Reflections on International Development Week 2019: Together for Gender Equality
Inspired by IDW 2019, Jack Bolland digs into Canada's role and responsibilty in adressing gender equality and how Oikocredit is leading by example
On February 6th, 2019, Oikocredit Canada, in partnership with the Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC), Engineers without Borders, Cuso International, Crossroads International, EQWIP HUBs and Canadian Executive Services Organization (CESO), hosted an event at the Centre of Social Innovation in Toronto on ‘Together for Gender Equality’. Oikocredit Canada not only sponsored the event, but also participated in a youth-led panel discussion on international work placements, gender specific programming, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Canada’s role and opportunity to support gender equality. Gatherings such as these are necessary to encourage dialogue about the intersectionality between gender and social development, raise aware of issues about progress and transformation, raise awareness about issues and successes, share experiences and stories, advocate for injustice and promote equality.
The incorporation of a gender-sensitive, community-based approach to international development has become increasingly critical for organizations to sustain their impact, build resilient economic and social growth, and achieve their goals. This method has been central to Oikocredit’s business model since its inception in 1975. Rather than applying a gender lens, gender equality is baked into Oikocredit’s investment pillars to finance projects and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that: create jobs and income for disadvantaged people, promote women in management and/or employment and strive for positive environmental impact. In fact, of the 36 million inclusive finance clients reached by Oikocredit, 84% of beneficiaries are female. This is what I admire about Oikocredit.
The most impactful organizations are those that actively listen to the needs, experiences and feelings of vulnerable communities, so that they can gain a holistic understanding of their specific challenges, establish trust and formulate a solution that leaves all stakeholders better off. To implement an effective solution, distributing resources, such as capital, training, technology, is necessary to give individuals the tools they need to empower themselves and their communities.
In order for these resources to be deployed efficiently, investments in certain foundations, such as health and education, must be maintained, especially in places with complex historical, cultural and political backgrounds. Oikocredit fulfills these requirements through their longstanding commitment to provide disadvantaged entrepreneurs with reoccurring loan capital, continuous capacity building for clients and innovative finance structures for emerging businesses, all while allowing Canadian citizens to contribute to global equality. Technological advancements make it possible to breakdown one of the most harrowing barriers facing entrepreneurs in developing countries: lack of financial access.
As Canada positions itself to be a leader in gender equality, Canadians and our associated organizations are presented with a unique opportunity to shape and influence development initiatives through collective action, knowledge sharing and strategic partnerships. As Canadians, we have an important responsibility to advocate for gender equality and encourage others to adopt the Canadian values of inclusion, compassion and equity.