VANCOUVER—Women Deliver got underway today amid a sobering backdrop: The release of the findings of the Canadian government’s 3-year inquiry into the country’s missing and murdered indigenous women.
At the opening plenary in Vancouver, British Columbia—the lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh indigenous peoples—Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the inquiry determined that the violence amounts to genocide, and marks a significant step forward toward justice for indigenous women in Canada.
The findings also serve as a stark reminder that the rights enjoyed by so many in Canada are not universal nor guaranteed. “Progress can slide backward; we're seeing it happen now. Gender equality is under attack,” Trudeau said, “with every step forward met by more pushback.”
But the 8,000+ delegates in Vancouver for Women Deliver’s 2019 conference are ready to respond. Executive Direct of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka summed up the collective mood at a Women Deliver press conference ahead of the plenary. “We are here to push back against the pushback. When women are united and determined we definitely are unstoppable,” she said, adding that this moment is particularly important, just ahead of next year’s 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action. Women Deliver, she noted, is really galvanizing that process.
Fittingly, this year Women Deliver’s conference theme is Power, Progress, and Change. It’s time, President and CEO Katja Iversen said, to “unapologetically own our individual power and use it to lift others up”—and recognize that with power comes responsibility.
She asked delegates, “How will you use your power?”—urging them to have a response by the end of the week, adding: “And I want your answer to be ambitious.”
She also advised delegates wanting to make the most of the conference: “Go and listen to something you know nothing about … because that’s how we make change happen.”
More Day 1 highlights:
- Canada is not the only country with a gender-balanced cabinet ... #Ethiopia and 9 other countries are on board as well, and the number could climb to 25 by next year.
- On child marriage, Ethiopia's President Sahle Work Zewde warned that grassroots action is essential to change social norms, because otherwise, “commitments sometimes remain in conference rooms.”
- #ThePowerOf youth is palpable at #WD2019, Iversen tweeted—1,400+ strong from 139 countries. Zambian youth leader Natasha Wang Mwansa stole the show, standing up on the opening plenary stage with presidents and world leaders and delivering a passionate message to hold leaders accountable.
Follow all GHN’s #WD2019 coverage here; if you’re in Vancouver and would like to send story tips to Dayna email her at dkerecm1 [at] jhu.edu.