A conversation with Minister Bibeau on G7, Inclusive Economic Growth, and Empowering Women and Girls

Marie-Claude Bibeau spoke at the Center for Global Development today ahead of the G7 talks in British Columbia, May 31 – June 2. While Minister Bibeau is working a variety of angles to advance Canada’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy, including finance, public health, and education, we (admittedly, selectively) heard several comments that resonated with Visionaria Network’s approach and bear repeating:

“Adolescent girls are the most vulnerable and most powerful to drive progress on the Sustainable Development Goals…”

This theme was repeated throughout Minister Bibeau’s comments, as well as advocating for a shift from viewing girls as victims of poverty and discrimination, to becoming agents of change (something we’ve commented on before).

“Adolescent girls are among the most excluded people on the planet…”

She cited a dual “discrimination based on age and gender” and the need to empower adolescent girls in fragile settings. She mentioned successful and under-funded efforts to provide psychosocial support and safe spaces in addition to traditional humanitarian aid.

Visionaria Network’s “Visionaria for Schools” model delivers agency-based empowerment and other psychosocial support strategies for adolescent girls and their secondary-school teachers. This, we believe, fosters a level of personal confidence from which to practice their leadership skills and engage more directly in issues that affect their lives and communities through subsequent activities in the school-integrated program.

“SDG #5, Gender, is the cornerstone of our approach.”

As Minister Bibeau called for supporting an “accelerated approach” to achieve the 2030 Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), she explained her adoption of SDG #5 as crosscutting theme to propel systemic changes. She also highlighted the need for gender-sensitive programming to “stop looking at women and girls in silos and sectors,” and focus on efforts that “develop their full potential.”

Canadian funding opportunities will prioritize programs led by local women or demonstrate they have consulted women and girls in process, and to “build their capacity to sit at the table where decisions are made.”

We could not agree more, and appreciate the minister’s leadership and strong basis for prioritizing girls and girls’ education at the upcoming G7 talks.

– Paul Spurzem, Executive Director