I have never healed

Pru's Notebook

I met her at a meeting in Nairobi in 2015, she is bubbly, we stayed in touch through Facebook. When I called out to elite women to share their stories of victory against abuse, she inboxed me admitting that she was not sure whether she had really overcome, I told her to share anyway. She had written something about her experience but never had the guts to share it really and all I needed to do was to review.

Fresh at the university, I met James in March 2011 through my cousin Denis. I was a virgin that knew neither trust nor love.

My trust was leaning on the fact that Denis and I were close.  I held onto the old adage that “Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are” besides my physical eye, I could not see beyond the man that I was attracted…

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Reflecting upon this years’ #16DaysOfActivism (Kenya)

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Ruth Kilimo(left), Natalie Robi (Centre) and Lynn Njoki (right)- Amazing young women, Founders of grassroots organizations-dedicated to serving girls-catching up during a health break at the #Women4Women forum

Despite the recent political environment in Kenya, (The general election, the Supreme Court nullification of presidential election and another fresh presidential election and then the swearing in of the President with sporadic tension in between the events) we managed to pull a meritorious 16 days of activism!

I must say this years theme ‘Leave no one behind’ was just it! Leaving no one behind is universal of the core effective implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. It actually ensures that every citizen in every corner of every community is included in the implementation of the 17 Global goals. It has set the pace and traction to all global, regional and national platforms in achievement of the set out indicators.

I observed and partly engaged in the various activities that took place in Kenya. Individuals, communities, civil societies, development partners all stood up to the call of ‘leaving no one behind’. When you hear of Elders in Laikipia lifting a curse on girls and men they had pronounced bad omen upon for defying FGM, when you hear of female circumcisers declaring that they have stopped performing FGM, when you hear children breaking the silence on Gender Based Violence, what does that tell you?  It actually affirms everyone’s committment to ending violence against girls and women and that we are drawing nigh to a country free from Gender Based Violence (GBV)

As a member of FEMNET, I got invitations to take part in some of the various activities that took place in the country including the Silent Protest-organized by Equality Now, the (Nganya-Safe) safe Matatu campaign (a collaboration between The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) and Equality Now), a wonderful campaign that sought to end sexual harassment in public transport vehicles as well as sensitize users on reporting such incidents.

I also participated in the #Women4women consultative forum in Naivasha on 9th of Dec, a day before the International Human Rights Day. Another amazing collaboration between Kenya Women Judges Association (KWJA), Kenya Women  Medical Association (KWMA) and UNFPA, that provides for a platform meant to contribute directly to improving health and well being of women and girls through enhancement of policy and service delivery. This platform will undertake strategic interventions to empower girls and keep its duty bearers focused on delivering results and improvement in the health well being of girls and women in Kenya.

They say save the best for last! Well, am mentioning this particular activity last because of the emotional roller-coaster I went through while partaking it-The National Dialogue on the Protection of Children Against Sexual and Gender Based Violenceto End  SGBV among children. The event was specifically dedicated to children school-going age. It was a thought provoking and bewildering session when teenage girls asked deep questions that came deep within their hearts.

Here are some of the questions I picked up.

  • Whom do I turn to when violated (my mother, my father-(the perpetrator) my teacher do not believe me)
  • Where do I run to, for I do not have any other place to go?
  • Why do I have to go through sexual abuse? Have I wronged anyone?
  • For how long should I wait to get justice?
  • What to I do when my teacher asks for sex from me in order to pass exams?

They discouraged the idea of solving sexual abuse cases under a tree, settling cases as ordinary family issues for they bear the ultimate physical, social, psychological and economic burden. They demanded for full implementation of the law against their abusers.

Nevertheless, The Nairobi Women Rep Hon. Esther Pasaris was also at the event. She signed up her commitment-promising to work with everyone in the fight to end GBV. Her commitment number one being that she will dedicate a huge chunk of her budget to setting up safe houses within the county -since most of the children especially girls do not have a place to go when running away from their abusers.

Similarly, council of elders, religious leaders, government bodies all committed to fully concerting efforts towards elimination of SGBV.

According to Gender Violence and Recovery Centre, (GVRC) the youngest girl to have undergone sexual abuse is 1 month the oldest being 105 years. The hospital averagely receives about 20 cases of rape, defilement and sodomy every day! Shocking statics indeed!

A separate report from the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) indicates that the Government loses 44percent of its total GDP in handling GBV treatment. This is a cost we can no longer ignore.

Lets us not relent. More work needs to be done!

Anita Nderu Advocates for Safe PSV Rides in Kenya

 

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An Embassa Sacco Bus plastered with a sticker displaying a hotline number

(40beba! 40bebaWa haraka beba, wa haraka ingia!

Wawili wa Embakasi , wa haraka twende!) Touts calling out.
Continuous hooting, engine roaring, dust and exhaust fumes flaring as busy pedestrians dart in between the reckless vehicles.

Careful! warns a pedestrian next to me as a Boda Boda operator narrowly misses smashing through me in lightening speed!

Well, these are some of the sounds and scenes we encountered on the 12th day of the #16DaysOfActivism as we launched a campaign to end sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) within public transport vehicles in Kenya- at Nairobi’s Accra Rd.

While chit-chatting with the public present at the Embassava Bus Terminus, it emerged that it is a common trend and that almost every female has experienced some form of violence-Be it Physical, verbal or sexual abuse- while using public transport vehicles in Nairobi and other cities across the country.

In November this year, a matatu driver raped two passengers in separate attacks in Nakuru,including a 15 year old girl. In a separate recent incident that took place in Molo, a driver ‘regularly raped his passengers’. These are just few of the the many cases in which women and girls have been sexually assaulted while using public transport vehicles. Apparently, many  other incidents go unreported because again Kenya does not have a database dedicated to dealing with instances of SGBV on public transport meaning victims do not get assistance as they ought to!

It is for this reason that Equality Now, The National Safety and Transport Authority (NTSA) together with a number of Civil society organizations (FEMNET,FIDA-Kenya, KELIN, FLONE) launched a campaign dubbed ‘Nyanga Safe’ (Safe Matatu for women and girls).

The meritorious campaign launched on 6th December 2017 was meant to raise awareness about sexual gender based violence in public vehicles and encourage women and girls to speak out. The campaign was also meant to push for severe action available in the law to those found culpable.

Similarly a hotline (0709932000) and a google play store App by NTSA dedicated to handling such offenses was also availed to passengers.

Addressing the media, Equality Nows’ Office Director Faiza Mohamed urged women and girls across Kenya to be aware that they have support of the relevant institutions including NTSA. She encouraged them to speak up and speak out against the shameless perpetrators. She further acknowledged that the partnerniship will in the long run birth a special gender desk at police station which will be dedicated to handling cases of Gender Based Violence in PSVs.

Also present at the event was a renown TV and Radio personality, Anita Nderu. Anita is one among the thousands of girls and women who have experienced sexual assault while riding in the public service vehicles.

In unflinching courage, Anita, impeccably dressed strutted from her workplace at Lonrho House, Capital FM to Accra Rd (Down town) to speak to public service operators and the general public as well as share her story with the media at the press briefing and take part in the great campaign.

Anita’s Experience;

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Anita Nderu displaying a sticker with a message against lexical harassment in PSVs

‘ My boob was groped while traveling in a bus’ Said the 27 year old Anita.

Tears crept in her eyes…. she paused for seconds, and finally gathered courage and continued narrating her ordeal. ‘The man did not stop! In fact when I confronted him he said we have boobs so that we can be touched!’ To her dismay, when she informed the conductor, he senselessly said to her that there is nothing he could do!

Anita who has shared her story on wider platforms such as BBC called out on women to courageously speak out about violence in public spaces because by keeping quiet they are empowering the perpetrators.
The Hope

“The existence of Public Transport Saccos has been a major step in managing discipline among Matatu operators.” Said Mr. Hared Hassan, Deputy Director Head and Enforcement NTSA. Speaking to the media, Mr. Hassan pointed out that while there is a code of conduct guiding Matatu operators,his department is committed to ensuring that there is safety in public transport vehicles and that passengers are respected. He additionally called for tougher disciplinary measures for anyone that would be found violating girls and women.

In June this year, a pump attendant, a driver and his conductor were sentenced to 25 years each for sexually assaulting their female passenger. The conviction was celebrated by the public who saw the verdict as ‘a strong message to those with similar manners’

While there exist various challenges towards achieving a society free from Sexual and Gender Based Violence, such commitment by various key institutions indeed give hope to a better society in the near future

Anita Nderu advocates for Safe PSV Rides in Kenya

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An Embassava bus plastered with a sticker showing a hotline number dedicated to reporting cases of SGBV in PSVs

40beba! 40beba

Wa haraka beba, wa haraka ingia!

Wawili wa Embakasi , wa haraka twende!

(Unable to translate for non-Swahili speakers)
Puh puh puh (Loud sound of matatu being hit by a palm)
Continuous hooting, engine roaring, dust and exhaust fumes flaring as busy pedestrians dart in between the reckless matatus.

Careful! warns a pedestrian next to me as a Boda Boda operator narrowly misses smashing through me in lightening speed!

Well, these are some of the sounds and scenes we encountered on the 13th day of the #16DaysOfActivism as we launched a campaign to end sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) within public transport vehicles in Kenya- at Nairobi’s Accra Rd.

While chitchatting with the public present at the Embassava Bus Terminus, it emerged that it is a common trend and that almost every female has experienced some form of violence-Be it Physical, verbal or sexual abuse- while using public transport in Nairobi and other cities across the country.

In November this year, a matatu driver raped two passengers in separate attacks in Nakuru,including a 15 year old girl. In a separate recent incident that took place in Molo, a driver ‘regularly raped his passengers’. This are just few of the the many cases in which women and girls have been sexually assaulted on public transport vehicles. Apparently, many of other incidents go unreported because again Kenya does not have a database dedicated to dealing with instances of SGBV on public transport meaning victims do not get assistance as they ought to!

It is for this reason that Equality Now, The National Safety and Transport Authority (NTSA) together with a number of Civil society organizations (FEMNET,FIDA-Kenya, KELIN, FLONE) launched a campaign dubbed ‘Nyanga Safe’ (Safe Matatu for women and girls).

The meritorious campaign launched on 6th December 2017 was meant to raise awareness about sexual gender based violence in public vehicles and encourage women and girls to speak out. The campaign was also meant to push for severe action available in the law to those found culpable.

Similarly a hotline (0709932000) and a google play store App by NTSA dedicated to handling such offenses was also availed to passengers.

Addressing the media, Equality Nows’ Office Director Faiza Mohamed urged women and girls across Kenya to be aware that they have support of the relevant institutions including NTSA. She encouraged them to speak up and speak out against the shameless perpetrators. She further acknowledged that the partnerniship will in the long run birth a special gender desk at police station which will be dedicated to handling cases of Gender Based Violence in PSVs.

Also present at the event was a renown TV and Radio personality, Anita Nderu. Anita is one among the thousands of girls and women who have experienced sexual assault while riding in the public service vehicles.

In unflinching courage, Anita, impeccably dressed strutted from her workplace at Lonrho House, Capital FM to Accra Rd (Down town) to speak to public service operators and the general public as well as share her story with the media at the press briefing.

Anita’s Encounter;

image
Anita Nderu poses with one of the stickers displaying messages against SGBV in public transport vehicles

‘ My boob was groped while traveling in a bus’ Said the 27 year old Anita.

Tears creeping in her eyes…. she pauses for seconds, and finally gathers courage to continue narrating her ordeal. ‘The man did not stop! In fact when I confronted him he said we have boobs so that we can be touched!’ To her dismay, when she informed the conductor, he senselessly said to her that there is nothing he could do!

Anita who has shared her story on wider platforms such as BBC called out on women to courageously speak out about violence in public spaces because by keeping quiet they are literally empowering the perpetrators.
The Hope

“The existence of Public Transport Saccos has been a major step in managing discipline among Matatu operators.” Said Mr. Hared Hassan, Deputy Director Head and Enforcement NTSA. Speaking to the media, Mr. Hassan pointed out that while there is a code of conduct guiding Matatu operators,his department is committed to ensuring that there is safety in public transport vehicles and that passengers are respected. He additionally called for tougher disciplinary measures for anyone that would be found violating girls and women.

In June this year, a pump attendant, a driver and his conductor were sentenced to 25 years each for sexually assaulting their female passenger. The conviction was celebrated by the public who saw the verdict as ‘a strong message to those with similar manners’

While there exist various challenges towards achieving a society free from Sexual and Gender Based Violence, such commitment by various key institutions indeed give hope to a better society in the near future

Anita Nderu advocates for safe PSV Rides in Kenya.

image.jpeg
An Embassava bus plastered with a sticker with a hotline number dedicated to reporting cases of SGBV in PSVs

40beba! 40beba

Wa haraka beba, wa haraka ingia!

Wawili wa Embakasi , wa haraka twende!

(Unable to translate for non-Swahili speakers)
Puh puh puh (Loud sound of matatu being hit by a palm)
Continuous hooting, engine roaring, dust and exhaust fumes flaring as busy pedestrians dart in between the reckless matatus.

Careful! warns a pedestrian next to me as a Boda Boda operator narrowly misses smashing through me in lightening speed!

Well, these are some of the sounds and scenes we encountered on the 13th day of the #16DaysOfActivism as we launched a campaign to end sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) within public transport vehicles in Kenya- at Nairobi’s Accra Rd.

While chitchatting with the public present at the Embassava Bus Terminus, it emerged that it is a common trend and that almost every female has experienced some form of violence-Be it Physical, verbal or sexual abuse- while using public transport in Nairobi and other cities across the country.

In November this year, a matatu driver raped two passengers in separate attacks in Nakuru,including a 15 year old girl. In a separate recent incident that took place in Molo, a driver ‘regularly raped his passengers’. This are just few of the the many cases in which women and girls have been sexually assaulted on public transport vehicles. Apparently, many of other incidents go unreported because again Kenya does not have a database dedicated to dealing with instances of SGBV on public transport meaning victims do not get assistance as they ought to!

It is for this reason that Equality Now, The National Safety and Transport Authority (NTSA) together with a number of Civil society organizations (FEMNET,FIDA-Kenya, KELIN, FLONE) launched a campaign dubbed ‘Nyanga Safe’ (Safe Matatu for women and girls).

The meritorious campaign launched on 6th December 2017 was meant to raise awareness about sexual gender based violence in public vehicles and encourage women and girls to speak out. The campaign was also meant to push for severe action available in the law to those found culpable.

Similarly a hotline (0709932000) and a google play store App by NTSA dedicated to handling such offenses was also availed to passengers.

Addressing the media, Equality Nows’ Office Director Faiza Mohamed urged women and girls across Kenya to be aware that they have support of the relevant institutions including NTSA. She encouraged them to speak up and speak out against the shameless perpetrators. She further acknowledged that the partnerniship will in the long run birth a special gender desk at police station which will be dedicated to handling cases of Gender Based Violence in PSVs.

Also present at the event was a renown TV and Radio personality, Anita Nderu. Anita is one among the thousands of girls and women who have experienced sexual assault while riding in the public service vehicles.

In unflinching courage, Anita, impeccably dressed strutted from her workplace at Lonrho House, Capital FM to Accra Rd (Down town) to speak to public service operators and the general public as well as share her story with the media at the press briefing.

Anita’s Encounter;

image.jpeg
Anita Nderu poses with one of the stickers displaying messages against SGBV in public transport vehicles

‘ My boob was groped while traveling in a bus’ Said the 27 year old Anita.

Tears creeping in her eyes…. she pauses for seconds, and finally gathers courage to continue narrating her ordeal. ‘The man did not stop! In fact when I confronted him he said we have boobs so that we can be touched!’ To her dismay, when she informed the conductor, he senselessly said to her that there is nothing he could do!

Anita who has shared her story on wider platforms such as BBC called out on women to courageously speak out about violence in public spaces because by keeping quiet they are literally empowering the perpetrators.
The Hope

“The existence of Public Transport Saccos has been a major step in managing discipline among Matatu operators.” Said Mr. Hared Hassan, Deputy Director Head and Enforcement NTSA. Speaking to the media, Mr. Hassan pointed out that while there is a code of conduct guiding Matatu operators,his department is committed to ensuring that there is safety in public transport vehicles and that passengers are respected. He additionally called for tougher disciplinary measures for anyone that would be found violating girls and women.

In June this year, a pump attendant, a driver and his conductor were sentenced to 25 years each for sexually assaulting their female passenger. The conviction was celebrated by the public who saw the verdict as ‘a strong message to those with similar manners’

While there exist various challenges towards achieving a society free from Sexual and Gender Based Violence, such commitment by various key institutions indeed give hope to a better society in the near future

The Ultimate Price of FGM

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A Maasai girl enjoying a good time with a newly born goat

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation, torture and an extreme form of violence and discrimination against girls and women-There is no subtle way to describe it!

Sadly, according to World Health Organization (WHO), more than 200 million girls and women GLOBALLY have undergone FGM, worse still, if current trends continue 15 million girls (between ages 15-19) are at risk of undergoing FGM by 2030. In addition, there are numerous documented cases of girls dying each year due to complications arising from FGM but substantial is difficult to come by.

Contrary to popular belief that FGM is ‘a cultural issue”, in reality, it has socio-economic consequences which impacts on the health, education, livelihoods and general well-being of girls and women. In the course of my activism as well as journalism in Kenya, I have come face to face with the impact of FGM on girls and women among the various communities that still perpetuate the practice.

FGM has been deemed to ‘benefit’ girls and women by ensuring chastity and cleanliness as well as a rite of passage in actual sense it is a perpetuation of misogyny, vicious and violent expressions of patriarchy and sexism that lead to the psychological and physical abuse of women.

Without exception, young girls and women carry the economic burden of FGM since the practice denies them an opportunity to access education thus limiting their chances of being economically productive. Moreover lack of education hinders girls from securing formal employment and limits the nature of livelihood activities they can engage in.

Another issue underpinning the continuation of FGM is the equation of girls to commodities. For instance among the Rendile, Pokot and Maasai (pastoralist) communities in Kenya, it is common practice to trade off girls as dowry and as way of replacing livestock lost during drought or through rustling.  As a result, a girl’s education and future is sacrificed at the expense of her father’s quest for wealth.

By the same token, it is well known that circumcisers, often older ladies, have continued the practice not because of their ‘strong’ belief in culture but purely as a means of eking a living out of innocent girls.  For instance, a year ago, a renowned but now reformed cutter, confessed during an interview with me, that she had made so much money out of her business, spanning 30 years. She boasted of having built a permanent house; one of the best in the village. Unfortunately this wealth has been accumulated against a backdrop of over 5000 girls cut- most of whom eventually dropped out of school and are married off at young ages. (https://andisilorna.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/the-chief-ex-cutters-diary-why-i-dropped-the-knife/)

The practice of FGM is also perpetuated by social institutions in practicing communities. In this regard, local level authorities, charged with the responsibility of arresting FGM perpetrators are routinely bribed. One such revelation, from a Chief I interviewed, who confessed of having made ‘a few’ coins of the practice. In deed it emerged that it is common practice for cutters, parents and community elders to bribe chiefs and police to shield them especially during the cutting ceremonies. Additionally, it has been widely documented that most perpetrators walk out of cells scot free for lack of sufficient evidence to support prosecution. In most instances, politicians have been known to interfere with criminal cases by bribing officials who in turn release the perpetrators by slapping a mild cash bail after which most cases fade away.

Lastly, and on a disappointing note, I have heard of individuals purporting to run grassroots organizations that advocate against the practice yet they are a sham. They have no real intentions of ending the practice and only use their organizations as a conduit to make money out of the poor girls!

Should I also mention schemes by dorner organizations that fake reports to earn donations -that purpose to save these girls but end up misusing the funds? I will leave that to Graham Hancock- Author Lords of Poverty.

Sounds like a scheme right? But the reality for far too many girls and women in Kenya and around the world . Women and girls continue to pay the price of FGM and the price remains way too high!

But then who therefore pays the ultimate price of FGM. I guess you now have th

 

Also published at Girls Globe

 

 

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The reality of Child/Forced Marriage; Amina Opts for Suicide than Forced Marriage,

amina
speaking to Amina at her home in Musenke, Magadi.

Few weeks ago, while at Musenke primary school, I got a chance to interact and mentor about three hundred girls who were undergoing an Alternative Rites of Passage commonly known as ARPs, a program by AMREF Health Africa. My visit to Musenke brought me nigh to the reality of child/forced marriage.

Amina*, 14 years old narrowly escaped forced marriage to a 45 year old man. Amina was only 12 years old. Her close friend, Naserian*, 15 years escaped jaws of Female Genital Cutting and subsequent marriage at the age of 9.

Amina’s charming smile caught my attention. I instantly fell in love with her confidence coupled with her intelligence. On interacting with her, her smile proved to conceal distress that she underwent two years ago. With consent from AMREF Health Africa and Amina’s main guardian, I got a chance to interview her.

2013, Amina sat for her primary school final exams and emerged best girl from her class and district as well. She desired to join a secondary school to pursue her dream of becoming a Television Anchor. Her dreams were almost shuttered when her impoverished father secretly arranged her marriage to a man four times her age.

She got a wind of the planned marriage through her brother who eavesdropped to a conversation between his father and a neighbor. Amina was to be traded in the following day for a few cows that were to be sold to raise money for his elder brother’s school fee. (Amina’s mother passed on three years ago).

That night, Amina was unable to sleep. It was about midnight, she had few hours remaining to become a child bride, a wife with new responsibilities that she could not imagine herself performing! She instantaneously planned her escape.

She tiptoed across the room, careful not to wake up any soul. Cautiously, she opened the door, closed it silently and took off at a ‘leopard’s speed’.  She waved through thorny bushes oblivious of the danger she was putting herself through (here, wild animals are known to hunt for goats at this hour), the orchestra of the chirping insects giving her rhythm to sprint even faster. The breezy full moon night supplying her with just enough light to easily locate her elder half-sister’ house, which was about 5 Km away.

In roughly 20 minutes, she arrived, flinging her door wide open. She landed on the floor with a huge thud panting, sweating and slightly bleeding from body parts that had been pricked by thorns. Her sister woke up with a loud piercing scream. Amina quickly identified herself; Through gasps, she narrated her tribulation.

Her loving sister was very concerned. She happened to be an elementary school teacher at the same school that Amina attended. The following morning, she reported the matter to the schools’ management and what followed was a series of demonstrations and marches by her schoolmates and teachers. They marched to various offices including the Area Chief, Police Station, District Education Office, and Provincial Administration demanding for immediate action to be taken to spare Amina from the imminent arranged marriage.

Amina’s father was quite belligerent citing that his decision was final. He located her, went for her, dragged her and locked her in the house. He threatened that he would harm her and curse her if she attempted to escape again.

Activities in Musenke village came to a stand-still for three consecutive days. During the day, women could be seen gathering in small groups and talking in low tones. Men left the village in pretense of search for pasture for their livestock. School children tirelessly sang and chanted ‘No Marriage for Amina!, No marriage for Amina!’ At this time, Amina was drafting her suicide note.

Just before Amina could take away her life, the police stormed her house and rescued her. Her unmoved father was arrested and remanded for a few days. Amina was now running late to join secondary school. Luckily she was awarded a full bursary though a community development fund program. She was enrolled to Kiserian Girls High School. She is currently in form two pursuing her dream.

Amina has never stepped back home except when the Nation Television crew and I was conducting this interview. When schools close, she stays at her sisters’ place.

She graduated from the ARP program, a training program that helped her transition to adulthood without undergoing FGM. Amina is so far safe from FGM and Child Marriage.

Her friend Naserian ran away from home and sought refuge at a rescue centre in Narok, miles away from Musenke. Her parents are yet to find her.

Amina and Naserian represent a fraction of thousands of girls in Kenya who are at high risk of undergoing FGM and early/forced marriage; cultures that are robbing them off their dreams.

Abandonment of child marriages and FGM is pertinent to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Goals on education, Health, ending poverty and hunger as well as achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls.