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1.3.3: Autonomy and Prosperity of the Vulnerable: Women, Children, Sex Workers
Tuesday, 17/May/2022:
3:30pm - 5:00pm

Chair(s): Justine Pascual,

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‘Leaving no one behind’: roadmap for action – the perspectives of vulnerable women on SDGs priorities for the decade of action

Eunice Annan-Aggrey

University of Western Ontario, Canada

In several local settings, the voices of marginalized groups, especially women, are muted/sidelined in decision making processes. An understanding of what marginalized individuals need and prioritize is however necessary in order to realize the ambition of reaching the most vulnerable. This is because vulnerable individuals experience diverse and dynamic challenges, therefore, strategies that empower them to conduct their own analysis of their reality are critical. This research used qualitative photovoice methodology to provide an opportunity for vulnerable women experiencing intersecting vulnerabilities to reflect on their realities and articulate their most important needs. It examines the perspectives of individuals at risk of being left behind, on what is required to enable them experience greater progress. It answers the principal question: What programs and policies should be prioritized at the local level and beyond for the remaining SDGs timeline? The research aligns with scholarship which suggests that to enact change, “development interventions need to empower the poor to analyze and express their realities and then put that reality first”. This paper therefore highlights the points of convergence of the views of research participants and draws on these themes to propose a roadmap of priority goals for the remaining timeline of the SDGs.

Bodily Autonomy, Inter-relationality and Global Health: Addressing Tensions During and Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jacqueline Potvin

University of Guelph, Canada

In April 2021, The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) released its annual report on the State of the World Population, organized around the theme of Bodily Autonomy. The report outlines the importance of bodily autonomy to women’s empowerment and gender equality, and measures progress towards ensuring bodily autonomy, including in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UNFPA’s adoption of bodily autonomy as a policy concept speaks to the success of feminist advocates working to ensure women’s ability to make decisions about their bodies, sexuality and reproduction are centered in global development and health interventions. Yet the report was also released during a global pandemic that highlights the limitations of bodily autonomy given the inherent inter-relationality of health. Although health has always been inter-relational, the pandemic exemplifies how our capacity to make choices about our bodies are affected not only by policy or social norms, but by the individual and seemingly autonomous choices of those we are in community with, locally and globally. Furthermore, the appropriation of feminist discourses of bodily autonomy, including the slogan of ‘my body, my choice’, by anti-mask and anti-vaccination movements illustrates the dangers of using the concept without unpacking the ways in which our autonomous choices about our bodies affect the bodies of others. This tension, which has always been central to public and global health, becomes all the more urgent in the face of the ongoing pandemic, as well as worsening environmental crises, including climate change.

In this paper, I outline existing critiques of bodily autonomy as an individualizing concept and suggest how we can account for its limitations while maintaining its continued importance. I argue that such nuance is necessary in order to move beyond individualized understandings of health, particularly when addressing global reproductive and sexual health.

Sex Work as Real Work: Strategies for Global Economic Recovery that Includes Sex Workers

Andrea Burke, Deeplina Banerjee

Western University, Canada

Criminalization and lack of income documentation have exacerbated economic vulnerability for racialized, migrant, and queer sex workers. Sex workers are disproportionately bearing the social and economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bringing sex work within a critical framework of decent work, we review existing global mutual aid solutions that advocacy groups are mobilizing and discuss mutual aid's limitations to address financial insecurity. We argue for destigmatizing sex work in policy to enable workers to access resources to facilitate global economic recovery. We propose strategies to ensure policymakers account for women in informal and criminalized economies in the global recovery plan.

The Shadow of the Pandemic with no boarder on the wellbeing of children and women in marginalized social caste groups and communities across six countries in Africa, Central America and Asia

Feleke Tadele Kelkil

Children Believe, Canada

This paper assesses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the well-being of children and women in socially marginalized and vulnerable communities. It analyzes the implications of the shadow pandemic and identifies development policy and practices issues that are critical to address future social development and educational challenges in pursuit of leaving no one behind.

The study was informed by qualitative and quantitative data analysis gathered through survey, key informant interviews and focus groups discussions that engaged over 500 respondents (51% women) across thirty disadvantaged and vulnerable districts in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Nicaragua and Paraguay. In addition, reviews of secondary data sources were used to enrich the information and analysis.

The study revealed that only 17% of the respondents had accesses to some sort of virtual learning and electronic platforms during the lock down as they did not have access to mobile phones, tablets, internet infrastructure or electric power. The majority (60%) of the respondents have reported to have continued their learning through television, radios and Creative Learning Centres (CLC) established by NGOs. About 10% have not continued learning during lockdown at all and majorities of the girls were subjected to forced labor or marriage.

About 50% of the respondents indicated that they or their associates have encountered increased cases of child abuses manifested through sexual abuse, exploitative child labor, child marriage or gender based domestic violence. The study further indicated that the pandemic has affected their livelihoods and led to income losses. In the absence of effective safety nets, some families were forced to borrow cash at exacerbated interest rates, putting themselves in debt traps, which thereby led to risk migration experiences. The revamping of social protection mechanisms, more investment in marginalized communities and state affirmative actions to tribal regions are key policy measures to be taken.

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