We Heart: These Seven Feminist Efforts to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030

United Nations Conference GA 74 SDG 2030 by Lisa Niver
United Nations Conference GA 74 SDG 2030 by Lisa Niver

Starting in 1990, The United Nations established eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—measurable, universally-agreed objectives for tackling extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly diseases, preserving biodiversity and expanding primary education to all children.

By 2015, the global community had worked hard to make good on those commitments. More than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. Child mortality dropped by more than half, as has the number of out of school children. HIV/AIDS infections fell by almost 40 percent.

But those MDG targets got us “halfway there”—and in 2015, 193 nations agreed to adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to “finish the job” by 2030. The five critically important focus areas are people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership—with a need to tackle growing inequalities, empower women and girls and address the climate emergency.

Sustainable Developmental Goals Zone at UN Conference, Photo by Lisa Niver
Sustainable Developmental Goals Zone at UN Conference, Photo by Lisa Niver

UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon called SDG 2030 “a roadmap to ending global poverty, building a life of dignity for all and leaving no one behind. It is also a clarion call to work in partnership and intensify efforts to share prosperity, empower people’s livelihoods, ensure peace and heal our planet for the benefit of this and future generations.” 

At the United Nations General Assembly 74 conference and the Gates Foundation Goalkeepers Conference in New York City, advocates came together to assess progress on the SDG 2030 goals—and celebrate success stories like those made possibly by the following seven programs.

“Ahlan Simsim”

There are over 31 million displaced refugee children who have lost family members, their homes, endured trauma and have no access to quality early learning. At Sesame Street, with support from the MacArthur Foundation and the LEGO Foundation, and working with International Rescue Committee (IRC), they created “Ahlan Simsim” specifically as a tool for the child and a catalyst for the adult affected by the Syrian conflict.

The show—“Welcome Sesame” in Arabic—is a brand new Arabic-language Sesame Street program designed to bring a playful learning experience to children across the Middle East and especially Syrian Refugees. It will be available in classrooms, health clinics and mobile devices to teach emotional skills and restore hope to these children in crisis. 

The stars, Basma and Jad, are not-quite-six-year-old purple-furred Muppet monsters who jump headfirst into new experiences. (I even got to meet Basma at the United Nations GA 74!) You can sign up for their humanitarian programs newsletter, donate to assist in their work and share the excitement for new programs being available to children in need.

The Rumie Initiative

Over half of the 1.8 billion school-aged children in the world lack access to a quality education and relevant, up-to-date learning resources. The Rumie Initiative takes the best learning content available online to remote, offline, and resource-constrained communities. The idea is to make e-learning accessible and supplement face-to-face traditional teaching methods, which are too often limited or even unavailable in remote and rural areas, with technology-based learning. The Rumie Solution has been implemented in partnership with local NGO’s in 29 countries and has impacted over 40,000 learners from preschoolers to secondary school students and even senior citizens. Through the Rumie LearnCloud, we can all empower learners around the world, without even leaving our homes. Everyone with a computer can participate by helping to build the LearnCloud’s crowdsourced collections of online learning materials.


This Israel-based international non-governmental organization has worked in emergency and long-term development settings in 51 countries since 2001. They partner with local communities around the world to provide urgent aid, assist recovery and reduce the risk of future disasters.

In 2018, teams responded to nine emergencies around the world, from flooding in south India to a volcanic eruption in Guatemala, hurricanes in the U.S. to an earthquake in Indonesia, providing 68,500 people with direct support to recover and restart—and IsraAID was awarded the National Integration Prize by German Chancellor Angela Merkel for their work with refugees.

You can participate by bringing IsraAID to your community through speaking and educational programming, joining IsraAID’s Professional and Volunteer networks, and/or by donating (one simple way to donate is by texting “IsraAID” to “44321”).


According to the World Health Organization, “people with disabilities are among the most marginalized groups in the world.” There are over one billion people living with some form of disability.  

Tiffany Yu, Lisa Niver and Kristina Lutz at the
Gates Foundation Goalkeepers Conference at Lincoln Center

Tiffany Yu is currently 2019 California Miss Amazing Queen, serving as an ambassador for women & girls with disabilities, as well as the founder of both Diversability and the Disability chapter of Awesome Foundation.

You can sponsor a micro-grant at Awesome foundation or join an outing with diversability and change your corner of the world.

The Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy

Kristina Lunz, co-founder of CFFP, explained that “feminist foreign policy is a framework which elevates the everyday lived experience of marginalized communities to the forefront and provides a broader and deeper analysis of global issues. There won’t be peace without feminism because research shows that the most significant factor towards whether a country is peaceful (SDG 16) within its borders or towards other countries is the level of gender equality (SDG 5) in a country.” Join her in their work to change the hierarchical global systems of power that have left millions of people in a perpetual state of vulnerability. 

The Other Bar

Who came up with the great idea of promoting 50/50 value distribution and fighting deforestation by eating great chocolate? The answer is the FairChain Foundation, a Dutch organization which partnered with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to offer high quality, organic Ecuadorian chocolate (72 percent cacao, for the dark) and allow you to track where your chocolate came from and return some of the profit to the farmer who grew it. Each bar has what’s called a blockchain token inside that you can redeem to help a farmer buy more cocoa trees and you can see the exact GPS location of the cocoa tree your token buys.

Ten farmers are participating in the pilot project and 27,000 chocolate bars have been produced. If we can eat all that chocolate and invest those tokens, as many as 6.075 new cacao trees could be planted! This experiment in “Radical Equality” is equal value distribution between country of origin which produces the chocolate and country of consumption to reduce poverty. You can help even more by buying chocolate and making sure the farmers get more trees!

Clean the World Challenge

Hilton Hotels is marking their 100th anniversary by committing to cut their environmental footprint in half and double their investment in social impact projects by 2030—and as part of the Clean the World Challenge, they made a goal to collect bars of soap left behind by guests to be recycled into 2 million bars of new soap by Global Handwashing Day on Oct 15, 2020.

Clean the World Foundation, the world’s largest non-profit organization to recycle discarded hotel soap, will distribute the recycled soap to communities in need in 127 countries around the globe.

2 million bars of partially used hotel soap are thrown away every day in the United States. Because of Hilton’s contribution, 7.6 million bars of recycled soap have been distributed to communities in need across 127 countries over the past 10 years—diverting 2,274,303 pounds of soap and amenity bottle waste from landfills while reducing the death rate of children under the age of five dying due to hygiene-related illnesses by 60 percent and helping 180 people wash their hands.

The SDGs are universal goals focused on our urgent environmental, political and economic challenges. Each nation and each person can help make these goals a reality to build a more sustainable, safer, more prosperous planet for all humanity. What will you do to help us achieve the 17 SDGs by 2030?


Lisa Niver is the author of Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty and an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. She has articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site We Said Go Travel. For her print, podcast, digital and broadcast segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist 22 times. Niver is also the host of the award-nominated podcast Make Your Own Map.