Why I’m focusing on achieving two Sustainable Development Goals

Dean talks about how he prioritises the Sustainable Development Goals that he feels he can work towards achieving

Written by Dean Murray


The SDGs I am passionate on working to achieve

With seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in existence and each one affecting the other, it is impossible to work on them all by yourself. I am really interested in helping achieve the SDGs, and have decided to prioritise the SDGs that I am either already working on or ones that are linked with my own personal values.

I have decided that the SDGs I want focus on achieving will be good health and well-being, gender equality and reduced inequalities. As I was choosing what ones meant the most to me, I looked at what I was already doing, the different organisations I volunteer with and where my own knowledge and interests were.

The good health and well-being goal was an obvious goal for me to take an interest in, because I have done a lot on mental health already, and still actively do a lot to raise awareness about mental health. I have been part of Ballymun Regional Youth Resource’s mental health month for the past few years. My role has changed from helping to set up the event, to creating spoken word for the event. I also created a short video for it one year. I was part of a 24 hour running festival that took place in Ballymun last year to raise awareness of mental health and to bring together the community. There were two organisers who ran 100 miles in the 24 hours and they were joined by the local community where everyone ran their own distances.

In my personal life, I have open conversations on mental health with friends. These conversations have also occurred at events I’ve attended with SpunOut.ie and the National Youth Council of Ireland. By having the open conversations and not being ashamed to admit that you are not okay, barriers have been broken and stigmas to disappear. It was challenging at first to find like-minded people to talk to about mental health, because it can be a sensitive topic to approach. The advice I would give to someone who would like to have conversations about mental health would be to start a small conversation with close friends or family about emotions that may exist within yourself, or the person you’re talking to. Having these smaller conversations provides the space to do some research, and maybe even have conversations with professionals working within a mental health service.

Gender equality and reduced inequalities would be two issues that come with all the volunteering I do, and also in my studies for becoming a community and youth worker. Working on these issues can be as basic as educating your peers and family on equality issues that are occurring in Ireland. Through volunteering with various youth organisations, I have experienced how each promotes equality differently. The National Youth Council of Ireland and SpunOut.ie enable young people from all backgrounds, cultures and nationalities to come together and discuss different topics, such as equality and mental health, and the impact it has on young people. This has provided me with the opportunity to meet people that I never would have before, and to discuss topics from different perspectives. This has led me to becoming more passionate about promoting equality regardless of what organisation I am working with, as I believe that having a balance of gender and diversity helps to create a better environment. I believe that if I can assist in spreading a similar ethos, then Ireland could begin to experience a reduction in inequalities that will begin with young people.

I work on gender equality by recognising if there is a gender imbalance in anything I am involved with, and challenge the people in charge about why there isn’t more of a gender balance. I have built up this confidence to challenge through my involvement in youth work, and through my studies in Maynooth University. For people who are looking to help create a better gender balance where they are involved, the first step would be to become aware of the space you’re in and the gender representation in the group. If it is the case that one gender is more represented over anothers, question whoever is running the space about why this imbalance is occurring, and how it can be tackled. This can be quite intimidating, especially when you’re new to a space, but where you do feel comfortable, I would recommend that you bring a friend along with you to have the conversation about the gender imbalance.

When looking at the SDGs it can seem overwhelming at first because there are seventeen goals, and each goal has great importance. The way I decided which goals I would help to achieve was by reflecting on what I had experience with already, and which of the goals were close to my heart. I chose good health and well-being because it was where most of my experience was, and mental health would be my biggest passion. Gender equality was then something that has always been of interest to me because I believe in a fair representation of all genders. This was an issue that pushed me out of my comfort zone, because I had no previous experience with it.

I do feel that by having a goal that is within my comfort zone and one that was nowhere close to my comfort zone has really helped my work to achieve the two goals. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone can really help you to learn new things and try new experiences. When choosing which SDGs you would like to work on, I would recommend that you go with one that relates to your previous or current experience. Then your second should be based on an issue you have an interest in, and would like to explore deeper. Personally I would recommend working on only one or two goals as it stays manageable to achieve. I am strongly of the belief that if everyone individually worked on the SDGs, then as a collectively it would help Ireland in achieving them by 2030.

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