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Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu: Envisioning a better world

Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu: Envisioning a better world

Canada’s strong commitment to empowering women and girls

Image above: Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu with Katja Iversen, Chief Executive Officer and President of Women Deliver, at the Famous Five Monument

Cameroonian Queens’ Young Leader, Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu, is studying for his Masters in Canada, where he was recently invited to attend an important announcement from the Prime Minister. Here he describes how Canada is leading the way in promoting gender equality.

18 October 1929 is the day that Canada constitutionally recognised women as “persons”. The date is still commemorated each year in Canada as Persons Day. The women – the change makers – ­who made this happen are known as the Famous Five. A monument to their achievement, and in their honour, sits on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario.

It was here that I was very excited to attend an event on 13 June, announcing that Canada will host the next Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, from 3 to 6 June 2019.

This groundbreaking conference will bring together over 6,000 world leaders, influencers, advocates, academics, activists, and journalists and young people. They will come from more than 150 countries to showcase what it means – and how it works – when girls and women become the focus of development efforts.

The announcement was made by the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. And the event brought together close to 100 representatives from civil society, businesses, arts institutions and the First Nations. I was invited to attend by Women Deliver head office in New York.  

There was no better place to hold this event than at the Famous Five Monument. The Famous Five – Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney, Henrietta Muir Edwards and Nellie Mcclung – were unwavering advocates for Canada’s women and girls. They believed women should participate equally in society and paved the way for progress for generations to come.

Feminist international assistance

Canada has made so much progress towards gender equality, which is critical, as it accelerates economic growth. Women’s participation in decision making leads to more inclusive, equitable, peaceful, secure and cohesive societies.

In June 2017, Canada launched its very first Feminist International Assistance Policy. This aims to position Canada as a gender equality leader on the world stage.

Through this plan, Canada will allocate $150 million (Canadian) over five years to help local organisations in developing countries whose work promotes women’s rights. The overall goal is to reduce global poverty through the empowerment of women and girls.

Marie Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development, and Maryam Monsef, Minister of the Status of Women

Marie Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development, and Maryam Monsef, Minister of the Status of Women, listening to the announcement at the Famous Five Monument. Image credit: Office of the Prime Minister, Canada

Despite Canada’s long-standing leadership in supporting women and girls – not just in Canada but around the world, particularly in developing countries and fragile states where millions of women and girls are fighting for their rights – much still has to be done.

Empowering and equipping women and girls as agents of change in their communities is key to achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Organisations like Women Deliver play a critical role in championing this cause.

At the Famous Five Monument on 13 June, the Prime Minister also announced a $20 million assistance package, from 2017 to 2020, to support Women Deliver’s programmes – promoting the health, rights, and wellbeing of women and girls, with a focus on their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Joannes with children in Niger sitting on a rug

Joannes with children in Niger, where he worked for a programme funded by the World Health Organisation and World Vision. Image credit: Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu

“Everyone benefits from a more gender equal world. But little progress on gender equality can be made without a strong focus on the health and wellbeing of women and girls,” he said.

Women Deliver

Katja Iverson is President and Chief Executive Officer of Women Deliver. At the announcement in June she said, “A Women Deliver Conference is much more than a conference.”

She added, “It is a fueling station  for solutions, for action, and for hope. For advocates across the globe, north, south, east, and west, high and low. World leaders and village activists alike – who every day are working tremendously hard to achieve a more gender equal world.”

I had the opportunity to attend the last Women Deliver conference, in Copenhagen, Denmark in Europe in 2016. This brought together close to 1,200 young people and focused on how to implement the 17 UN SDGs in a way that most benefits girls and women.

Attending this event at the Famous Five Monument as a Queens' Young Leader I was reminded of the Commonwealth plan to end violence against women and girls and to promote gender equality.

And listening to the speakers brought back memories of my time working in Niger for a programme funded by the World Health Organisation and World Vision. There, I came across so many young girls, including “Aminata” married at 13, who had been stripped of their basic human rights and denied an education.

Canada’s leadership gives girls like Aminata hope for a better future.

I also feel even more empowered, as this sends a clear message – not just to Canadians but to the world – about Canada’s strong commitment in empowering women and girls and promoting gender equality.

This is how I envision the world to be – one where everyone is given the opportunity to fully contribute equally, while harnessing their God-given talents to improve communities and foster social change.