Feminism in International Development: A Conversation

A conversation with Deborah Glaser (BCCIC), Sara Farid (ICN), and Michael Simpson (BCCIC) on the topic of feminism in Canadian international development and assistance.

Summary of video by Gurleen Grewal

Behind the scenes at BCCIC, there are insights into international development, feminism, and policy-making that happen in day-to-day conversations. So, in an effort to make this dialogue public and invite more people to think about the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), BCCIC made a video titled, “Feminism in International Development: A Conversation.” Joining in this conversation are Mike Simpson, Executive Director of BCCIC, Deborah Glaser, Senior Policy Analyst at BCCIC, and Sara Farid, Inter-Council Network Coordinator.

What Mike, Deborah, and Sara focus on in this video is a conference that Global Affairs Canada (GAC) hosted on October 1st, 2018 to discuss how to effectively deploy the $300 million that FIAP promises to put towards the goal of gender equality. For context, FIAP hopes to bring together the Government of Canada, the private sector, and civil society to develop international assistance programs that will empower women and girls. The action areas that form the foundation of FIAP include human dignity, growth that works for everyone, environment and climate, inclusive governance, and peace and security.

Discussing the mechanisms of FIAP in accessible terms, Mike, Deborah, and Sara dive into what this policy might mean or look like on the ground. Using questions to nuance the talk around FIAP, Mike asks what distinguishes it from past and current international assistance policies, besides the use of the word “feminist.” In her response, Deborah maintains that the F in FIAP is not simply decorative. Adding an F for “feminist” in its title, FIAP makes it clear that the lives and contributions of women and girls matter. This policy positions women and girls as agents that can help international development, whether the goal is peacekeeping or eradicating poverty.

Bringing a crucial sensitivity to the issue of perspective, Deborah notes that even the staff of an organization like BCCIC that supports gender equality cannot speak for the women and girls from faraway communities. Yet, as Deborah and Sara reveal, the GAC consultation they attended did not include the voices of women and girls from the very communities FIAP hopes to help. In this way, the consultation’s talks about how to effectively deploy the funds from FIAP can fail to address the priorities of the women and girls living in target communities.

The conversation around feminism in international development does not belong to a single sector, society, or organization. It belongs those who are willing to work towards gender equality, and requires diverse perspectives. While teasing out the complications of applying feminism in international development, Mike, Deborah, and Sara model respectful dialogue. They talk in terms that make sense and show that creating a fund and a policy to support gender equality is only the beginning of great change. The next step, is figuring out how to use FIAP to advance international assistance and empower women and girls. In other words, the next step is going to need productive conversations.