How does Sustainable Development relate to our work?


The sustainable development discourse has dominated the agenda of international politicians, environmentalists, economists and development agencies. While these discussions may seem to happen at a very high and international level, it has a huge impact on us and every person that we come into contact with. It is therefore important that we, as agents of change, pause and reflect on how the discourse on sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) impact on our work. Economic progress by itself, cannot ensure the sustainable progress of a nation. It also includes social aspects as well as environmental issues. The fundamental question is:” how the world economy can continue to develop in a way that is socially inclusive environmentally sustainable? I suppose the next question then is: What is Sustainable Development?
According to the World Bank, Sustainable development is “such a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Bank, 1987). A year ago at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015, the SDGs were adopted by member states. There are 17 interrelated sustainable development goals and you can find it here. For the sake of our discussion during the next webinar on Wednesday September 28, one may ask, ‘which goal(s) relate to girls?
Among the 17 SDGs, I found that Goal 2, 3, 4, 5 are directly or indirectly linked to girls’ education, training and empowerment and Goal 5.3 speaks directly to the work of GIRLS Inspire, “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation”.
The most important question is how will we do this?

13 thoughts on “How does Sustainable Development relate to our work?”

  1. Dear Mostafa,
    Thanks for initiating the discussion.You rightly said that every goal is interlinked to other.I think integrated approach is desirable for achieving SDGs. When I look at the goals every goal seems to touch girls linked with them directly or indirectly.If we talk about gender based violence then decent work and economic growth also comes under our umbrella which might not be the direct target.By providing good education and better health we want to provide our girls equal opportunities.

    1. Mostafa Azad Kamal

      Thanks a lot Qudsia. You explained the idea of SDG integration excellently. Your response to the blog will help us learn more in terms of context specific strategy of SDG integration into our works in Girls Inspire or else.
      I hope your support will be continued in the next blogs too. We will together go far for sure.

  2. Thank you Mostafa for initiating the discussion. All the targets of Goal 5 are related to the issue of child marriage by one or the other way. So for the eradication of this issue we need to spread awareness about the problems related to child marriage at community level. This can be done through street theaters, radio programs, conducting sessions with the stakeholders etc. We need to use examples from their daily lives. It’ll have more powerful impact on the community. Furthermore i would like to know that what actions government is taking in your country to achieve this goal?

    1. Mostafa Azad Kamal

      Thanks Mehvish for your thoughtful and meaningful comments. Certainly your ideas will give us more strength in designing SDG integration strategies in our works in near future. We are really grateful for this kind contribution of yours. I hope this efforts will continue and we as CoP will together go far for sure.
      Thanks again for your support. I will request your comments on our next blogs too.

  3. Dear Mustafa! Thanks for starting a discussion on this topic. It’s hard to focus on the topic while the problems girls/women facing in our society are immense; poverty, lack of education & health facilities, gender inequality, insecurity, harassment, abuse, and violence are very few of them. Through GirlsInspire initiative decent work and economic growth of so many girls can be ensured after getting vocational training in the project. This empowerment not only improves their decision-making role in family life but also prevents child early and forced marriages, in a way that girls are normally considered as a burden to the family so as she become an earning hand the chances of her getting married in early age also decreases.

    1. Mostafa Azad Kamal

      Dear Sabeen,
      Thanks a lot for sharing your ideas and efforts for girls. Yes your comments will encourage us to look into the issues relating to girls’ equity and empowerment much deeper. I personally believe that your points are very much crucial and can be a lesson for other countries like Bangladesh, India, Tanzania, etc.
      Thanks again for your support. Hope you will be kind enough to always put your valuable comments on the next blogs too.

  4. Dear Mostafa,
    Greetings from SPARC!
    SPARC conducted a research study in October 2015 on “Identification of Barriers to Girls education in three districts of South Punjab, Pakistan including Multan, Muzafargarrah and Bahawalpur. In March we launched two more projects in Multan and Muzaffargarrah which are funded by CommonWealth of learning. If you are interested, SPARC can share this research study on Girls Inspire website

    1. Mostafa Azad Kamal

      Dear Sajeeda,
      Thanks a lot for your response. Yes it will be great if you share these findings in a blog. We can have a rigorous discussions on it. I hope it will be of great interest of other members too. You may have talk to Frances too on the idea.
      Thanks again for your kind comments. I believe your comments worth a lot for the CoP. Please continue to put comments similarly on the upcoming blogs too.

  5. You are right that Girls Inspire directly speaks of Target 5.3. But, I think Target 4.4 (increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship) and 5.b (Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women) also linked with the activities of Girls Inspire.
    You have raised a question. Right now it is essentially a most important issue to think. I think all the partners from around the world need to work inclusively and come up with a unique way so that we (Girls Inspire) can align with the targets of SDGs.
    Again, presently each individual needs to identify which Goal(s) or Target(s) they can relate through their organizational goal, objectives and activities. Then, they can make a plan that how they can achieve those Goal(s) or Target(s), as SDGs talked about, from their organizational perspective.

    1. Thanks Shahariar for these kind and most valuable comments. You pointed out the scope of SDG integration into your initiatives especially with GirlsInspire so nicely. While you may had lot of things to write on the issue, this time we remained confined into 3 points purposively to make the webinar more contextualized and meaningful.
      #Topic 1: What we like to know about Sustainable Development?
      #Topic 2: Which SDGs are aligned with vulnerable female and girls?
      #Topic 3: How we can related/integrate SDGs in our works in Girls Inspire?
      You clearly focused on the above points. If you like to write more, you are open to do that. Our experiences are great resource for driving toward a better future.
      Thanks again Shariar Bhai for the kind support.

  6. Topic 1: What we like to know about Sustainable Development?
    In our ongoing projects how we can ensure long term development and see impacts of the girls inspire projects after the end of projects.
    Topic 2: Which SDGs are aligned with vulnerable female and girls?
    SDG # 5 and SDG # 8 are related to Women and girls. SDG 5 relate to gender Equality and SDG # 8 relate to decent work and Economic growth
    Topic 3: How we can related/integrate SDGs in our works in Girls Inspire?
    We can integrate SDG # 5 & 8 as described below:
    1. For the integration of both SDGs in our work of Girls Inspire, we need to work with family unit. According to my experiences in most of the cases we only work with individuals, For example we sensitize the girls and women about their rights and provide them skill training. In developing countries like Pakistan girls & women cannot contribute their opinions in family matters. Only male members even in educated families don’t want to listen them.
    Unfortunately, we empower the girls & women through skill training and awareness sessions but I think we should also sensitize the whole family members including Fathers, Grand parents, Brothers, uncles and sons. In this way, we can bring change in attitude and behavior at community level.
    2. without Government interest, there can not be changed anything. Government should establish laws and policies and ensure its implementation at grass root level

  7. Dear Mostafa,
    SPARC conducted a comprehensive research on identifying the current barriers to girls’ education. The aimed of this research to create a knowledge base about barriers to girls’ education in three targeted districts of South Punjab, Pakistan, namely Multan, Bahawalpur, and Muzaffargarh.
    Here, I would like to share findings of the research study for your kind information.
    .These points are major reasons for not being able to achieve desired results set at SDGs . Moreover, improving situation related to these points are contribution to achieve SDGs at micro level. We believe incorporation of such learning’s at government level in their planning of projects at the country level can be big contribution at macro level
    Here is some key findings of the research study which may be useful for further discussion.
    The most important finding that has emerged from an insight of the whole research study is that impediments to girls’ education involve complex issues consisting of several themes, concepts and stake holders. Removing these barriers would need a structured mechanism that can address multiple problems at the same time. It should include revamping several procedures that are currently in place but surely do not seem to work as effectively as needed. The efforts are being made but much remains to be done at all levels.
    School Quality
    The enrolment and retention of girls in schools is found to be directly proportional to the overall quality of school. The quality of school is dependent on several influencing factors that include the infrastructure, the provision of basic facilities, functional washrooms, water supply, teaching quality, community participation and a safe and secure environment for girls inside and outside the school. Though all the stakeholders were involved in the survey, the most significant findings have been made from the data gathered from parents and girls. These two kinds of participants are the direct beneficiaries and the most affected class of all the participants. The analysis of data gathered from parents’ FGDs provides more information than any other source. The barriers indentified from the data of school staff and education officials do not indicate all the barriers and their intensity, perhaps reflecting their less intimate knowledge of the problems inherent in the lives of the poverty-stricken communities they serve Girls were also found to be a little hesitant of talking openly about their own school and teachers. Parents, however, had no reluctance to express their concerns.
    Though teachers are paid well, their quality of teaching does not seem to be influenced by this factor. The basic qualification of many teachers is only matriculation or FA and parents felt it to be the main cause of bad teaching quality. Despite the introduction of policies prohibiting corporal punishment, some teachers are still using this obsolete technique of disciplining students. There have been cases reported in which the dropout has occurred due to maltreatment by teachers, especially when girls fail to do their assignment for some reason. The teacher-student ratio is also low in many schools due to an insufficient number of teachers available, resulting in poor quality of teaching.
    Multiple barriers pose multiple threats and challenges to young girls. They are found to be affected not only by the quality of teaching but the infrastructure as well. The most important facility at school is that of functional washrooms with a regular water supply. However, problems have been identified with these two necessities. Many schools have no washroom, have washrooms which are unusable for girls due to lack of water, lack of secure locks, lack of separate girls’ washrooms, or the washrooms are simply kept locked at all times for unknown reasons. Girls reported that as the washrooms cannot be locked from inside, boys tend to sneak when girls are using the washrooms. Due to these issues, the majority of adolescent girls are absent at least seven days a month during their menstruation period. All these problems related to washrooms are found to be the major de-motivating factors for the enrolled girls. Girls who live close by have to go home to use the toilet, but sometimes they do not come back and miss the classes. Not all the students can go home due to long distances and sometimes it may be dangerous too, not only when going home to use the toilet, but also when commuting to and from school each day. Parents reported that in some areas there is always a threat of child abduction or rape once young children travel to and from the schools.
    Another infrastructure-related issue that emerged from the research is that of school buildings. In several cases, there are school buildings with no sufficient rooms, no furniture and no teaching material, or the buildings are in such a dilapidated condition that they pose a life threat to the students. Even when parents send their daughters to such schools, they are in constant fear of having their daughters hurt. Insufficient classroom space acts as a severe deterrent to the girls attending school. When many grades are squeezed together in one room, often with one teacher for all the grades at once, not only does the quality of teaching and learning inevitably suffer greatly, but in the summer months it becomes intolerably hot and stuffy in the room. The alternative which schools may resort to is to hold classes outside in the open air.
    The parents who can afford the higher costs and who are the victims of poor school quality are being attracted to private schools. Their voices are also heard there; however they are not heard at the public school from which they have removed their children. This is the result of unaccountability of teachers and the officials. Many parents felt helpless and disappointed when they faced challenges and problems relating to their daughters’ education.
    Economic Barrier
    The most prevalent and influencing barrier identified during the whole study is the economic obstacle of extreme poverty found in most of the parts of the districts covered. Parents are forced to either not send their daughters to school at all or to remove them from school after a while when feeding the family for survival is the priority for all the family members. Girls are made to work in child labour to either feed a generally large family of 8 to 14 siblings or they have to support their parents in paying off a never-ending loan taken from the local landlord of the area.
    Unsafe Environment
    There are drug addicts found frequently in low income areas who are a big threat to young girls while they are commuting for school. They have been found to jump over the school boundary as well, frightening the girls and the school staff. Such security issues constitute another major barrier to girls’ education, as parents obviously want to keep their daughters physically safe and also protect their reputations so as not to adversely affect their entire future lives. There were also several reports of schools not having a boundary wall at all, forming yet another deficiency in the basic school environment.
    Effects of Parents’ Background
    In order to study different emerging trends in terms of girls’ enrolment, parent participants were divided into three categories; parents of enrolled, never-enrolled and dropped out girls. It was revealed that daughters of illiterate parents are most likely to be never enrolled or that once enrolled, these have tendency to drop out. On the other hand, those girls are more enrolled and less likely to drop out if their parents are literate to some level. This influence affects the likelihood of early marriages as well. Parents with higher levels of education were more likely to prefer their daughters to get married at an older age than illiterate parents. This difference was related to the poverty level of the families as well. Being trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, illiterate parents are always struggling for basic life necessities, thus compromising on their daughters’ education.
    Effects of Incentives
    Besides all the barriers and challenges for girls at school and community level, incentives have been found to be effective in increasing enrolment and retention rates at schools. The government officials, school staff and parents, have noticed the positive effect of offering incentives. However, these incentives are not standard everywhere. Some schools offer cash incentives; while some do not. Stationery items are also free in some schools. The cash allowance is given on monthly basis and at some places it is on a quarterly basis, creating frustration in parents of a low income group because they need money on a monthly basis rather than after three months time. There is also a provision of NSB fund which is sometimes utilized for the necessities of needy girls in terms of uniform and stationery. However, this initiative was not taken by all the school to encourage girls’ enrolment.
    Although all the officials and school staff agreed that the text books were provided free of cost to all, that was not the case when parents’ opinion was taken on this issue: there were many schools in which free books were not available. Almost one third of all the parents interviewed, complained that books were never available. As a result parents have to purchase these books which are again an added financial burden on them.
    Parents’ and Girls’ Attitude towards Education
    One astonishing finding was that there seemed to be little resistance from the parents to sending their daughters to school. The awareness level of parents has risen as compared to the past. While the elder generation and grandparents often oppose the girls’ education, now many parents, including fathers, aspire to send their girls to schools provided all the difficulties are removed. Similarly, the girls themselves reported that they enjoy school and wish to attend, and teachers claimed that they are good and hardworking students. Every survey participants’ feedback has suggested that girls are more responsible in studies, and are more fond of studying in school and at home. Thus there would appear to be no barrier due to any negative attitude from the girls which may adversely affect their education.
    Though there are a lot of discrepancies found among the data gathered from parents, girls, school staff and government officials, there is one aspect on which all these types of survey participants have given a similar opinion. For enhancing the quality of education at school and to address the economic and financial issues at the same time, all of them have asked for introducing some skills-based training or home economics as a subject in girls’ schools. Many parents did not consider the standard curriculum offered any future benefits because according to them, this is not enough for their children to be financial viable in future and they do not see any value in acquiring such knowledge which is of no use to the girls or their families once they finish school. To fight extreme poverty, they demanded to have their children furnished with some skill that can obtain them gainful employment.
    Girls’ schools are facing challenges in general. These challenges require a close monitoring procedure on the part of the Education Department officials. However, visits by the Department team are not a standardized practice for all the schools, i.e., not all the schools are paid visits to monitor the enrolment, retention or any possible dropouts. Many schools were identified where visits are never paid, and enrolment, retention and dropout rates are not monitored regularly.

    1. Mostafa Azad Kamal

      Thanks Sajeeda once again for your detailed comments. Your comments are so much specific and worthful to all of us. I read every words of your comments, these are really self-explaining and meaningful.
      We are grateful for your supports. Hope this will continue in our next blogs too. Together we will go far for sure.
      Best regards,

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