A feminist approach to Canada’s global efforts
Earlier this June, Canada’s new international assistance policy was unveiled. A feminist approach to development, this announcement enshrines Canada’s commitment to the empowerment of women and girls and the advancement of gender equality for all.
This policy is deeply rooted in the belief that the empowerment of women and girls is “the most effective approach for Canada to reduce poverty and to build a more inclusive, peaceful and prosperous world.” We wholeheartedly agree. And we applaud Canada’s leadership in placing women and girls at the centre of its global development efforts.
Through a feminist lens, the policy revolves around six key action areas:
- Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls
- Human dignity
- Growth that works for everyone
- Environment and climate action
- Inclusive governance
- Peace and security
How does Canada’s new international assistance policy align with YOUR vision?
This policy is in part the result of an intensive review process, led by the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau. The review process engaged individuals across the country and around the world to weigh in on Canada’s greatest strengths and top priorities for global development.
Last summer, we invited you to participate in the review consultations and engaged you through #WUSCEUMC2030 to share your vision for Canada’s role in global development.
Four key themes emerged from within our network: youth, education, employment, and inclusion. These themes were highlighted in our official submission to Global Affairs Canada. We are pleased to also see all four of these themes represented in Canada’s new policy. Here’s how:
The new policy builds upon Canada’s experience “[ensuring] safe and secure futures for children and youth.” It clearly places women and youth – particularly girls – at the heart of its development efforts.
The policy recognizes adolescence as a critical period in one’s life, when many youth form beliefs and opinions that are held for the rest of their life. It also recognizes the unique vulnerability many young men and women face at this age and the ways in which global crises are impacting youth at alarming rates.
Most importantly, however, the policy recognizes youth as “an impressive force for change, innovation and development.” We could not agree more.
Education appears as a sub-theme under the action area on Human Dignity. The policy recognizes the many barriers that girls in particular face to accessing quality education. It also recognizes the exponential impact of investing in girls’ education.
Activities under education include advocating for girls’ education; creating girl-friendly school environments; and providing opportunities to those who have missed out on the opportunity to complete their education.
Less evident in the policy is a commitment to higher education and education for refugees, two important priorities that surfaced from our network consultations.
WUSC believes that education systems urgently require significant reinvestment so that girls and boys can access quality education from primary to tertiary studies. We hope that Canada will take this holistic approach to improving education opportunities for youth in the implementation of this new policy.
We also know that only 25% of refugee youth are enrolled in secondary school, while only 1% of refugee youth have access to higher education. We hope that Canada will commit to providing education opportunities to displaced youth toward the achievement of its human dignity and peace and security goals.
Employment is well represented throughout the policy under the third action area, growth that works for everyone. Once again, the policy recognizes the unique barriers to women’s economic empowerment in particular, as well as the ways in which investment in women’s employment can produce incredible returns for entire families, communities, and countries.
Activities under growth that works for everyone include promoting women’s economic leadership and empowerment; improving their economic opportunities, particularly for rural women; promoting women’s economic rights and access to decent work; promoting the greater financial inclusion of women; supporting technical and vocational education and training (TVET) for women; and addressing unpaid work and the heavy burden of care women carry.
Throughout this action area, references to many of the priorities highlighted by our network can be found. These include entrepreneurship, work in agriculture, and climate-smart economic opportunities.
One thing made abundantly clear in Canada’s new international assistance policy is that an investment in women and girls will not preclude support to individuals who face other forms of discrimination and marginalization. The policy clearly embraces diversity of both development agents and development partners, calling upon all Canadians to get involved.
What is less evident in this policy is the ways in which Canada will leverage the tremendous potential of youth to advance its global development goals. We hope to see ongoing efforts to provide spaces for more meaningful engagement with youth in Canada and around the world in program design, implementation, and review.
Canada’s new international assistance policy marks a tremendous step forward in the advancement of women and girls’ empowerment and gender equality. We look forward to seeing how this new policy will affect Canada’s global efforts in practice and the potential for transformative change it can create.
At the same time, we urgently caution the global community to not minimize the pivotal role youth play in our work toward a more inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous world.
What do you think of the new policy? Let us know! Use #WUSCEUMC2030 on social media and help us keep youth at the forefront of global development.