Yesterday, over 8,000 people piled into Vancouver, Canada, for the start of Women Deliver, the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights, and well-being of women and girls. This year, we’re excited to have our very own Director of People and Partners, Lauren Kay-Lambert, amongst that number. Here’s her recap of Day 1.
I think it’s fair to say that there was a universal mood of anticipation and excitement that quelled the crowd’s collective jet lag as we entered the doors of the award-winning Vancouver Convention Centre for Women Deliver.
The first day brought forth the theme of power — in particular, how we use that power to take us out of our comfort zones. Kicking off with the youth pre-conference in the morning, the buzzing audience was challenged to think about their own power and how this can be used to create impactful and meaningful change. One of the creators of the Reproductive Justice Framework, Loretta Ross, explained that:
“[Power] won’t be handed to us on a silver platter, so we must own it and demonstrate it through kindness.”
Kindness was a common theme throughout the morning. Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver, even proposed that it is a form of “crowd control”. Many of the speakers identified that we need to mobilise people who disagree with us (possibly even more than those who agree) in order to neutralise the space, and we must fuel this through love, as opposed to anger.
The afternoon was packed full of a diverse and eager audience ready to hear from Justin Trudeau, the host country’s Prime Minister; the controversial Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya; and Sahle-Work Zewde, the first female President of Ethiopia, amongst others.
With a question mark surrounding Trudeau’s feminism status after the recent removal of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from his caucus, the crowd seemed surprisingly forgiving. Following a forgettable opening speech, he fell into himself during the off-the-cuff Q&A, although he rightly identified the need to reach out to women to run for office and show more reassurance by aligning as allies.
The absolute highlight of the day — for me — was 18 year old activist Natasha Mwansa’s eloquent delivery of her views on achieving gender equality to the 4 Heads of State she shared the stage with. Her speech had every single person present on their feet, and probably thousands more watching around the world. If you haven’t already, go onto the Women Deliver viewing platform to watch it. If not, it will probably be all over mainstream media by Tuesday afternoon — or at least it should be. She left us on the powerful note that:
“We don’t have to constantly prove ourselves to show that we have the power to influence ourselves but if I have to, I will”.
One to watch out for, that’s for sure.
The session was not without its awkward moments. One of them was the awe-inspiring Dr Alaa Murabit glaring at Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the President of Ghana, after he claimed that it was the sole responsibility of women to get into positions of power.
I’ll leave you with my favourite line of the day as I head into an evening of meeting incredible people from every space imaginable in the world of female empowerment and gender equality. It came from Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Sahle-Work Zewde, who compared someone who thinks they’re too small to be powerful to:
“The impact a mosquito can have if you spend a night with it.”
I am already excited for Day 2.