On Thursday, November 19, 2020, the High Commission of Canada hosted 17 Eastern Caribbean gender advocates and allies for a 90-minute dialogue on Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy. The virtual discussion allowed interlocutors, representing 13 organisations, to share their insights on Canada’s feminist international strategy first launched in 2017. Billed as a “check-in,” the interactive session provided participants with the opportunity to examine regional gender and human rights issues, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Featuring a diverse intersection of civil society, government and international organisation representatives, the informal conversation addressed how Canada can better mobilize partners and build alliances to achieve transformative change for gender equality and inclusion. Participants were drawn from gender bureaus, women’s rights groups, and multilateral organisations including UN Women and the World Bank, among others, working in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Both men and women were well represented in the High Commission’s virtual dialogue with Chargé d’Affaires Ann Cleminson noting, “Feminist does not mean exclusively female. The Government of Canada understands that men and boys have an equal role to play as partners in the formation of a more gender equal world.” Canada believes that in order to dismantle discriminatory social, political, legal and economic systems and institutions, all members of society – women, men and gender diverse people – must be active participants in the discussion.
Canada is amongst a handful of countries, including Sweden, France, and Mexico, which have embraced feminist foreign policies. The Government of Canada believes that increasing women’s economic, political and social participation will result in a more prosperous and peaceful world. Canada has a longstanding commitment to human rights – including gender equality – as evidenced by its involvement in the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and two National Action plans on Women, Peace and Security.
Insights gained from the Eastern Caribbean virtual dialogue will contribute to Canada’s revised Feminist Foreign Policy, which will incorporate the region’s perspective on how to best address the threats facing the global community – namely the climate crisis and the global health pandemic, COVID-19.