The Women Deliver 2023 conference held in Rwanda was a pivotal event that brought together a diverse range of stakeholders and advocates for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The conference provided a platform for meaningful discussions, knowledge exchange, and collaboration on various pertinent issues. A space that brought together women from all over the globe under one title: Spaces, Solidarity, and Solutions. This year our colleagues Ghewa Nasr, Program Officer and Maria Ghafari, Audio Visual Officer were delegated as youth participants to the WD23.
FEMALE proudly delegated two of its esteemed members, Ghewa Nasr, Program Officer, and Maria Ghafari, Audio Visual Officer, as youth participants at WD23. The delegation actively engaged in various sessions, workshops, and networking events throughout the conference, they got the chance to participate in international talks hosting inspiring feminist speakers, discussing transformative solidarity, feminist peace, gender equality in the MENA region, transformative education, and much more, in addition to promoting FEMALE’s beliefs and values.
Themes and Discussions
The conference, held in Rwanda, comprehensively addressed critical themes including maternal health, sexual and reproductive rights, gender-based violence, economic empowerment, and political representation. FEMALE actively involved in the pre-conference sessions through attending a discussion implemented by Hivos and that hosted feminist activists and WHRDs from all over the globe, among which were our local partners, Marsa sexual health center and Noon al Tadamon feminist organization. The session was titled “Intersectionality in Practice” (building a global SRHR movement serving young women in all their diversity). FEMALE delegates contributed to the discussion through sharing their experiences and their activism, alongside FEMALE’s work and beliefs when it comes to global feminist solidarity and the importance of building an international movement capable of effective and transformative change. Moreover, FEMALE’s delegates participated in various events, like attending sessions related to SRHR, among which a session titled “Menstrual health matters, make it count” organized by Columbia University that discussed the period poverty rates worldwide and especially in the global west, emphasizing on the pressing need to prioritize the menstrual health of girls and women; FEMALE delegates reflected the organization’s work on period poverty in Lebanon, the humanitarian response to the pressing needs of girls and women in Lebanon during the economic crisis. Furthermore, our delegates were able to join discussions with inspiring WHRD like Malala Yousafzai dealing with transformative education and the journey of Malala, emphasizing the crucial role youth play in advocating for change. Last but not least, team were able to attend side events discussing digital rights, among which was “Ctrl+Alt+Advocate: Youth-Led Online Activism for Digital Rights” organized by Fondation Botnar, and hosting international speakers that provided inputs on the violence marginalized groups face in the virtual world, and the self-censorship this implies especially on the youth. The session also discussed the need for advocating for digital rights and how the youth can play a huge role in creating digital ecosystem that respect their rights. In addition to the wide spectrum of topics and sessions, our delegates had the chance to attend the opening ceremony, cultural night, film festival and the NGO fair.
Contributions and Engagements
FEMALE delegates made substantial contributions during panel discussions, offering valuable insights and sharing best practices on Movement building, through engaging in sessions revolving around Transformative Feminist Movement Building and youth engagement in pioneering solutions towards gender equality. Furthermore, they leveraged the networking opportunities provided by the conference to connect with like-minded organizations and individuals, paving the way for potential collaborations and knowledge-sharing endeavors.
Inclusivity is not just a theme!
The opening ceremony of Women Deliver 2023 garnered attention due to the presence of Hungary’s President, Katalin Novák, known for her conservative stance on women’s rights. This inclusion sparked debate as it was viewed by many as a form of pinkwashing, given Novák’s affiliations with a government that has hesitated to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a crucial step in addressing violence against women, with approximately 20% of Hungarian women having experienced domestic violence. Additionally, the government’s reluctance to raise wages in sectors predominantly staffed by women, like education and healthcare, and its limitations on teachers’ strike rights, have raised concerns. Following a similar path to Russia, Hungary has implemented a law prohibiting the discussion of homosexuality in educational materials, which impacts the progress towards inclusive and comprehensive education. While abortion rights remain unchanged, Novák’s commitment to protecting life from conception brings about discussions regarding the potential future of women’s reproductive rights in Hungary.
Furthermore, the absence of Arabic interpretation services at Women Deliver 2023 posed a significant barrier for Arab activists and individuals seeking to engage meaningfully in the conference. This oversight highlighted a critical gap in inclusivity within feminist spaces, where language should never be a hindrance to participation. In a global forum advocating for gender equality, it is imperative that all voices, regardless of linguistic background, are heard and valued. Providing comprehensive interpretation services ensures that the diverse perspectives and experiences of Arab activists and thought leaders are fully integrated into the discourse, enriching the collective understanding of gender equality issues. Inclusivity in feminist spaces, particularly in international conferences like Women Deliver, is not only a matter of principle, but also a practical step towards fostering genuine solidarity and generating sustainable solutions for gender equality worldwide.
Overcoming Challenges, Embracing Growth
While challenges were encountered during the conference, they served as learning opportunities. These experiences have equipped FEMALE with valuable insights for future engagements of this nature.
FEMALE’s participation in Women Deliver 2023 was instrumental in advancing our work in the discourse on gender equality and women’s empowerment. The conference provided a platform for meaningful dialogue and collaboration, and FEMALE’s contributions were noteworthy in various sessions and discussions.
We look forward to leveraging the momentum gained from this conference to continue our efforts in advancing gender equality on a global scale.