Reflections on International Development Week 2019: Together for Gender Equality
Ife Kolade participates at York University and University of Toronto events during IDW 2019
During International Development Week from February 4 to 10, 2019 I attended two events on behalf of Oikocredit, which gave me a chance to make new connections while deepening my knowledge of the great work that continues to be done by other organizations in the international development sphere.
The first event I attended during the week, held at York University, was a partnership between Oikocredit and the International Development Student Association at York(IDSAY). Through Oikocredit Board member, Karl Braun, the event gave students at York University the opportunity to learn about microfinance, Oikocredit’s 693 partners worldwide, and their recent intiatives. Students were particularly interested to learn about Oikocredit’s emphasis on supporting female entrepreneurs and the myriad of reasons why female empowerment is core to Oikocredit’s mission.
Karl Braun & Samir Janmohamed, Past President IDSAY.
Photo by Humayra Safa
The second event that I had the opportunity to attend was Currents, the annual development conference at the University of Toronto Scarborough. This student run, day long conference was an amazing opportunity to hear from speakers from various backgrounds in the development field and to learn from the upcoming generation of development leaders, the current students. In fact, throughout the day, I was repeatedly impressed by the thoughtful questions the student attendees brought to the table.
During a panel on global citizenship, speakers were asked about ways of affecting widespread global change. Prateek Awasthi, a panellist and representative of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), noted that social change is the result of years and years of community organizing. Yes, there are moments of large social upheaval but “there was never an end colonization day”. This comment, and others from the panel, led to an in-depth discussion about one of the more popular social gatherings meant to affect social change – WE Day. Audience members questioned their experiences with WE Day and other similar events, as well as the actual impact of these events on creating lasting momentum and tangible change. This type of questioning the “junk food of public engagement”, a phrase coined by Stuart Hickox from the One Campaign, was a common thread during the conference.
As a former international development studies student, I left the two events optimistic. Both events underscored that there continues to be interest in tackling global poverty and addressing gender inequality. But perhaps most importantly, and this was very evident at the Currents conference, development practitioners are no longer looking at solutions that work within unsustainable systems. The systems and models of wealth distribution and economic opportunity are being questioned more loudly. Just like microfinance was an innovation when the movement first began in the 1970s, the next generation of development practitioners are working to create 21st century innovative solutions.