Each year, March 8 presents a special opportunity to celebrate the contributions of women and to renew our efforts in achieving gender equality — in Canada, in Indonesia and around the world.
Last week saw a wonderful series of celebrations for International Women’s Day, including a Canada-supported event to kick off a new project tackling child marriage and a speed mentoring event for two generations of female professionals hosted at Canada House in Jakarta.
Gender equality, the empowerment of all women and girls and the realization of their human rights are key Canadian priorities, both at home and abroad.
In 2017, the Canadian government adopted a Feminist International Assistance Policy.
This reflects Canada’s strong belief that the best way to eradicate extreme poverty and build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world is to create the conditions for women and girls to realize their full potential.
Overwhelming evidence shows that investing in gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls acts has a multiplier effect on all other development goals.
For example, educated women tend to marry later, have fewer children, provide better health and nutrition for their families, and earn more income than women with little or no schooling.
Eliminating gender-based legal and social barriers also results in women having increased access to capital, starting businesses, creating or securing decent jobs and investing in their families and their communities.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, with positive interventions and sound public policy supporting gender equality, women’s economic empowerment can add US$12 trillion to the global economy by 2025.
Involving women in development is not a new idea to us. Canada has been doing this since 1976.
But our new Feminist International Assistance Policy marks a shift in what we do and how we do it. The empowerment of women and girls is now front and center in all of our international assistance efforts.
All of our projects give a voice to women and we always consult women and girls.
In Indonesia, Canada has been a longstanding advocate for gender equality. The empowerment of women and girls has been a consistent feature in Canadian Official Development Assistance in Indonesia, totaling over $2 billion since 1954.
The BERANI project, launched this past December, for example, is designed to improve the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls in Indonesia.
This includes tackling sexual and gender-based violence as well as harmful practices like child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
The empowerment of women and girls is now front and center in [...] our international assistance efforts.
Another initiative, the Canada-Indonesia Trade and Private-Sector Assistance project, in partnership with the Trade Ministry, prioritizes women in business and women-led small and medium enterprises.
Our annual grassroots programming involves partnering with local NGOs, often with the goal of empowering women, improving their livelihoods or ensuring women and their needs are better reflected in local governance structures.
But we are doing other things too. In late February, Canada sent two Indonesian women to India for a training that brought together young women leaders from all of Asia.
As Canada forges ahead in its efforts to empower women and girls throughout the world, we join hands with partner governments like Indonesia.
Both President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are “He for She” champions, which recognizes the importance of engaging men and boys in achieving full gender equality.
Indonesia has made meaningful strides in its efforts to empower women, and the recent Constitutional Court decision to increase the minimum age of marriage for girls holds great promise.
Moving forward, we will endeavor to seek out opportunities to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5 to achieve gender equality, and to further the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which both our countries have ratified.
This June, as further evidence that we are “walking the talk”, Canada will host the “Women Deliver” conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. It will be the world’s biggest conference on gender equality, and the health, rights and wellbeing of women and girls in the 21st century.
We are expecting more than 6,000 world leaders, influencers, advocates, academics, activists and journalists to come to Vancouver with the drive to accelerate progress for girls and women everywhere. We would be thrilled to see Indonesia represented at this very important event.
Women are powerful agents of change who are key to building a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world. Canada strongly believes that when women succeed, everyone succeeds.
The writer is Canadian ambassador to Indonesia and Timor-Leste.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.