Source: Small Island Developing States
3 June 2019: The 2019 Women Deliver Conference called for accelerated action to empower women and girls, end violence against women and realize gender equality. The 2019 Conference focused on the theme, ‘Power, Progress, Change.’
Over 8,000 world leaders, advocates, “influencers,” academics and other stakeholders participated in the Conference, which convened in Vancouver, Canada, from 3-6 June 2019. An additional 100,000 people participated in the Conference virtually. The Conference focused on gender equality and the health, rights and wellbeing of women and girls, with specific issues including education, nutrition, economic and political empowerment, and good governance.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, opened the Conference. He announced that the Government of Canada will increase its funding to CAN$1.4 billion annually, beginning in 2023, to support the health of women and girls around the world as part of efforts to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Canada’s ten-year commitment will support maternal, newborn and child health, and it earmarks $700 million annually for sexual and reproductive health rights. Trueau emphasized that “all women, no matter where they live, should have access to the safe, quality health care they need.” He said the Government of Canada’s investments in these areas aims to help “build a more just, equal and prosperous world.”
Canada also announced efforts to advance women’s economic empowerment through the ‘Women Entrepreneurship Strategy’ to double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025 by increasing women entrepreneurs’ access to financing, networks and advice. The initial CAD1.5 million investment will support 15 women-led companies in the Vancouver area through the Women Entrepreneurship Fund, including support to help recipients innovate, grow and access new markets. The Government of Canada committed to investing an additional CAD10 million to support 100 additional projects, including CAD2.5 million dedicated to proposals submitted by indigenous women.
In a video message, UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ said gender equality is “essential to achieve the SDGs.” He reaffirmed gender equality as one of his top priorities and expressed determination to lead by example. Guterres called for addressing power imbalances and challenging stereotypes to “build a world in where women and men have equal rights” and equal opportunities to realize their aspirations and contribute to a better future for all. In a Q&A with Women Deliver CEO, Katja Iversen, the UN Secretary-General said the world will not reach the SDGs “without the equal participation of half the world’s population and without drawing fully on their expertise, capacities and experience.” He highlighted the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative as a model UN partnership in delivering on SDG commitments, and underscored universal health coverage (UHC) as a critical enabler of gender equality.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also stressed UHC’s importance to achieving gender equality. In his conversation with Iversen, Ghebreyesus explained that UHC focuses on leaving no one behind and requires strong primary health care systems, including health care that meets the specific needs of women and girls for sexual and reproductive health as well as mental health and care of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). He emphasized the need to address women and girls’ lack of access to services and to include women as key decision-makers and partners in health care. The WHO Director-General argued that both UHC and sexual and reproductive health need to be prioritized to achieve the SDGs, explaining that SDG target 3.8 focuses on UHC and SDG target 3.7 calls for universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services. He concluded that UHC is the “best way to ensure all women and girls get the health services they need” and “moves us all closer to gender equality.”
UN Women highlighted its multi-generational campaign, ‘Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future,’ at the Conference. Generation Equality calls for “urgent, intentional actions from governments to renew their commitments to gender equality,” as well as commitments to invest in programmes and policies that make gender equality a lived reality. The Campaign aims to achieve these objectives through multigenerational dialogues and partnerships that engage men and women.
Women Deliver featured numerous plenaries, panels, sessions and side events. A session on ending violence against women and girls (SDG target 5.2), shared experiences, tools and best practices to support women and others to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women in public and private spaces. Panels also addressed ‘The Future of Work in the 21st Century,’ with a focus on the changing world of work and implications for women’s economic empowerment. A session on gender data called for ensuring more and better production and use of gender data.
As part of the Conference, WHO, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF) co-organized the Women Deliver Parliamentarians’ Forum. The Forum brought together parliamentarians from over 40 countries. [Women Deliver 2019 Conference Website] [Women Deliver Conference News Page] [WHO Event Webpage] [UN Women News Story] [UN Women Media Advisory on Conference]