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ONWA leader calls for action on women's rights at Rwanda conference

Ontario Native Women's Association executive director Cora McGuire-Cyrette travels to Rwanda as part of the Women Deliver 2023 Conference.

Holding space for women, coming together for solidarity and finding solutions to foster dialogue, collaboration, and action to advance gender equality are the themes of the Women Deliver 2023 Conference, which is being attended by a delegation of staff from the Ontario Native Women’s Association.

ONWA executive director Cora McGuire-Cyrette said Tuesday that it is appropriate that the conference is in Rwanda, given all the work that they have done since the genocide in 1994.

“When you look at the women’s movement [in Rwanda], more than 60 per cent of parliamentary seats are held by women, and 46 per cent of their cabinet positions are occupied by women,” stated McGuire-Cyrette. “The World Economic Forum has ranked Rwanda sixth globally and first in Africa as the regional and global leader in advancing gender equality.”

The genocide during the Rwandan Civil War lasted 100 days and claimed the lives of between 500,000 and 662,000 members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group.

McGuire-Cyrette is joined by other ONWA staff at the conference as well as members of the board of directors and a member of ONWA’s youth council.

The last gathering was held four years ago (2019) and marks the first time that is it being held in the African continent.

McGuire-Cyrette added that while some change has been made, she further pointed to the 17 goals report compiled by the United Nations, in which the world as a whole is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030.

The UN estimates that it will take up to 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws, 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace, and 47 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments.

McGuire-Cyrette noted that governments around the world must look at their investment policies, and to explore gender-based budgets.

“[This would force governments to look at] how they’re investing into Indigenous people and how they’re investing into other racialized groups. and really take an evidence-based approach to budgets. Looking at the issues that we’re facing the community, and looking [at whether the investment is matching],” McGuire-Cyrette added.

Federal Women and Gender Equality and Youth Minister Marci Ien was part of the Canadian delegation at the conference, highlighting a $200-million commitment from the federal government looking at supporting women sexual and reproductive health.

It’s part of a 10-year commitment through the Feminist International Assistance Policy.

The inaugural conference in London in October of 2007 brought together nearly 2,000 advocates, researchers, policy makers, and global leaders from 115 countries.

The conference wraps up on Thursday.


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