Special Edition: Best of Women’s Leadership Conversations


Episode Transcript

Lama Alsafi (00:00): Hello, and welcome to 15 Minutes to Change the World, where in 15 minutes or less, you’ll learn a bit more about the world and how you can help change it for the better.

Lama Alsafi (00:21): My name is Lama Alsafi and I’m the host of this podcast. The month of March is Women’s History Month. So we’re taking a look back in our archives and sharing some of our best-of women’s leadership conversations. Sit back and get ready to be inspired! We’ve been very fortunate to have so many fierce and inspiring women on our podcast, sharing their passion, insights, and the work they do for incredible causes and organizations.

Lama Alsafi (00:45): First we’ll hear from Dr. Sameera Hussain, Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa’s School of Epidemiology and Public Health. Here’s what Dr. Hussain had to say about women who are leading in global health care.

Lama Alsafi (00:56): When women are involved in leadership and the decision-making process in public health, what kind of difference does that make for society?

Dr. Sameera Hussain (01:05): It does make a very big difference in society. The research certainly indicates that when you have-at all levels of healthcare and public health-when you have women and women who reflect the diversity of the population that they serve, they bring to that decision making role, a different kind of perspective that does affect their decision making, which in turn plays out at the population and public health level. And as for women making decisions, there are nuanced experiences that women have. We have setbacks due to gender, due to race, due to socioeconomic status, and organizational culture will have to change in order to accommodate that. And ways that they can do that are not just directing women to websites. Evidence suggests that financial support, care for basic physical needs for women, giving them manageable workloads and access to leisure activities, all create a positive impact on how they’re able to perform in their health care and public health leadership roles.

Lama Alsafi (02:17): Next up is the incredibly inspiring Ms. Everjoice Win-an activist in feminist and social justice movements in her country, Zimbabwe, the African continent, and globally for over 30 years ever. Everjoice speaks passionately about decolonizing aid and localization in the context of international development and humanitarian work. She also talks about the importance of women’s representation in this work and why we need to invest in women’s leadership to ensure success for all.

Everjoice Win (02:45): So decolonizing aid really is about acknowledging that the roots of development work as we know it today come from or are rooted in colonialism. It is also about the way in which development has tended to be done. I.E. You know, resources, knowledge, so-called capacity has often been seen as one directional, right? I.E. It comes from the North going to the South. So you know, roughly speaking, that’s why we are now talking of decolonizing aid in terms of saying we need to change that picture. It is not as one directional as it appears to be. Because local people-particularly women and their organizations-know best what their situation is, what their problems are, and they should be the ones in the driving seat to say these are the solutions that we want. These are the resources that we need. And these are the spaces where we need to go and influence change, whether it’s at national level or a global level.

Everjoice Win (03:50): It also means changing the faces of those who are in leadership, right, of development organizations. So very often, if you look at the humanitarian sector, for example, you hardly see any women, let alone any women of colour, right? So we are saying as part of decolonization and localization, it’s about acknowledging the agency, the rights, the needs of those who are directly impacted by problems. It has to be informed and led by those whose lived experience we are talking about, and they’re the ones who should make the decisions, influence the decisions. And they should be the ones, you know, in the driving seat. As much as a lot of the money comes from the Global North, but we are saying decisions about how that money gets used, how it gets allocated, what are the priorities that are decided, what are the programs that are implemented, whose knowledge is acknowledged and used? That work is being done by local people, local women and their organizations. So that’s what we are really talking about to say, honouring, acknowledging, valuing the work, the perspective, and the leadership of those who are directly affected.

Lama Alsafi (05:07): Cindy Clark is the Co-executive Director of the Association for Women’s Rights and Development (AWID), a global feminist membership movement support organization working to achieve gender justice and women’s human rights worldwide. In this clip, Cindy talks about what feminism means to her, what feminist movements do, and why they’re beneficial for everyone.

Lama Alsafi (05:29): Cindy, there’s a lot of discussion, particularly online and online forums, about the word ‘feminist’ and what it means, and perhaps a lot of misconception. So I’m wondering, can you explain what feminist and feminism means to you, and what feminist movements are in the context of your work?

Cindy Clark (05:46): I mean, feminism or being a feminist to me means being part of a political project that centers gender equality, and kind of fighting the power structures that oppress women and trans and gender non-binary people. But I think feminism is also about transforming all kinds of oppressive power relations, whether those are marginalizing people based on race, or class, or ethnicity, or ability-I mean, all of these intersections. So I see feminist movements as critical to fighting for everyone to be able to enjoy the full range of human rights, to be able to live lives with dignity free from violence, enjoying bodily autonomy, living in harmony with the natural world. And I think from the perspective of AWID, when we talk about feminist movements, we know that many people may not self-define in that way. In some context, using the label of ‘feminist’ isn’t helpful. As much as we can look at that work and think that it is deeply transformative and feminist. So really when we speak about feminist movements and organizations, we’re talking about groups that are led by the people who are affected by the problems they’re trying to address. And I think that’s really important.

Lama Alsafi (07:23): The next voice you’ll hear belongs to Marigold Mioc, who advocates strongly for girls’ leadership empowerment. Marigold is an activist and volunteer for a variety of causes and organizations, including the United Way, Young Canadians Parliament, and Engineers Without Borders. Here’s what Marigold had to say about why girls’ voices need to be heard and why they need a seat at the decision-making table.

Marigold Mioc (07:47): I think that we need to encourage girls, include them in decision-making, encourage them to make a change, and offer them opportunities and treat them equally.

Lama Alsafi (07:59): All right Marigold, what would you say to adults or to those who have the power to make important decisions, maybe like a politician, someone who might be thinking, you know what, it’s not important to invest in the leadership of girls, we have other issues to worry about right now?

Marigold Mioc (08:16): It is important to invest in empowering young women and girls, because when you empower young women and girls, they can become leaders and find the solutions to those problems. Women and guys both have ideas and they can both find solutions to problems. So if we empower girls enough so that they become leaders too, we can all work together and find solutions to the problems that we need to work on. I know that a lot of people who are younger and, nowadays it’s changing for gender equality, I think that if we have a view of more youth voices and opinions that will help with gender equality as well.

Lama Alsafi (08:57): Our next featured guest is Andrea Gunraj, the Vice President of Public Engagement with the Canadian Women’s Foundation, a national leader in the movement for gender equality in Canada working to achieve systemic change. Andrea spoke with us about violence against women and girls and the viral campaign she helped create called Signal for help-a simple, yet powerful tool that gives people experiencing violence a way to silently let others know they need help. Here’s what Andrea had to say about investing in the leadership of women, girls, and non-binary people and how this investment and empowerment can help to prevent or reduce gender-based violence.

Andrea Gunraj (09:35): Well, we know that leadership matters in the sense that when people are leading who have an experience, they tend to proactively respond to that experience. And we know that women, girls, and non-binary, two-spirit, trans people, they experience gender-based violence at really high rates. And many times it might be invisible to other people. Men not recognize it because they don’t actually experience it directly. So in that kind of broad way, when more women and trans, two-spirit, non-binary people are in leadership positions, we know that things happen in unexpected ways, in non-traditional ways, and that’s a great thing, especially when you’re trying to break a status quo. But I think as well too, that leadership of women and girls and non-binary people is so important because I think that there is so much research out there that shows that diversity in leadership positions makes workplace better and makes your workplace address policies and practices that are traditionally under-addressed.

Andrea Gunraj (10:36): It’s partially because they experience these things, but it’s also also partially because of skill sets. Or, you know, we know that people who are in leadership positions who are women and trans, two-spirit, non-binary people, they tend to be very open to collaboration, open to changing policies and practices. They like to lead diversity, inclusion, and equity and justice initiatives. They tend to take those on far more. And I think that that’s only going to deepen as we open up those tables. So I think it’s just good practice, and it’s something that we do need to see more of. And I do worry in the pandemic that this is going to be very difficult because we know that 30 years of gender equality gains, especially when it comes to the labour market, has been impacted. So all the more why we have to kind of pursue gender justice in a bigger way to make sure that those gains don’t get lost fully, or at least can be regained.

Lama Alsafi (11:36): And that wraps things up for us here today. We’re grateful to all of our guests that we featured here today for sharing their thoughts and experiences with us, and for inspiring us to be the change that we want to see in the world. When we invest in women anywhere, it’s clear amazing things happen everywhere. And thank you to all of you for tuning in. You can find every episode of 15 Minutes to Change the world on Spotify, Apple podcasts, and at care.ca/podcasts.