankwo Miracle Ngozi

Africa’s agricultural sector is experiencing a drastic change following the influx of women in the sector. Women across the continent are contributing immensely to influence crucial roles in shaping the growth of African agriculture.

There is no doubt that women in Africa are key contributors to economic growth and global food security. Despite the limited access to land, inputs, assets, markets, information, and knowledge, time, decision-making, authority and income,  African women are still making waves in the agribusiness. The likes of Mme Elisabeth Atangana; a farmer by profession, has been making strides in Africa’s agricultural sector. She has been referred to as the voice of women farmers, she is also the first President of the Platform of the Pan-African Farmers Organization (PAFO) and was appointed as Special Ambassador for Cooperatives by FAO on 29 May 2012.

Women’s input in the agricultural situation of Africa especially when it comes to food production, food provision, and food exportation cannot be over emphasized. Statistics show that 60 to 80% of foods are produced by women in many developing countries, also they produce half of the total food production in the world, and they also undertake 60 to 90% of the rural marketing.

Women constitute 70% of the work force in the agricultural sector in Africa and 10% of the basic food processing. They also carry out 60 to 90% of the total rural marketing. According to a report put together by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), women make up more than two-third of the workforce in agricultural production.

However, they are faced with diverse challenges that have been an obstacle to their progress in the agribusiness. Women farmers in different countries have little or no access to basic amenities for agricultural production in Africa.

In Nigeria for instance, women farmers are faced with limitations of formal and traditional rules. For those ones who are not restricted by traditional rules, they are bound by formal rules which are as a result of ignorance and lack of educational empowerment.

Yet, Nigerian women constitute a large amount of the total population of farmers in the country. According to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development, women account for 75 percent of the farming population in Nigeria, ranging from farm managers to suppliers of labour. They engage in weeding, harvesting, processing, and selling of farm produce but are rarely involved in the exportation processes. While in most areas, women engage in small scale animal production including small ruminants, poultry, and aquaculture.

The case of Nigerian agricultural women is the same in most African countries. The women are rarely supported by the government. For those who are unlearned, they do not have access to technology and are not informed about its usefulness to the agricultural sector.

The challenge of land

The access to land by African women is very poor, women often face difficulties in recruiting workers and obtaining credit for improved production since they are not the rightful owners of the land. Women are ready to do more than they are already doing if they can be granted equal access to lands like the men. Giving women equal rights to own lands and agricultural resources will mean a plus for the production of women farming in all developing countries from 20% to 30% increase. The issue of land is very crucial because no man can plant in the sky, water is to fish as land is to cultivation. The availability of land to women farmer will ease their struggles to eradicate poverty and grow their business.

In Sub- Saharan Africa, most of the opportunities in rural areas revolve around self-employed farmers, of which women are the majority. But the women do not have access to lands, if the women will have to contend for lands with the men, they will need some judicial, and political backing and resources which they tend to lack?

Nevertheless, some African countries understand the huge support of the women in agriculture and their input in the economy and have taken advantage of it to support their women with lands availability but most African countries still lag behind and this has crippled their growth in the sector.

The challenge of fund

The African woman farmer is also faced with the challenge of adequate funding.  When it comes to the collection of loans, women are greatly behind. It is either they are uninformed about the processes or they do not have collaterals to stand for the loan. On the other hand, some of the women work alongside their husbands and are not considering working on their own.

Under the fund challenge, only women who are learned or are from prominent homes are free from this limitation. But for other women farmers, this challenge is a big restriction to what they would have been able to do if they have an unlimited access to funds.

Even though these women are strong and capable, at the face of disaster where more fund is required than labor, their strength is invalid. Therefore, to encourage these women, the government is expected to invest in them because investing in these women is the solution to the food insecurity problems faced with Africa.

The challenge of technology

The role of technology in the agricultural sector is essential and cannot be over emphasized; this is because technology rules the world. No aspect of human production can ignore technology, and no industry can ignore the role of technology. Technology has created diverse equipment and systems that can be used to drive efficiency, production and greater yields. Advanced agricultural technology makes the work easier and faster for the farmers.

In many underdeveloped countries, agricultural is an important part of the economy because it brings to growth, poverty reduction, and food security. Technology which is one of the means of combating the food crisis in Africa that resulted from the economic meltdown should be offered to the women who are the major facilitators of the general agricultural sector of Africa both in labor and in management.

Most of these advanced technologies are directed to the male audience, yet the majority of the women farmers lack the knowledge and the confidence to use this improved technology and most of the new technologies.

This will only take the government to organize, programs, events, summits and many other empowerments schemes to have these women enlightened with the use of various technologies and also go as far as providing them with the equipment.

The challenge of education

Most of the women farmers are from the rural communities and these women are not educated but they are very good farmers. However, education stands as a barrier between them and the modern system of agriculture. Contrary to the use of technology,  Even if these women are granted access to more conducive and advanced agricultural equipment, the low-quality education which these women have will not meet up to the fast growing systems of agriculture.

The women need access to information, workshop session that will open them up to global initiatives to the growth of agriculture. They need ideas and strategies on how to push up their business from the low point of selling their products to the local markets to sell to the international or global market.

Education brings the women closer to the economy, it clears major barriers and improves the lives of the women.

Nevertheless, this part of education should not only be directed to the unlearned rural women but also to the young women who are agribusiness aspirant. By this, the African woman agribusiness’s future is protected because there are young ones coming to take over from where the older women have stopped.

The Agricultural domain of Africa is largely populated by the African women, however, the access to lands, fund, technology and other resources is greatly hindered by formal and informal restrictions causing a staunched growth to the African woman’s agribusiness. Investing in the African woman’s agribusiness is an escape to food crisis and insecurity faced by most African countries.

Women are household survivals and social reproduction and their participation in the agricultural sector will constitute a great benefit to the food security perspective of Africa.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), female-headed households are more vulnerable to food security as they tend to spend more on food than male-headed households.

It will also be essential to consider the status of women in agriculture. Placing women as key facilitators to the growth of agriculture will lead to boosting the African economy.