People are Dying While You Promote Your Agenda: A Plea to Address True Need

| July 24, 2018

Two things have shocked me recently at the United Nations (UN): the stark reality of urgent need around the world, and the absolute determination of interest groups to push their agenda no matter the cost or context.

How is climate change related to gender equality, or menstrual health to a sustainable environment? You would be surprised.

These past couple weeks (July 9-18), the UN hosted the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, where countries around the world discussed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to achieve worldwide by 2030. Goals include ending poverty, ending hunger, clean water and sanitation, responsible consumption and production, gender equality, and climate action.

Unsurprisingly, interest groups attempted to relate their own agendas at every turn, no matter the topic at hand. In one Women’s Major Group/Women’s Environment & Development Organization side event, Joanna Pradela from the International Women’s Development Agency actually called the SDGs a “tool” to accelerate the progress of their efforts.1

By contrast, I was struck by the urgency and need presented in other side events to the HLPF on topics of menstrual hygiene management (MHM)2 and access to clean water and sanitation.3 Young girls are skipping school and wishing they were pregnant instead of menstruating because of a lack of hygeine management materials.2 Midwives are attempting to deliver babies alone and in the dark, and health facilities often do not have basic needs such as clean water and soap for hand-washing.3

Even so, someone had the audacity in the MHM session to ask the representative’s plan for sustainability of the plastic menstrual hygiene products sometimes used. Their probable primary agenda presented itself in that moment – environmental sustainability. The problem here is that those women just need any  MHM products before they can worry about building a SuperTarget and stocking it with organic tampons. This was but one very small example of prioritizing a position over a personal need.

Worse than a poorly-timed comment, some groups are pouring money into their “pro-choice” agendas as they watch newborns die from lack of basic necessities like clean water and soap.

When any international goals are used as a “tool” to advance a controversial agenda, the true need at hand is often ignored in favor of ideological advancement.

When any international goals are used as a “tool” to advance a controversial agenda, the true need at hand is often ignored in favor of ideological advancement.

At the MHM session, it was said that some six-year-olds already know how to put on a condom.2 But does this really mean that the answer is simply contraception and comprehensive sex education? Or is there a larger issue that needs to be addressed? Organizations like the International Women’s Health Coalition, which hosted the MHM event, must be held accountable to address true need and not take up a noble cause as a guise for any hidden or ulterior motives. Other groups claiming to support gender equality and women’s rights need to embrace the full spectrum of that responsibility, including issues related to menstrual hygeine management. Energy must be devoted to where it is truly needed.

When we have a midwife delivering a baby with an iPhone in her mouth as a flashlight,3 when we have girls missing school for lack of menstrual hygiene management resources, and when we have so much of the world without clean water or lacking other basic human needs, there needs to be less talk and more action.

I plead with the United Nations aid agencies and NGOs to feed and care for basic needs of the people God has placed on this earth before throwing money into controversial ideological agendas.

Finally, there is a lesson to be learned here that we can apply practically in personal relationships and everyday life. We must care more about the heart of the issues and true need we see around us than our own personal agenda or selfish motives.  Let’s ask each other more questions – what do you need and how can I help? Only then can we address the root issue and effect meaningful change.

Let your primary agenda be to serve the need in front of you, for God’s glory.

Love the person, not the position.

 

 

  1. “Mapping the Gap: Barriers and Opportunities for CS in VNRs.” High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, United Nations, 11 July 2018, United Nations Headquarters Conference Room 7, New York, NY. Conference Side Event Presentation.
  2. “A Rights-Based Approach to Menstrual Hygiene Management: Integrating Water, Sanitation, Health, and Gender Equality to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.” High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, United Nations, 12 July 2018, Offices of the European Union Delegation to the UN, New York, NY. Conference Side Event Presentation.
  3. “Every Child Alive: Ending Preventable Newborn Deaths through Clean, Functional Health Facilities with the Reach of Every Mother and Baby.” High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, United Nations, 16 July 2018, Japan Society, New York, NY. Conference Side Event Presentation.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay under the Creative Commons license