The Women Deliver 2019 conference in Vancouver two weeks ago marked a moment, amidst a movement, as we work towards a future of true equity for women and girls.
Billed as “the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights and well-being of girls and women in the 21st century,” Women Deliver brought more than 8,500 participants from 165 countries to Vancouver from June 3 to 6. The goal? For decision makers at all levels, and across all sectors, to publicly announce their commitment to moving the needle on gender equality. The conversations were urgent, illuminating — often difficult — and deeply inspiring.
To drive Canadian leadership, the Women Deliver Mobilization was formed nearly two years ago. Co-chaired by Genesa Greening, president and CEO of B.C. Women’s Health Foundation and Cassandra Hallet, secretary general of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the goal of the mobilization is to ensure that all Canadians are engaged, and that lasting change emerges from the conference in three key areas: Gender-responsive health systems and services, gender-based violence and women’s economic empowerment and equal opportunity.
With Women Deliver freshly concluded, how successful were we in reaching our goals?
On the eve of Women Deliver, the federal government announced new ways to support gender equality at home and abroad. First, by launching the Equality Fund, which brings the granting, philanthropic and investment worlds together to mobilize unprecedented levels of resources for women’s rights organizations in developing countries.
Next, with the Thrive Agenda, Ottawa increased its commitment to maternal and newborn health, including $700 million for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Canada is now the world’s biggest contributor to sexual health globally. With a potential return of $20 for every dollar invested in women’s and adolescent health, the impact will be staggering.
On June 4, we also stood together to declare a $10-million federal investment toward national cervical cancer research, with a $10-million matching commitment by B.C. Women’s Health Foundation. Announced one day after the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released, this investment was grounded in the knowledge that cervical cancer rates for Indigenous women are 92 per cent higher than non-Indigenous women. We must — and will — do better. That is why in response to the inquiry’s final report, the federal government has committed to an action plan to address gender-based violence against Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ and two-spirit people.
On June 5, the federal government announced an investment of up to $750,000 in Feminists Deliver, a grassroots collaboration of B.C.-based self-identified women, girls, non-binary and two-spirit people and the organizations that support them. This funding will ensure that they can continue driving real progress for B.C. women by promoting a feminist, intersectional approach to advancing gender equity and sharing best practices.
With these commitments in place, Canada has created a legacy for gender equity at home and abroad. But as women’s hard-fought rights continue to be eroded around the world, we are reminded to never be complacent in our efforts. The fight for equity isn’t over.
As Canadians, we can celebrate our achievements, but we must also reaffirm our commitment to push back against the push back and keep progress moving forward. We all have a responsibility to shift how people perceive and act on gender equity, and Women Deliver is only the beginning.
Maryam Monsef is Canada’s Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality. Genesa Greening is president and CEO of the B.C. Women’s Health Foundation and co-chair of Women Deliver Mobilization Canada.
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