I am grateful for the memories I created and the insight that I gained from attending the Honourable Marilou McPhedran’s Youth Forum. It was an honour to be in Ottawa for the first time sitting alongside my fellow attendees who represented so many diverse communities from across the country. Throughout the sessions, I became so aware of how easy it can be to get caught up in our day to day work and the issues that impact ourselves and our communities. I was grateful to hear about the initiatives and movements taking place outside of my circle. Through this learning I thought about the immense change that can occur when we come together and work collectively. The stories that were shared were so impactful as they came from a grassroots level. It made me wish that there were more opportunities for us to come together in national and global forums. Additionally, it made me acutely aware of how important it is for government officials to hear stories that come directly from the communities they serve. I feel as though we just skimmed the surface and there needs to be more time and space for these conversations to take place and for our voices to be heard.
Being a part of a delegation of eight powerful, brilliant, fierce individuals was the highlight for me. The learning didn’t end when the scheduled events were over, as we would then share a meal and discuss things that we were passionate about and the change we hope to see in the world. The ideas and thoughts that came out of these new relationships we formed will stay with me forever. Though, we did not make it to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City it is clear that we don’t need to look any further than our own communities to grasp the complexity of the issues women face and to get a sense of the dedication and effort towards achieving gender equality. Hay’sxw’qa to the ICN, BCCIC, Senator Marilou McPhedran and her team, and everyone who came together to share.
I am incredibly grateful to Senator McPhedran and the Inter-Council Network for providing me and the other inter-council network (ICN) delegates the opportunity to attend the Youth forum in Ottawa following the canceling of the 64th Commission on the Status of Women. The Youth Forum was a phenomenal experience as we had the opportunity to have an open dialogue with Senators, parliamentarians and Ambassadors about women’s rights and gender equality. One of my take-home messages was that senators and parliamentarians are eager to engage with youth and going forwards it is important to continue to create the capacity for this to effectively occur. I left the forum feeling energized, inspired, and grateful to have met seven incredible ICN delegates who I am thrilled to call my friends.
Meeting 5 of the other delegates chosen by the Inter-Council Network (ICN) and Alberta Council of Global Cooperation (AGCG) from all over the country was one of the highlights of my experience. I learned a lot from the conversations we had during our overly long dinners and our time at the house, sharing our lived experiences and lots of laughter. Our host, Senator Marilou McPhedran, was quite welcoming thus increasing our level of comfort. She reminded us that we deserve a seat at the table. That resonated with me because a part of me was doubting if I have anything to bring to the table. Being in the room with all the other delegates and the different ministers and senators that came to share their wisdom and knowledge was very humbling. They kept reminding us that the youths are wanted and needed in decision-making rooms to ask the tough questions and to share their views. It was inspiring to see the youth actively speaking truth to power, asking the senators and ministers about issues being faced by women in Canada and around the world, and brainstorming ways in which we can all be part of the change. This was an amazing experience. I appreciated the authenticity of the speakers and hearing them speak freely, sharing their experiences as women in a largely male-dominated profession. This conference made me realize that the fight for women’s rights is not close to over, and most importantly that the future is female, and the future is the youth.
Despite the sudden and unexpected cancellation of CSW64, my experience with ICN/MCIC turned out to be an incredibly rewarding and valuable experience. A huge thank you to Senator McPhedran and her team for all the hard work and last-minute planning that went into this youth forum and for making it into the success that it was despite the circumstances. During the few short days we spent in Ottawa, we had the opportunity to hear from leaders working in various areas to advance gender equality on a local and global scale and equipped us with tools that we could use to continue to make a difference in our own communities. Personally, my favourite part of this entire experience was getting to know all of the other youth delegates — although many of us came from different backgrounds, and had different areas of interest, everyone carried such an immense passion for advancing the gender-equality agenda. This experience was not only a reminder of why I am so passionate about this area of work but has also inspired me to continue to learn, grow and become a stronger advocate and ally for all womxn.