Written by Elizabeth Kishiki
Co-Chair of the Gender Equity Working Group for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB)
Childhood Blindness and Low Vision Coordinator, Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO)
From June 3-6, I participated in the Women Deliver 2019 conference in Vancouver, Canada, a long way from my home in Tanzania. Women Deliver is the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights and wellbeing of girls and women. Over 8000 people from 165 countries attended and since it was my first time at the global conference, I was eager to learn from the many gender-equality pioneers and advocates.
Power, Progress and Change was the theme of the conference. Power can drive or hinder progress and change so the question “How will you use your power?” was at the centre of all the inspiring plenary sessions and workshops covering topics from health, education, economics, politics, human rights, governance and gender equality.
Most of the sessions I attended took stock of progress in their area with advocates outlining their positions and commitment to gender equality. Discussions followed and focused on what actions are needed to move forward and how individuals and organizations can incorporate gender-integrated approaches into their policies, programs and projects to bridge the gender gap.
Panelists at The Power of Movements session discussed the power of people coming together for the same cause. It was striking to see how movements shape critical perceptions and form collective action for change: for and with girls and women around the world. Young girls were encouraged to think outside the box about their careers, to think about what they’re trying to build for their future and the future of their field of work. They were reminded to maintain their identity and break down silos.
I learned that:
- gender roles, norms and power relations between women and men lead to inequities that affect health
- gender mainstreaming and empowerment addresses inequality and improves health outcomes
The New Tools for Turning Data into Gender Equity Advocacy Across the Sustainable Development Goals workshop discussed strategies on using index data to frame issues. It is important to identify relevant data and to visually communicate advocacy messages to strengthen the case for investing in girls and women.
Knowing the challenges and opportunities that can accelerate progress for the marginalized groups that we serve, especially women and girls, it is important to continually monitor and evaluate programs with proper field data collection along with good stories to illustrate the numbers. The data helps to describe what is happening, what future actions are needed and how to implement those strategies.
Seva Canada’s Booth
Being at the Seva Canada booth allowed me to converse with conference attendees and help them understand how giving women and girls the power of sight is an investment in the future for us all. Sight is so much more than good vision, it is access to education, and employment. It is the foundation for a better life for individuals, families and entire communities.
The Power of Cross-sector Collaboration
Katja Iversen, President/CEO of Women Deliver, in her closing speech, insisted on the need to work together, the need for partnership and the need to support organizations that advocate for gender equality.
I took this message to heart and have shared my newly acquired knowledge with fellow members of the IAPB - Gender Equity Working Group. Significant progress for girls and women, especially on the accessibility of eye care services, will be seen when we work collaboratively across sectors and issues.
Thank you to the organizers and to Seva Canada and Seva Foundation for making it possible for me to attend.