In the final days before the G7 summit, the recent meeting of development and finance ministers, co-chaired by Canada’s Minister of Finance Bill Morneau and Minister of International Development and La Francophonie Marie-Claude Bibeau in Whistler, British Columbia, was the first of its kind. With a presentation by the Gender Equality Advisory Council for Canada’s G7 Presidency, the main message was that in order to achieve sustainable development, there will have to be “a step change in both the quality of financing for development, as well as the full and equal participation of women.” Could Canada’s G7 presidency be paving the way for a feminist future and more inclusive growth?

Between the #MeToo campaign and the refocus on feminism, 2018 has already been a whirlwind year for women’s rights and global gender equality. The momentum has been building up here at home, as we have seen in the gender equality debates in Women 7 (W7), the creation of the Gender Equality Advisory Council in Ottawa in April and the Women’s Forum in Toronto in May. W7 and the Women’s Forum have been active on the social media front, promoting awareness through slogans such as #theFUTUREisFEMINIST and “Bridging the gap: A call to the G7 for inclusive progress.”

In light of this momentum, how can we convince the leaders at the G7, on June 8-9 in Charlevoix, Quebec, that gender equality, which is one of the summit’s five themes, should be at the top of the agendas of all discussions?

To begin with, it will help that we have a feminist prime minister in Justin Trudeau. Trudeau is likely to champion measures to empower women economically, including advocating for their participation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries. Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy and the adoption of a gender-based analysis in the recent federal budget are two examples of the PM’s feminist and gender-oriented policies.

An important topic will be female entrepreneurship, which even controversial figures like US President Donald Trump can relate to, given Trudeau’s recent efforts in establishing and running a Canada-US council focusing on women in business with Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

In particular, it will be crucial to examine the tough issue of pay equity for women, which spans all five topics. It will be important to stress that all of the policies enacted through this summit should adopt the lens of a gender-based analysis « plus,” which ensures that a particular policy takes into account how it might impact the genders differently, including intersectional feminist issues such as race, class, age and disability.

But we also need to look at where the issue of gender equality may be lower on the agenda in the four other themes: “Working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy,” “Investing in growth that works for everyone,” “Preparing for jobs of the future” and “Building a more peaceful and secure world.”

If the G7 world leaders — Trudeau and Trump in particular — are able to speak each other’s political language, which is often a challenge in discussing tough gender equality issues, this will be a win. Reproductive health is high on the list of these politically charged gender issues, and we certainly might see an interesting interplay between the Canadian government’s advocacy of sexual and reproductive health rights and Trump’s global gag rule on women’s health.

One effective way to confront these challenges was recently outlined by the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council. Trudeau established the council to advise him on Canada’s priorities for the G7 presidency. Co-chaired by Isabelle Hudon, Canada’s ambassador to France, and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it includes a diverse mix of gender activists and experts from around the world, such as the executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo. When they council first met in April Trudeau had encouraged the council to be bold. They have now provided him with a comprehensive set of recommendations entitled “Make Gender Inequality History.”

Another model was laid out at the Women 7 Summit, which recently welcomed 70 feminist leaders from Canada, G7 countries and the global South to discuss gender equality and women’s empowerment. Entitled W7: Feminist Visions for the G7, it was “the first-ever feminist summit on the sidelines of the G7.” For Canada, it means an “all issues are feminist issues” approach, pushing our G7 partners to ensure that a feminist analysis is applied to political, economic, social, ecological and cultural issues.

The W7 called on G7 leaders to invest in sustainable economic industries, public services and social assistance, and to reduce and redistribute unpaid care work. Emphasizing the importance of an equitable, safer workforce, it warned that the current workplace model perpetuates violence against women, and that “too many women are facing precarious, dangerous and exploitative work situations.” Finally, it reminded states to remain accountable to the most vulnerable in their policies and actions, calling on states to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

If the G7 summit implements the recommendations of the W7 leaders, that would be a huge victory, not just for gender equality but also for inclusivity in the summit process. Indeed, including strong feminist voices would be a significant step forward for gender equality. As Status of Women Canada said, the diverse perspectives on these issues will make the discussions and the outcomes more effective and inclusive. Decisions made at the G7 have a global impact, and including a gender perspective in global directions on economic, foreign policy, ecological and social issues will be critical.

Hopefully we will see the G7’s discussions also reflect the spirit and nature of the conversations that came out of Women’s Forum Canada 2018 in Toronto, which addressed a range of issues such as the transformative potential of women’s leadership. It took a close look at the “role of the private sector in fostering inclusive growth, scaling investment in women-led businesses, and using urban planning as an accelerator of climate action and the social implications of technological change.”

As the host of the G7, Canada will be uniquely positioned to advance its priorities. It would be ideal to see the representation and inclusivity of women’s voice as outlined in the G7 recommendations from the Gender Equality Advisory Council and the Women’s Forum. Under Canada’s presidency, the G7 should take the opportunity to prioritize the “meaningful feminist approach” outlined in the W7’s recommendations: empower women economically, recognize women’s essential role in global peace and security and the mitigation of climate change, guarantee resources for the feminist movement, promote women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, work to prevent violence against women and support intersectional feminism.

Photo: May 31, 2018: Canada’s Minister of International Development, Marie Claude Bibeau, with Acting Deputy Administrator, USAID, David Moore, and Secretary of State for International Development for the United Kingdom, Penny Mordaunt, during the G7 finance and central bank governors meeting in Whistler, British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward.

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Shubha Sandill
Shubha Sandill currently teaches in the Law and Society Program at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University. Her research focuses on globalization, gender justice and socio-legal and policy reforms.

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