Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Devotee Teen Offers Reflections on “Safe Families, Strong Communities” Campaign Themes
By Ila H.   |  Nov 14, 2023

Inspired by the announcement of the upcoming “Safe Families, Strong Communities” campaign from ISKCON’s Vaishnavi Ministry, 15-year-old devotee Ila H. shares her reflection “From the Eyes of Our Youth.”

“Earlier this year, I wrote an essay focused on the role of gender equality in sustainable development; part of this essay was focused on Goal 5 of the “2030 Sustainable Development Agenda” adopted by the United Nations in 2015.

This goal specifically targets gender equality in sustainable development and encompasses nine targets, which include ending discrimination and violence against girls and women internationally, recognizing domestic and unpaid work, promoting shared responsibilities, promoting women in technological, economic, and leadership roles, and more. This goal is used to outline the goals for gender equality and to create specific targets for nations worldwide. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations advocated for Goal 5 as the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected women. To further gender equality, the United Nations developed priorities for their response, which included the reduction of gender-based violence, protection of women and girls under stimulus packages, equality of women in domestic work, promotion of women for work against COVID-19, and advocating for women in data and coordination mechanisms. These priorities reinforced Goal 5 and ensured that COVID-19 does not undo the progress that has been made for gender equality by 2030.

The position paper for the country I represented showed that it is actively participating in the United Nations Voluntary National Review of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The more I worked on this project, the more encouraged I got, knowing that there is a better future for me and girls everywhere. But everywhere is not everywhere unless everyone gets involved.

When I saw the announcement to participate in the “Safe Families, Strong Communities” campaign from the Vaishnavi Ministry (ISKCON), created in response to the “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls” campaign, I thought this could be an opportunity to voice out my thoughts. “UNITE” is a call on citizens and governments to show their support towards ending violence towards women and girls.

Although many countries have implemented a variety of laws and programs, there’s still a lot of work to be done; but we cannot expect others to do it alone. We all need to cooperate by raising awareness on issues that impact society at large.

Women face violence and discrimination in many contexts around the world. In many societies, women face violence at home and in their communities. Women are subject to predators who take advantage of their vulnerability. A lack of protections could be a cause for this, but a lack of enforcement of these protections and support for existing programs is also impeding progress. Societies all around the world need our help to further these programs and protections, and supporting these communities is key.

When looking at gender equality today, the treatment of women who choose to work or those who stay at home is also important to acknowledge.

A prominent trend is seen all around the world, where women who choose to stay at home and focus on domestic work are seen as non-productive members of society and are often treated unfairly, and in many unfortunate cases, they are abused. These women wear many hats (mom, nurse, coach, driver, teacher, cook, cleaner, accountant, etc.) and are important to their families’ wellbeing, working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their work is unpaid and often forgotten about. We must acknowledge their hard work and respect their enormous contribution to society because they are raising tomorrow’s leaders and have an incredible impact on our communities.

On the other hand, some women have to/choose to work outside their homes. Even in first-world countries, women are paid less for working the same job as other men; these women share the same job responsibilities and, in many cases, carry a larger workload. In addition to this, many of these women are still expected to be caregivers for their families and to complete the domestic work.

Does society appreciate these women?

One key practice through which these women can be further supported in their careers and at home is through the promotion of shared responsibilities and by ensuring that these women are respected by other members of their families and communities. Without these, women face a lack of acknowledgment and support.

In other countries, women’s rights aren’t properly protected; some societies don’t see them as important and contributing members of society. Education and opportunities in political and financial areas aren’t available for millions of women and aren’t being made available to them. Although many of these countries have “laws” in place to protect these women, these policies often fail to grant women proper opportunities, and their voices aren’t heard.

I believe that we all can work together to create a safer and better environment for women through the power of education. Educating the girls of today will benefit the women of tomorrow. Every country should integrate more girls into their classrooms and universities. Educating societies all over the world will lead to increased respect, recognition, and support for women. Educating communities about the importance of women’s participation in all aspects, whether political, financial, or technological, will transform societal norms. This will support women in all areas and ensure that they are independent.

We need to create a culture of care and respect. We all belong to one race: the human race. To create this culture, societies must remain strong. How will societies be strong if families are not safe? How can children growing up in environments that ignore domestic violence and the contribution of women develop strong values and be expected to be principled members of society?

We need the full participation of all communities, and we need to be open-minded about these important issues. We need to support the creation of new programs and the programs currently in place. We need to help each other progress. Our youth today have new perspectives on these issues and look to the adults around us to create change and to be our example. To the leaders of today, I say: the adults of tomorrow will thank you for the positive impact you make on the world today.

To learn more about this important campaign, visit their Facebook page, Instagram, and YouTube accounts. Also watch for upcoming details here on ISKCON News.