10% of the world’s population still lives in extreme poverty, and these 700 million people can struggle to meet the most basic needs like health, education and access to water and sanitation. Worldwide, you are three times more likely to be poor if you live in the countryside than if you live in a town or city. There are many reasons for this, but they include unemployment, social exclusion, and being more vulnerable to disasters and diseases.
The United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide a global blueprint to put this right. They cover a range of ambitions for ‘fair globalization’, from reducing poverty and inequality, to justice and education.
On United Nations Day, focusing on the Sustainable Development goals means that we can bring change to communities in Nepal and other countries. Around the world, three in ten people do not have safe drinking water and six in ten do not have safe toilet facilities so goal number six: clean water and sanitation, is a particular focus for us.
In Nepal, access to these things were badly affected by the 2015 earthquakes. In Gorkha and Makwanpur volunteers are helping people in rural communities to diversify their agriculture and gain a more sustainable income by building polytunnels the communities can farm vegetables all year round; as they can earn more for tomatoes grown out of season than in peak season. Volunteers also work alongside local communities to install safe washing and toilet facilities. Young people also work with project partners to conduct sessions about climate change, as well as sessions on the importance of hygiene and menstrual hygiene management.
During 2018 volunteers in Nepal installed 267 handwashing stations, set up 26 safe drinking water systems and built 95 toilet blocks or other safe sanitation structures. They also trained local communities to wash their hands well, purify water and manage their household waste. Young people in those communities are agents of change, empowering communities to keep up their good hygiene long after the Raleigh volunteers have gone.
Volunteer Project Manager Jo Kearsley is currently working with a community in Nepal’s Gorkha region: “The goals set out by the UN define an understanding of the route to adopt best practice while helping others. The most important of these is education for everyone because it allows all the other goals to be fulfilled in a sustainable way, without intervention.”
But global challenges such as climate change, conflict and persistent inequality mean the UN’s high-reaching aims are in danger of being missed. At the UN’s first ever Sustainable Development Goals summit in New York last month, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “we must step up our efforts and we must do it now.”
We believe that young people are the most important resource in the world, with the energy, optimism and creativity to make change happen.
Nepal Country Director, Dr. Brent Downes says young people are crucial: “Until now there hasn’t been a global consensus about what sustainable development looks like. We believe that without young people a level of social redesign on this global scale is not possible. We must involve young people because this change must go over multiple generations.
It’s an international conversation about, what it means to develop of civilization, not just in developing countries but in developed countries too, and as a global society.”
Other goals we are meeting through Raleigh’s work include goal one: zero poverty, goal eight: decent work and economic growth and goal 13: urgent action on climate change.
“We need to make a difference where it matters, in people’s lives,” Guterres told the UN summit. Which is exactly where change is happening in Nepal, thanks to the efforts of Raleigh’s volunteers, partners and communities.
Text by Ursula Turner
Info-graphic by Feride Seferaj