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Reflecting on Women Deliver

By Jessie Thomson, CARE Canada's Vice President for Global Change

Hosted in Vancouver, this year's Women Deliver conference brought together 8000 people from 165 countries around the world. Attendees brought with them an ambition to disrupt the imbalance of power that fuels marginalization, injustice and poverty through ideas, solutions, and partnerships that will transform the lives of women and girls.

The conference felt a bit like feminist camp—the one camp that I never got to go to as a kid but have been waiting for my whole life. I was immersed in a diversity of voices from around the world speaking out about gender equality, challenging the status quo and calling for change right now. If the future is feminist, I think this troubled world might just have a chance.

CARE Canada's Jessie Thomson speaking at the Women Deliver ocnference, 2019

The words and voices I heard at Women Deliver will stay with me in the days and weeks ahead. CARE’s central focus is the empowerment of women and girls and the pursuit of gender equality. Born of the brutal aftermath of World War II, we have been fighting inequality for nearly 75 years and are constantly challenging ourselves to  remain fit for the fights of the future. This means we need to address the inherent power imbalances that exist within our organization and our sector. We work to ensure that our organization is feminist and that we’re taking an approach that acknowledges the complex ways in which gender, race, class, ability, sexuality, age, language and immigration status affect people’s agency, the environment that surrounds their choices and the power relations through which they negotiate their path. We have always put communities first in our work, but we are now looking at how we step out of the way all together and create an enabling approach that gives them direct access to the resources, capacity and knowledge they need to transform their own lives on their own terms.

I think the most inspiring moment was when eighteen-year-old Natasha Mwansa from Zambia fearlessly assumed centre stage in the opening session. With all eyes on her, and flanked by no less than three heads of state, she addressed the room with confidence and vision.

"Do not do anything about us, without us", she spoke out. "We are not going to be just beneficiaries anymore."

Her words came with ferocious speed and confidence, likely because she has so much to say and knows the world is running out of time to make things right.

Gender inequality is not just a global challenge, but a universal one. And the work we do to achieve equality isn't just for women and girls living a world away. We will not and cannot bring about the change we want to see if we are not also addressing the injustices and power imbalances that exist right here at home. We have to stand together in solidarity with women, girls, non-binary, gender non-conforming and transgender people and their allies around the world. We need to recognize that men and boys are allies, but also have their own unique vulnerabilities and issues.

The conference felt a bit like feminist camp - the one camp that I never got to go to as a kid but have been waiting for my whole life. I was immersed in a diversity of voices from around the world speaking out about gender equality, challenging the status quo and calling for change right now. If the future is feminist, I think this troubled world might just have a chance.

Jessie Thomson

CARE at the Women Deliver conference, 2019

I don’t think that anyone at the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver could think about the issues discussed there without reflecting on the release of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report that came out the same week. Persistent and deliberate human and rights violations happen in other countries, but they also happen right here in Canada.

As a Canadian, as an activist, as a feminist and as a parent, I take responsibility for the actions of those that came before us and for my actions today, with a spirit of respect, healing and building of relationships, friendships and new alliances. Together, we can end inequality.