We cannot leave women and girls behind

The Prime Minister and I have something in common: we both call ourselves feminists.

I was in Ottawa in May 2016 to hear Prime Minister Trudeau highlight his commitment to a feminist-focused international development agenda, and I’ve been thinking about his comments in light of the theme for International Development Week 2017: “Leave no one behind: Canada contributes to global goals.” Studies have repeatedly shown that, around the world, women and girls are disproportionately impacted by complex global challenges. For instance:

  • Women are more likely than men to be unemployed or in precarious work environments, and thus less likely to have monetary income and financial independence.
  • Despite literacy rates rising around the world, nearly two thirds of the 781 million people aged 15 and over who are illiterate are women.
  • When the effects of climate change make water unsafe to drink, the burden of collecting and cleansing water most often falls to women and girls.
  • A staggering percentage of women around the world are still subject to gender-based violence.

While international development focuses on addressing inequalities in developing countries, the Global Goals (unlike their predecessor the Millennium Development Goals) are just that—global—and apply just as much to Canada as they do to Malawi or Afghanistan. We must also recognize the work Canada needs to do to achieve gender equality.

A Sliver of Hope

There is some cause for optimism. Research shows that supporting women and girls to live safe, productive and fulfilled lives has a positive impact on them as individuals and on their families and communities. When the root causes of poverty and inequity are addressed through a gender lens, the lives of everyone improve—not only the lives of women and girls.

What inspires me this International Development week is all the people working towards a feminist future. I am encouraged by the commitment Canada has made to increase funding for international reproductive health care. I am buoyed by the millions of marchers around the world standing up for women’s rights. I am excited by conversations happening at EWB’s chapters about intersectionality.

This International Development Week, I am hopeful that Canada will continue to work toward a more equitable future by acting as feminists, rather than just calling ourselves feminists. Women and girls around the world deserve this.

Tell the PM to put his feminism to work on international development:

.@JustinTrudeau: represent my Canadian values and be my leader on #globalgoals #IDW2017 @EWB bitly.com/ewb-global

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