On 25th September 2015, leaders from 193 member states of the United Nations, met to discuss the world’s problems and decide on a plan to tackle them. They named this plan the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (commonly known as the Global Goals).
The three big aims of the Global Goals are to fight inequality and injustice, end extreme poverty and tackle climate change. The Global Goals are the most ambitious agreement for sustainable development that world leaders has ever made.
They build on the success of their predecessor the Millennium Development Goals and aim to go further to end all forms of poverty. That is why we need everyone to know about these goals and to take action for them. Everyone, everywhere has a part to play.
Here is a list of the 17 Global Goals, all of them are as important.
Good health and wellbeing
Clean water and sanitation
Affordable and clean energy
Decent work and economic growth
Industry, innovation and infrastructure
Sustainable cities and communities
Responsible consumption and production
Life below water
Life on land
Peace, justice and strong institutions
Partnerships for the goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015 as a universal call to action to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030.
Unicef (the United Nations Children’s Fund) works with governments, partners and other UN agencies to support countries around the world to ensure that the Goals deliver results for every child. Now and for generations to come.
Unicef works in over 190 countries and territories to save children’s lives, to defend their rights, and to help them fulfill their potential, from early childhood through adolescence.
An impressive list of goals, don’t you think? It can be hard to decide where to begin, but my experience is that people don’t listen when they are hungry. It is hard to get involved in anything else, as long as you don’t know how to feed yourself and your family.
Every government that cares about the citizens in the country it rules will make sure that each and everyone is fed. As my drama teacher used to tell us, ”No one is first, no one is last, we are all in this together.” That quote can be applied on so many contexts, so why not use it here?
Do you feel that The Gambia Government is concerned about you and your children’s welfare? Some of you might, if you happen to be one of those who benefitted with a brand new vehicle from an anonymous giver some years ago. There is a large group of back-patters and yes-men (and women too) among you. You are quite confident about your future and don’t need to go to bed hungry.
So what about all the rest? Hunger is the beginning and the end of everything. When a baby is born, the first thing it looks for is its mother’s breast. Nothing else matters, it can be surrounded by the most beautiful baby clothes, brand new toys, a comfortable bed and luxurious house. Every little human being has got the reflex to search for nutrition because otherwise it will die.
Climate change has changed our circumstances, the rainy season has begun late and there is a fear for the harvest. This fear is something all farmers have in common, everywhere in the world, and it is up to every government to be updated about the latest scientific research. In a poor country as The Gambia, it is impossible for every small farmer to become aware of the latest news on the agricultural front. They must be able to trust that there are some reliable people who have as their job to reach out to our farmers with information, seeds and help.
When the people are fed, they can begin to talk about other issues. Education is the foundation for a developing society. That is a fact we all know. A child who goes to school hungry has a problem focusing on what the teacher says. The rumble from an empty stomach has a louder sound than the teacher’s voice. Some kids are lucky to get some small change so they can buy lunch. That is wonderful for them, but I have seen sellers standing near the school gates in the morning. These sellers are selling candy, cookies and snacks and there is always a line of kids standing there. Unattended children easily fall for the temptation and choose to use their money on sweets instead of waiting until lunch and buy some food.
There is absolutely no nutrition in the stuff they buy, they eat it immediately and by lunchtime they are hungry again. Afternoon lessons must be a nightmare for teachers; the pupils are tired and inattentive because they haven’t eaten enough. This leads to bad grades and frustrated teachers. When the kid finally reaches home after a long walk it is not always lucky to get some food directly. How many of you eat three good meals every day? Not all of you, I’m sure, but that is what we need to be able to function properly.
To be able to get food you need to be able to support yourself and your family. It is hard in The Gambia, as there are simply not enough jobs for those of age. Those who have employment are lucky, but there seems to be little or no security that you will keep your job. What about the worker’s unions? Do they even exist in The Gambia? I have found that there is a strange system in The Gambia; if you managed to reach somewhere on the social ladder, you don’t hesitate to step on those below you. How does that rhyme with being a Muslim? Is that what the Holy Qur’an teaches us? That it is okay to treat your fellow human being as less worthy, just because you might have more than him or her?
Jealousy is a strong power that, when used correctly, can be a tool for getting you further. Jealousy can also drive you to do a lot of bad things. You might do anything to get what you want; a position in life, wealth, a partner and so on. You don’t mind the means, as long as you get what you want. If you have been struggling to make ends meet, and suddenly become wealthy – are you grateful? Do you share your luck with others? We can be generous all year round, not only during Ramadan. Ramadan should be in your heart all the time, otherwise it’s only fake. Something that really appalls me is when people make a show of how generous they are during Ramadan. It is not a competition in how good and generous you are, it is about not forgetting the little one, the poor one, the one who has no food and no hope. Let us never forget them and let us never look down on the one who is not as lucky as you.
If we look at all the beautiful goals above, we can come to the conclusion that it all lands on solidarity. We are all in this together, no one is more important than the other. Food, water and a home are parts of our basic human needs. We need that to be able to exist, we need to feel safe and secure. A good job that gives you a proper salary to support your family is necessary. What is a good job? Well, that is up to each to decide. It’s not always easy to know what you would like to do, especially for a young person, so that is why it could be interesting to implement a system we use here in Sweden. Kids that are 14 and 15 get a week’s leave from school every year to try some kind of profession. The school can help them to find a workplace, or the kids can use their parent’s connections. The kids don’t get paid for their work, but if they behave well and do a good work it might be possible for them to get some work there during the summer vacation.
I do understand that we can’t copy the Swedish system directly as our societies are rather different, but we can get some ideas from it.
In The Gambia, most women work in their homes, or have other traditional tasks. For young girls, it could be very useful for them to get some insight in other kinds of jobs. In the good old days, girls followed in the footsteps of their mothers, and boys in their fathers. The society has changed and developed, for good or for bad, but we can’t go backwards in time. It is important to show our young ones what they can become, and there could be a lot of opportunities in The Gambia too. I have spoken about home-blindness before and I will mention it again. We are so used to how life around us appears. We meet the same people every day, we speak about the same topics or issues. Life goes on like a wheel – round and round – without any change. Does it really have to be this way? Are there no opportunities for poor people? Of course there are, but we must realise that we are stronger together. Instead of speaking ill about someone who doesn’t want to follow the typical pattern, we should encourage that person. It takes strength to go your own way, to create your own pattern.
In the part of Sweden where I live there once was a boy whose name was Erik. This boy was very sick and had to stay in bed most of the time. Erik could have become deeply depressed and feel sorry for himself, instead he began to care about others. Erik was born 1929 in a poor shoemaker family. Erik didn’t have more than his pocket money, but he bought some small toys and sent these to
other sick boys and girls. He had been listening to a popular children’s show on the radio, and that is how he got to know about the kids who needed some joy in their lives. The host of the radio show became so touched by this kindness and invited Erik to come to the show to speak about his commitment. The word spread and people began to send money for Erik so he could help more kids. Erik died at the age of 37 but others took over and this became a movement that grew. Nowadays we have a big centre, the head office, just some kilometers from my home. The foundation is in English is called Eriks Development Partner and they work on an international basis. Imagine this poor, bedbound boy, who cared for others so much and he wished to give joy to others. Not all of us can start a foundation of course, but we can do something. Eriks Development Partner works by the same principles as Unicef; the welfare of the child is their focus.
No matter what we do, which goal we choose to begin with on the list of Global Goals, we need to have the child’s perspective. The children are the future, so what kind of future do we wish them to have?