June has been a momentous month for gender equality in Canada.
On Sunday, June 2, Minister of Gender Equality Maryam Monsef announced the Equality Fund, a groundbreaking monetary commitment to advance women’s rights. The Canadian government gas pledged to give $300 million to a coalition of 11 organizations—including the the MATCH International Women’s Fund, the African Women’s Development Fund and Oxfam Canada—dedicated to supporting global feminist organizations and movements. According to Global News, the Equality Fund “makes Canada the number one investor in women’s rights organizations at home and around the world.”
“Money is a very specific type of power,” said Theo Sowa, CEO of the Equality Fund coalition member organization African Women’s Development Fund. “We believe that one of the most powerful things we can do is move significant money and control into the hands of women leaders driving change in their communities.”
Two days later, Monsef and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would also be supplying $1.4 billion for women and girls’ health by 2023, with half of the funding going toward women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.
But the greatest milestone for global gender equality from the Great White North came last week—when Jacqueline O’Neill was appointed the Canada’s first Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security. The founder of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, former president of The Institute for Inclusive Security, Canadian policy advisor and Global Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute will now serve in the full-time post for up to three years. (She’s also written for Ms.!)
“When women play an active role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, and when their rights are respected, we are better able to achieve long-term, sustainable peace,” Trudeau explained in a statement. “As Canada’s first Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security, Ms. O’Neill will lead our country’s efforts to support women, help prevent and end conflict and build a better and fairer world.”
Nearly two decades ago, the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1325 mandated that 80 participating countries institute National Action Plans to alleviate women’s struggles in areas of conflict and to ensure their rights to sexual and reproductive healthcare. O’Neill helped formulate and implement NAPs on women, peace and security in Canada between 2011-2016 and again beginning in 2017. In her role, O’Neill will work across all Canadian federal departments to apply a gender lens to the administration’s work.
Monsef agreed. “Canada is a proud global advocate for women, peace and security,” she added. “In fact, gender equality is a more reliable predictor of peace than a country’s GDP or level of democracy. That’s why I am honored to welcome Ms. O’Neill to the role of Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security and look forward to working with her to improve the lives of women and people of all gender identities and expressions here in Canada and around the world.”
“I am thrilled that Ms. O’Neill will serve as Canada’s first Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security,” Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, added. “She is a world-leader in this field and a champion of gender equality in Canada and internationally. The appointment of the first ambassador is a tangible demonstration of Canada’s national and global leadership in the area of women, peace and security, and our continued efforts to increase respect for the rights of women and girls and their participation in conflict prevention and resolution.”
Research supports the enthusiasm Canadian officials have for their landmark investments in advancing women’s rights in conflict and issues of national security. The Global Study on UNSCR 1325 found that peace agreements are 20 percent more likely to last two years or more when women are included at peace-making tables, and women across the globe are often at the front lines of the fight against extremism and violence.