The Role of Women in the G7 Mission to “Invest in Growth that Works for Everyone”
By Sara Dada
On June 1st, 2018, G7 Development and Finance ministers met for the very first time in Whistler, Canada. Considering the extensive and interwoven history of international development and finance, it could be said that this meeting was long overdue. The main topics of conversation were sustainable development, resilience against extreme weather events, and women’s economic empowerment.
Investing in growth that works for everyone
Over the course of three days, G7 Development and Finance ministers discussed shared priorities, global development challenges and ways to “invest in growth that works for everyone” in accordance with the meeting’s theme. This entails making gender inequality a focal point in the development agenda. As Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie explained, “When women and girls have greater equality in education, employment, entrepreneurship and full enjoyment of their human rights, they can transform and generate economic growth that lasts. This is why the empowerment of women and girls is critical to our efforts to achieve growth that works for all.” The intersection of finance and development centred on women’s economic empowerment.
When it comes to women’s empowerment or full economic participation, it’s important to remember this means more than just finding employment for women. It’s also about education and protection of the youth, access to health care and family planning resources. And it’s about changing a community’s social norms. The recent G7 meeting recognised these nuances in one historic move: inviting young women activists from around the world to speak during the event’s official programme.
The power of the personal narrative
Throughout this discussion, these women explained why and how the global community should work towards gender equality around the world. The power of the personal narrative was clear with these advocates speaking to their own experiences. By sharing their stories, these roundtable participants were able to illustrate the struggles they face in education and health access, alongside their neighbours, sisters, and daughters.
One speaker underscored the need for a holistic approach to women’s empowerment in their communities. Twenty-three-year-old Irmine Fleury of Benin explained that aid programmes must do more than just invest in the education system for young girls – they must also incorporate messaging geared towards parents and the community at large about the importance of women having access to health and other resources, in addition to schooling itself. One of the main purposes of this meeting was to provide a local perspective for the roundtable of leaders largely from the “Global North” who set the development agenda for nations in which they do not live.
It is clear that these young activities’ perspectives helped to influence the four declarations and even action steps that came out of the meeting. Some of these actions include making gender equality a key component of development implementation and strategy as well as a stronger international stance on sexual exploitation and abuse. Potentially most relevant were calls for an integrated approach that addresses the social, economic, and psychological barriers adolescents and young women face.
With these plans of action in mind, development programming should keep in mind one key strategy demonstrated by the meeting: continuous engagement with end-user communities. Including young, female activists allowed the G7 Ministers to appreciate challenges to development they would not otherwise notice. By engaging with these women at a local and global level, development programme enablers can empower these leaders to invest in truly inclusive economic growth.