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Empowering Women: Sustainable Development Goal 5 in Action

In goodmorning bsn! door Business School Nederland

The journey towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a challenging yet indispensable path to creating a more equitable and sustainable world. Among these goals, SDG5 holds a unique place, focusing on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. The targets of SDG5 touch upon various aspects of women’s lives, and translating these aspirations into tangible change requires concerted efforts from individuals and organisations worldwide.

At Business School Netherlands (BSN), we are dedicated to contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals through education and a commitment to produce great leaders who drive positive change in the world, aligning their efforts with the 17 SDGs and making a lasting impact.

Juliet G. Gibbs Bertolino: Advocate for Women’s Empowerment

Juliet G. Gibbs Bertolino, founder of NEW CARES Coffee Alliance in Uganda, is a dedicated advocate for women’s empowerment. She shared her invaluable insights during a recent presentation on our weekly webinar Goodmorning BSN!, shedding light on the challenges faced and the practical approaches that can make a difference. Juliet is currently working towards her International Action Learning MBA with BSN.

SDG5 Targets: A Complex Reality

In the realm of gender equality, Juliet’s presentation addressed the targets of SDG5. These targets aim to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls and ensure their full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life. However, as Juliet highlighted, these targets are easier said than achieved, particularly in the context of marginalised communities and developing nations.

Challenges on the Path to Empowerment

Empowering women in the face of deeply ingrained cultural norms and systemic discrimination presents significant challenges. Juliet’s work in the field has revealed some common hurdles.

Economic Empowerment

Starting with the economic aspect, women in Uganda’s coffee market play a vital role in sustaining the nation’s economy. Over 70% of coffee farmers in Uganda are women. These women are at the forefront, working hard to support their families and contribute to the economic growth of Uganda. They are the backbone of the coffee industry, showing that economic empowerment can be a reality for marginalised groups when given the opportunity. Inclusive business models that promote gender equality empower women to take control of their lives, families, and communities. These models create sustainable business opportunities for everyone, improving livelihoods and ultimately benefiting society as a whole.

Social Empowerment

In Uganda, women who are involved in the coffee industry have transformed not just their lives but entire communities. For example, Jane, a coffee farmer, was able to send her children to school, take care of medical needs, and feed her family, breaking the cycle of poverty in her family. These stories of transformation illustrate how empowering women in the coffee market isn’t just about economics; it’s about improving lives and uplifting entire communities.

Responsible leaders understand that their organisations are part of a larger social fabric. By investing in community engagement and development, leaders can create a positive ripple effect. Responsible leadership means understanding that success isn’t just about the bottom line; it’s about enriching lives.

Gender Equality

In the coffee market, it’s essential to address gender disparities. NEW CARES, as a Women’s Coffee Alliance, observed how women’s input was undervalued and underpaid. Recognising this issue, the enterprise implemented programmes to ensure access to resources, including equal pay and opportunities for both women and men. This case demonstrates the importance of addressing gender disparities. True responsible leadership means not tolerating discrimination or inequality. Responsible leaders promote policies and practices that ensure gender equality. It’s about creating a level playing field where everyone, regardless of gender, has equal opportunities and is recognised for their contributions. This fosters innovation and a more inclusive work environment.

Sustainable Leadership

The coffee market and environmental sustainability are closely linked. The NEW CARES Women’s Coffee Alliance promotes eco-friendly practices like organic farming to gain momentum. These practices not only benefit the environment but also enhance brand reputation. Sustainable leadership recognises that responsible leaders must consider their impact on the planet. The coffee market can contribute to environmental stewardship. Sustainable leaders understand that embracing eco-friendly practices is not just a corporate responsibility; it’s a way to create resilient and ethically sound organisations. By choosing eco-friendly options, we can leave a positive legacy for future generations.

Impactful Partnerships

Collaborations with diverse industry players can amplify the impact of empowering women in the coffee market. Some partnerships could support the provision of training and capacity building, while others can support other resources such as access to finance and quality inputs for women farmers. These partnerships create a synergy that leads to more significant changes. They not only empower women but also strengthen the coffee industry as a whole. Responsible leaders understand the value of connecting with diverse industry partners to create lasting change. By pooling resources and knowledge, they can make a more substantial contribution to local and global progress.

Community Engagement: Fostering Empowerment at Grassroots

In the pursuit of gender equality and women’s empowerment, Juliet emphasised the importance of community engagement, particularly at the grassroots level. Building partnerships with local communities, gaining a deep understanding of their specific challenges, and developing culturally sensitive approaches are essential components of effectively empowering women. Engaging with local communities not only acknowledges the diverse needs and circumstances of women in different regions but also establishes a sense of ownership and involvement in the process. This collaborative approach fosters a supportive environment where women can access resources, receive education, and embark on their journey toward empowerment. Additionally, it allows for the co-creation of strategies that truly reflect the needs and aspirations of the women being empowered.

The Role of Culture and Religion

The role of culture and religion in women’s empowerment is a multifaceted dynamic that significantly influences opportunities in societies worldwide. Cultural norms can either serve as a catalyst for women’s progress, recognising and valuing their leadership roles, or perpetuate rigid gender roles and stereotypes, hindering women’s participation in decision-making. Similarly, religion’s impact is profound, as its interpretation and implementation can inspire women to assume leadership positions or, conversely, legitimise gender-based discrimination. To address these challenges effectively, community-specific approaches are essential, involving active engagement with local communities to comprehend deeply ingrained practices that empower or marginalise women. Promoting dialogue and education within these contexts facilitates shifts in perceptions and practices, fostering progress towards gender equality while respecting cultural and religious diversity. Juliet’s work underscores the need to navigate these influences thoughtfully, ultimately ensuring gender equality thrives within the rich tapestry of global traditions and faiths.

Looking Ahead: A Call to Action

The path to gender equality may be fraught with challenges, but it is not insurmountable. Juliet’s experiences and insights underscore the significance of a collective call to action. To promote gender equality in alignment with SDG5, individuals, organisations, and communities can take various steps.

Promote Gender Equality: Make a conscious effort to achieve gender balance and equal access to resources and opportunities.

Promote Inclusivity: Ensure that women have a seat at the table and equal opportunities in all sectors.

Promote Responsible Leadership: Encourage responsible and accountable leadership that champions women’s empowerment.

Promote Fair Pay: Eliminate gender-based pay disparities and ensure that women receive equitable compensation for their work.

Promote Equity and Sustainability: Advocate for fair practices and sustainable solutions that empower women and advance communities.

Promote Governance for Responsible Leadership: Develop governance structures that support and promote responsible leadership in the context of gender equality.

Promote Identification and Maximization of Women’s Potential: Recognise the untapped potential of women and empower them to create a better world.

Balance Social, Economic, and Environmental Sustainability: Find a balance between social, economic, and environmental sustainability in all aspects of work.

Lead the Foundation for a Peaceful, Prosperous, and Sustainable World: Women’s empowerment is a cornerstone for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.

Juliet’s experiences highlights the importance of dialogue, reflection, and collaboration in achieving women’s empowerment and sustainable development. Challenges may persist, but the commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment remains unwavering. In the end, it is collective action and collaboration that will lead us toward a more equitable, sustainable, and just world.

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