UCLG women mayors and councilors present the Be Counted campaign in New York


A delegation of locally elected women of UCLG is visiting New York to bring their perspectives to the 61st UN Commission on the Status of Women.

On Monday 13 March, in the framework of the CSW delegation, UCLG co-organized the special event “Locally elected women: making the SDGs happen” with UN Women to highlight the relationship between gender equality and local and regional governments. Deputy Secretary General of UCLG, Emilia Saiz, introduced the event by presenting UCLG’s #BeCounted campaign for the development of data to support SDG indicator 5.5.1.

The special event was opened by Mayor of Bangangté and President of the African Network of Locally Elected Women (REFELA), Celestine Ketcha Courtes, calling for gender equality in women’s representation in local government, the objective of the Be Counted campaign.

The progress made by local governments in influencing the global agendas over recent years was reflected by particularly high-level representation of UN officials in this session. There was also diverse attendance by representatives of many of the Major Groups that have partnered with local and regional governments in the SDG and Habitat III processes.

Under Secretary General of the United Nations for communication and public information, Cristina Gallach, welcomed the UCLG delegation to New York, saying that “the SDGs will not be achieved if they are not implemented locally”. A welcome address was also given by Special Adviser for Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, Dessima Williams, who recalled that target 5.5. of the SDGs calls for women's full and effective participation and leadership at all levels, and argued that “"Women's entry into local politics has the potential to influence citizens' lives in many areas". Deputy Director General of UN Habitat, Aida Kirabo Kacyira, highlighted the need for gender-disaggregated data so that no one is left behind at the local level in the 2030 Agenda.

The first roundtable, on localizing SDG 5, was kicked off by the director of the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Navid Hanif, who underlined the increasing role of local governments in designing policies to protect global public goods, and the role of decentralized cooperation in achieving global agendas.  Mayor of Tevragh Zeina, Nouakchott, Fatimetou Abd El Malick pointed out that all global goals are local, as is all gender policy, making SDG 5 particularly crucial for local governments.

In the ensuing debate, President of Metropolis Women and Councilor for feminisms and LGTBI of Barcelona, Laura Pérez, shared Barcelona’s strategy to tackle the feminization of poverty, and called for “a new way to organize care work in society, based on democratic principles”.  In her contribution, Director General of the Women’s Institute of Mexico City, Teresa Incháustegui, called for more direct financing of local governments to tackle gender inequality. A perspective from civil society was provided by International Coordinator of WIEGO, Martha Chen, who said that local governments determine the prospects of informal women workers, who are essential agents in the achievement of the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda.

The second roundtable on gender equality, SDG 11 and the New Urban Agenda was opened by Ana Moreno, from the Habitat III Secretariat, who pointed out that many cities around the world are making strategic plans based on the 2030 Agenda. Representing civil society, President of the General Assembly of Partners (GAP), Eugenie Birch, argued that the issues of culture, public space and economy of the New Urban Agenda all have a gendered nature. Mayor of South Tangerang, Airin Rachmi Diany, said that building a sustainable city and achieving SDG 11 was the top priority for her government. Councilor from Şişli Municipality, Beyhan Seher Aydın, shared how her government is mainstreaming gender into policies on violence, refugees, education, daycare, and ICT. Jane Katz, from Habitat for Humanity International, argued that affordable housing should be priority in the implementation of SDG 11 and the New Urban Agenda and presented Habitat for Humanity’s ‘Solid Ground’ campaign to improve access ot land for 10 million people.


Also on the 13th, UCLG co-organized a CSW side-event with REFELA on Women for sustainable development in Africa, which enjoyed a room packed with a diverse public. This session provided the opportunity for women mayors from Africa and Asia to share their experiences of implementing the SDGs at local level. Celestine Ketcha Courtes highlighted the injustice of women’s under-representation in politics, given that they make up the majority of the population, and called for equal representation in electoral lists to tackle this gap, while Fatimetou Abd El Malick argued that women in Africa need the three Rs: recognition, resources, and redistribution. For her part, Airin Rachmi Diany said that just 24% of council seats in her city are held by women, and shared some of the city’s policy to empower women politically and economically. Marlène van Benthem, from Soroptimist International of Europe, argued that women need to be encouraged to enter traditionally male fields, such as science and technology, as part of the goal of gender equality. Chief Executive and Founder of the Orchid Project, Julia Lalla-Maharajh, highlighted that progress in tackling the practice of female genital cutting, one of the important targets of SDG 5, is primarily happening at community level.