Creating a more sustainable and equitable world by 2030 are the foundation of the United Nation’s recently adopted global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Over the next 15 years, the 193 countries of the U.N. have agreed to work toward achieving these 17 goals across a range of social, political, economic, health, and environmental issues to improve the quality of life for all people worldwide.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, local activists are focusing on 4 issues that will help create a healthier, safer, more equitable and more sustainable society for Africans.
“There was definitely a time in my life when I thought I was gonna die of aids because I knew of so many people dying of aids”— Charlize Theron
At this years Social Good Summit, UN messenger of peace and South African actress Charlize Theron spoke about the first time she became aware of the AIDs virus. She said she was eight years old and like many others, she was fearful of the disease because of her lack of knowledge. Once she said she was old enough to learn the truth about HIV/AIDS, Theron said she began her personal fight to end the disease. In 2007, she launched the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) to help educate African youth about HIV/AIDS.
In the 2015 millennium development goals report (MDGs), AIDs is listed as the number one killer of adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014, only 30% of young women and 37% of young men between the ages of 15–24 had comprehensive knowledge of the virus.
Today, in collaboration with Modern Advocate Co-Founder, Jake Glaser, Kweku Mandela (@kwekumandela), The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and UNAIDS, the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Program has launched the #GenEndIt campaign. This generation to end aids, movement is designed to help the UN reach its 15 years plan to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by year 2030.
“I always believe there’s hope in anything that feels hopeless”, Theron said when asked if she believed there was hope in the fight against HIV/AIDs in Africa.
Theron went on to explain how she said she believes all people can play a part in bringing about an AIDS-free generation in the next 15 years,
“Just be relentless, be relentless on social media, keep the conversation going … I really truly believe, if we don’t talk about these things, if we don’t actually call them out for what we see and what we hear and do our homework. If we just kind of turn the page like we heard about this thing and we don’t really know what it is, I guess it doesn’t involve me so I’ll just let it go …. it’s the ripple effect, what happens to one person somehow will come back and affect all of us so I think conversation and not being complacent, if it’s something that bothers you, keep it active on social media … let’s make it be information that’s actually valuable, information that can actually save lives”— Charlize Theron
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”— Nelson Mandela
When he visited Boston in 1990, Nelson Mandela gave a speech at Madison Park High School where he emphasized the importance of pursuing an education. There he went on to say one of his most famous quotes, “education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world.”
Mandela was a pioneer for education in Sub-Saharan Africa and many have followed in his footsteps. One of those followers is Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, a human rights advocate from Uganda. When his brother died from HIV/AIDS, Kaguri found himself having to take care of his children. That’s when he said he first realized the plight of many children left behind after having parents die from a disease that was decimating communities. In 2001, Kaguri founded The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in response to the devastating effects of AIDS in his hometown of Nyakagyezi. The foundation provides free education to children who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.
Without access to an education, these children risk spending a lifetime in poverty and Kaguri said he wants to change that trajectory,
“Children who are impoverish, once they are given an opportunity to go to school they can still succeed.”— Twesigye Jackson Kaguri
While the region has made progress in primary school enrollment, the MDGs report shows there are 33 million children of primary school age who are not in school. According to a 2012 estimate, “43% of out-of-school children globally will never go to school.” But Kaguri said he remains hopeful that someday, these children will get an opportunity at a better life if they are given a chance.
“We are going to change the lives of these children, we commit to continue doing all five best needs for these children. Without a house, without education, without housing … we cannot eliminate poverty”— Twesigye Jackson Kaguri
55% of the 33 million primary school age children who are out of school in Sub-Saharan Africa are girls*. Globally, more men than women participate in the workforce and women are often at a disadvantage in these labour market.
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, a physician and public health expert, participated on the “Planning her own path” panel at the 2015 Social Good Summit to talk about the importance of educating and empowering women. One way we can do so, said Dr. Osotimehin, is through family planning, giving women more power over their lives.
“When you take family planning, you empower women. It enables them to take chances with their lives, it enables them to reach their full potential, it enables them to be who they want to be and to be equal partners in the development of their society.”— Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin
Many women who live below the poverty line don’t have access to good jobs, safe housing, quality nutrition or maternal health. A lack of access to maternal health may lead to difficult pregnancies that result in either the mother losing their child or giving birth to a child who will go on to have a difficult life because of health issues, often continuing a cycle of poverty. By empowering women through greater access to health care and prenatal services, another step is taken toward ending generational poverty.
One of the most powerful speeches at this years Social Good Summit was given on climate change by Greenpeace International Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo (@kuminaidoo). Born in South Africa, Naidoo spent his early years as a human rights activist in the fight against apartheid. He later led global campaigns to end poverty and protect human rights. Today, Naidoo is the first African to head Greenpeace where he’s become a crusader for environmental justice.
“It has to be now, nature does not negotiate. The window for actions on climate change is small and closing rapidly.”— Kumi Naidoo
In the hopes of protecting the ecosystem, Naidoo said he is calling on global leaders to come together and take actions on climate change. In his speech he also called on ordinary people to do more to save the planet,
“Change depends on ordinary people. To have the courage to say enough is enough and no more and having the courage to believe another way is possible. I know this to have been true in the past, I know it will be true in the future and it will be true because of what we do today, in the present.”— Kumi Naidoo
While 2030 may seem too far into the future for many of the world’s people effected by the most critical issues facing our global society, waiting for change to come is something Naidoo said today’s generation cannot afford to do,
“The story of the future is being written right here, right now, it’s starts with courage, it starts with each and everyone of us. It starts with YOU.”— Kumi Naidoo
The leaders on stage at the this year’s Social Good Summit placed a responsibility on this generation to bring about greater social good even more quickly than the UN’s proposed goal of 2030. With always increasing access to the internet throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and the developing world, people can connect in ways never possible before. And as social media hashtags help bring awareness to critical issues and promote positive causes, more people than ever have the opportunity to engage with one another to help bring lasting, positive changes to their communities.