When you get a group of really ambitious people together, it can be the perfect dose of motivation for a young person. On day 2 of the conference we heard from some women and men who had achieved a lot. There was Lord Dr Michael Hastings (Global Head of Citizenship at KPMG), Senator Imani Duncan-Price from Jamaica, Jacques Philippe Piverger (founder and CEO of the Soleil Group) and many more people who were frustratingly successful and really eloquent speakers too.
We spent the morning talking about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while it snowed outside (dogs were wearing snow boots to walk around the city!) The SDGs are the 17 global targets released by the UN in 2015, and are the successors to their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Each of the 17 is important on it’s own, but there’s a huge crossover and it would be hard to focus on just one at a time.
Number 1 is a biggie: no poverty. If you’re pessimistic about this one, you might be surprised to know that we’re halfway to eliminating poverty. Yep. That’s a huge deal! It’s something we need to celebrate for sure. BUT, you wouldn’t stop halfway, right? The following video from the UN is pretty awesome and makes this point. It features some interesting facts plus some celebs like Usain Bolt and Coldplay, I definitely recommend you take the 2 minutes to watch it.
Some of my favourites are number 4 (quality education), 6 (clean water and sanitation), and 17 (partnerships for the goals). Seventeen is important because it makes people focus on doing things together, and that’s a really nice (but also highly effective) way to go about it. The best part is that under each of these goals are really specific targets that can be measured, so they’re not just some vague areas of interest that the UN threw together, these are some serious goals with serious targets.
Number 5 is gender equity. In the room of highly ambitious women, this one led to a big discussion on equal pay, having more women CEOs and breaking that glass ceiling. It was really interesting and, of course, really important to hear. These women were very passionate about these issues and about creating opportunities for women. But there was a really powerful moment later in the morning that made us all take a huge step back from this. In the middle of the fired discussion, Lord Hastings said to us all “yes, these things are really important, but there is this preoccupation with acquisition of position. We need more than that. Girls need education, we need to eliminate poverty. Where is the social justice for those who can’t get to the first base point? Let’s start at the bottom and not the top”.
Damn. We had all been so preoccupied with number 5 and how it related to ourselves, but there are 16 other goals and billions of women on the planet that we were ignoring. I realised that empowering women is essential to meeting all the other goals, and women in developing countries need to be a huge part of number 5.
Jamaican Senator, Imani Duncan, described it really nicely and gave me my take-away message for the day in one line. She said “number five, gender equality, is the thread that runs through all of the goals”.
It was exactly the shift in perspective that I think we all needed.