As a member of Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” Speakers Bureau, I was invited to attend the International Assistance Review (IAR) consultations for youth hosted by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) in Ottawa on June 28, 2016.
CODE Summer Student Intern
With the new 2030 United Nations' Sustainable Development Agenda, the Government of Canada has decided it is time to renew its international assistance policies. As part of this process, GAC has been hosting IAR consultations across the country.
The goal of these consultations is to consult with Canadians by engaging them in discussions around “establish(ing) an international assistance policy and funding framework that will be focused on helping the poorest and most vulnerable people, and supporting fragile states, while advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development” (Global Affairs Canada). Canada is approaching these new policies and programs with a focus on women and girls and by implementing its actions through a feminist lens by using an intersectional and inclusive approach.
Global Affairs Canada is focusing on 6 themes as part of the IAR in the development of the new policy, which are defined in its Discussion Paper.
The latest consultation on June 28th was focused on gathering the opinions of youth, and I was fortunate to have the amazing opportunity to participate in this critical discussion!
What an inspiring afternoon full of motivated youth, innovative ideas and important discussion!
The day started with excitement in the air as youth in fields ranging from international development to human rights gathered while being welcomed by the Parliamentary Secretary, Karina Gould, and GAC staff. The Parliamentary Secretary stressed the importance of youth engagement and challenged us to question policies and to push the boundaries of the current international development discussion. By the end of the day, I believe that this “challenge” was met!
We were put into breakout groups where different groups discussed various thematic topics and developed suggestions. I was in the break out group for “Health and Rights of Women and Children”. Let me tell you, when you have a table full of young, passionate individuals with different backgrounds, the discussion is full of intersectional and nuanced opinions. The ideas of community engagement with all stakeholders and focusing on the root causes of problems were common themes throughout the discussion. Due to my time at CODE, I was able to approach the theme of “Health and Rights of Women and Children” through an educational perspective, and I believe that it allowed me to effectively contribute to the group. I expressed the idea of how impactful quality education and culturally relevant teaching materials are in positively affecting issues such as poverty, child marriage, and health by using CODE as an example. Education truly is the root subject that has the power to make strides in advancing the SDGs.
During our discussion, the Honorable Marie-Claude Bibeau (Minister of International Development and La Francophonie) joined us at our table! I got the chance to have some one on one time with her where we discussed the importance of engaging youth through opportunities such as forums and co-op programs.
Next, all of the groups gathered to share their ideas with the Minister and the Secretary General. Each of the groups' suggestions impressed them both! The Minister said she was inspired by the way that we stressed the importance of taking an intersectional approach, and that she hopes that the government and the NGOs will practice this approach in future policies/ projects.
All in all, I am very inspired and thankful that I got the opportunity to be a part of this group of youth, and for the fact that our input was valued by such distinguished individuals. I know that I'll continue to learn about and champion international assistance, specifically with a focus on education throughout and beyond my remaining time at CODE! I believe that CODE embodies all that was discussed at this consultation and will continue to positively impact communities through the power of education.
I encourage you to express your thoughts and ideas on how Canada should contribute to international assistance on the world stage by submitting a written comment via the international assistance review consultation website, which is accepting submissions until July 31st.
I will leave you with some words from two fellow youth who were at the consultation:
"It's humbling to know that the government considers the views of Canadians and Canadian youth equally.” -Kassandra Neranjan, student at the University of Toronto
"Being surrounded by people my age so knowledgable, innovative and committed global citizens was truly inspiring." -Allison McDonald, student at the University of Ottawa
Natasha Harris-Harb is a University of Ottawa student - majoring in International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women Studies, CODE Summer Intern and education advocate 24/7!