G7 Advisory Committee on Gender Equality discussion Panel and Reception
Nobel Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Melinda Gates and Roberta Jamieson are true advocates for Women's Rights and equality, so it was with no hesitation that I accepted the invitation to hear them speak alongside some of the world's most inspiring human rights' advocates at the G7 Discussion panel on Advancing Women's rights and equality led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
According to Prime Minister Trudeau, the progress on advancing Gender equality remains slow. The road to equality is long and we still have much to do. The G7 is in a unique position to drive this agenda. Networks and capital are harder to obtain for women Entrepreneur. In far too many countries, girls would love to have access to education (to go to school) but are left on the sidelines while their brothers get the gift of education. Growth that works for everyone, gender equality, building a safer world; these things hinge on girl's access to Education. Canada recently announced 180 million dollars for the next Global Partnership for Education replenishment. In order to ensure all kids have the opportunity to go to school, we need a collective global effort to reverse course and on this, Canada will be leading efforts around the G7 table to ensure that Girls access to Education is a key focus and that real progress is made so that girls are not left behind. In the coming weeks, Canada is preparing to make new investments around this goal. The G7 as a collective must make sure that prioritizing girls education is not a one-time thing; but is instead foundational to the work we do and the goals we set together. We want to take our progress to the leaders summer in June, to the G7 in France next year as well as to the Women Deliver Summit next year in Vancouver and beyond. The challenges that we are facing are real. It's a problem that can progress if we don't take measures now. That being said, it is by working together that we can find solutions which will have a concrete impact; that is why Prime Minister Trudeau is very happy to have created the Gender Equality Council, which is an incredible innovative group and the work that is done by this group will be integrated into Canada's Presidency of the G7. Working alongside other women of the Feminist Committee including the W7 has ensured that Gender Equality is integrated at each level and in each theme of the G7. They have given excellent recommendations, engaged in policies development and are ensuring that the conversations taking place include Gender Equality at their very core. The Government of Canada, alongside the Gender Equality Advisory Committee and the W7 is making Gender Equality a specific and horizontal theme that comes up in every subject that the G7 is digging into this year.
The work of this council has already shaped and will continue to shape Canada's vision of an inclusive G7 and a better world for all. A council of this magnitude is a first for the G7 and Canada is proud to be mainstreaming conversations around Gender & Equality and Women's Empowerment. Building on Italy's accomplishments in 2017, it is Prime Minister Trudeau's hope that future Hosts of the G7 will continue the important work that was undertaken together. In fact, Ambassador Isabelle Hudon, Melinda Gates and Prime Minister Trudeau met with President Macron of France to speak about the importance of pursuing this work. They are building the relationships and foundations to see this initiative have a long lasting impact. According to Prime Minister Trudeau, with today's movements such as TIMES UP or METOO, and the many other powerful ones, we are part of a moment where women are raising their voices and demanding to be heard. Activism and changes are often forged in grassroots movements.
Viewing the G7 discussion through a gender lens, will help Canada ensure that our priorities and our policies are inclusive and accountable. After an excellent discussion with the W7 and the G7 Gender Advisory Council, the Prime Minister is confident that with our Minister of Status of Women (which is on its way to become a real department and a full department), Monsef, he is confident that we are building that path forward.
Following the Prime Minister's introduction, the discussion panel took place. This discussion panel included:
- Ambassador Isabelle Hudon – Ambassador of Canada in France - UN Executive Director - Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka - Melinda Gates – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - Indspire Founder, Roberta Jamieson - Nobel Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee
Roberta Jamieson - Founder of Indspire
"The Prime Minister has encouraged us to be bold and is willing to use the G7 Presidency to advance issues that are important to the world. He is not afraid to look inside as well as outside to the country. Although we are in a journey of reconciliation in Canada and it took us 150 years to get into this situation, it won't be changed overnight. It will take a lot of work; serious and sustained investments much of which the Prime Minister has committed to".
Mrs. Jamieson expressed her gratitude towards the Prime Minister stating that he is not afraid to acknowledge that in a first world country like Canada, we have women and girls living in third world conditions. ''If you cannot drink the water, you can't live in your house, you cannot go to school, you have no food to eat... these are real challenges which she doesn't think the world knows about Canada but the Prime Minister is not afraid to expose that!'' That is one of the reasons why she accepted his invitation. Furthermore, for Mrs. Jamieson, the Prime Minister understands the importance of Education and the value of what Indigenous people have given to the world and still can give to the world in terms of knowledge, solutions and answers that can contribute to the betterment of our society (using their traditional knowledge). Education of our own people is important and this Governement seems do get it. Indeed today, statistics show that only 4 out of 10 of our kids living in reserve go out to high school, whereas for the rest of Canada we have 9 out 10 non Indigenous Canadians who reach high school, we have a problem and we know how we will change it: - Investment - But also Education that validates who Indigenous people are ''This country has tried to turn Indigenous people into something else, that has been a colossal failure as we know and now we are proud to step up and with the support of the Prime Minister and his Government we are making strides forward!'' Roberta Jamieson believes that she strongly believes that every issue brought at the G7 concerns women. ''There are no issues that will be discussed at the G7 that are not women issues!''
Following Mrs. Jamieson remarks, Prime Minister Trudeau reiterated the importance of Education and asked the Discussion Panel to share their thoughts around Education.
The Prime Minister also stated that there are multiple women (non-white) who are excluded because of their identities, race and social economic background and it's harder and harder to ensure that we include them. It is important to be able to fold them in. The Prime Minister asked the women of the panel to address the subject of Education as well as the priorities that they are focusing on.
One of the tangible things that will be coming out of this G7 is a considerable effort that will be focused on Education, wither it is the folks that are getting Humanitarian Aid while they are in refugee camps but not getting the education because people think that they might only be in that camp for a year or two; we know that we are talking about decades of displacements for some folks and we cannot miss out on Education, or wither it is areas where culturally or traditionally women are excluded from Educational pathways, or places where the Economic barriers are so great that women fall out the priority in terms of who get access to Education.
Leymah Gbowee – Nobel Prize Laureate
The intervention of Leymah Gbowee was very interesting. According to her, there is no doubt that education is important. It became very clear for her parents that they had to go to school. But they became refugee in Ghana when she was seventeen. Leymah was one of the first students that were given a scholarship to go to nursing school. She refused the offer for two reasons: - While her mother sold vegetables in the camps; her sister had given birth. Leymah started selling donuts to buy milk and food for the baby. The money raised from the donuts allowed her to care for her nephew and her family; therefore, when she was offered this scholarship to go study, the only thought on her mind was “Who is going to take care of my nephew and my family? How are we going to survive financially?” When we decide to discuss education for girls, let it be holistic because there are many issues confronting girls not only in refugee camps but also in communities. As we think any form of education, even as we present this to the G7, let it be as a holistic perspective. We can never look at development from a one-size fit all perspective. Her own personal experience drives her to say “Yes it is important but you cannot separate me from my 8 children or the mothers in this room from their daughter’s well-being”.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka – Executive Director UN WOMEN According to the United Nations Executive director, education is probably one of the closest thing to a silver bullet but by itself, it is a bullet that might not give you the benefits of a silver bullet so as Leymah said it has to be approached in a holistic way. When she thinks of displaced folks (folks in refugee camps), the only thing that they have is rights, even though these rights can be denied or compromised, they can never be taken away from them. The second thing folks have that can never be taken away from them is their education. Education is the one thing that, when people look down upon you, when people despise you, when people racially discriminate against you etc. they can never take away the fact that you have education. It is an important tool to provide to people who are displaced so that when they finally get to a more stable place, they can use this to their advantage.
Melinda Gates – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Her foundation has been incredible active in the area of Education. If a mom is education her baby is twice as likely to live to her or his 5th birthday; and it’s because the education gives that woman her voice, gives her that decision making authority, and gives her the ability to take a higher paying job if she chooses or has the opportunity. Melinda sits with a lot of women around. When she speaks to women around the world, educating her child is the main hope that seems to come out of these conversations. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste!”
In closing remarks, Prime Minister Trudeau stated that he sees this council as an opportunity to create a report and a set of recommendations that is better than the G7. These are extraordinary minds and experiences who come together to speak about what the world needs in order for us to find concrete ideas that will allow us to move forward.
Education took a central place in the conversation that occurred at the G7 Advisory Committee Discussion Panel. The Government seems to have taken measures to ensure that we push a better agenda when it comes to education; that includes funding more initiatives based on education; especially the education of girls and women which is incredibly disproportionate when we compare it to boy’s education.
The holistic approach is extremely important as students from different communities and social background experience incredible barriers at times.
I feel extremely fortunate to have had the privilege to pursue my studies in an institution, the University of Ottawa, that has provided me, in very difficult times (financially and even mentally) with the proper tools to be able to balance my school life with my social and financial obligations. But not every one has this grace.
Let us work together as a global community to find concrete solutions to assist and work with those who desire nothing but to obtain a chance to have access to education while still being able to provide for their loved ones.