05/08/2015 11:51 EDT | Updated 05/08/2016 05:59 EDT

Flowers Wilt But Empowering Women Lasts Forever

development unplugged

By Mélanie Gallant

Mothers everywhere hope for a better future for their children.

For a mother in Canada, a better future could mean more investment in public services and better social programs such as childcare and affordable housing. For an aboriginal woman in Canada, it could mean a future where her daughters will not be subject to extreme levels of violence against aboriginal women and girls.

For a woman farmer in northern Guatemala it could mean a future where she has equal access to resources and land. For a Masaii woman in northern Tanzania, it could mean a future where girls run to school every morning instead of running away from their villages to avoid female genital mutilation and child marriage.

Many Canadians will gather to celebrate and show appreciation for "moms" on Mother's Day, thanking them for the work they do for their families each and every day. We recognize the immeasurable contributions of mothers in our lives, our families, our communities, the economy and our country. Canada should, too!

But the recognition shouldn't end with fancy speeches or photo ops in front of tulip-decorated monuments. It needs to be expressed with lasting and meaningful actions -- like putting women's rights at the heart of national and international policy-making, like making sure women's voices are heard in public discourse and by advancing gender justice and women's empowerment with our aid dollars.

Canada committed to being a world leader in saving the lives of women and children on the international stage in 2010 with the Muskoka initiative. While the initiative was welcomed and much needed, to date virtually none of that funding has been supporting reproductive healthcare and family planning. In just one year, U.K. government spending on family planning was more than double the total of Canada's spending on family planning in the previous four years, with a mere 1.2 per cent of Muskoka funding allocated to family planning, according to the government's Statistical Reports.

The amount of Canada's international development assistance devoted to promoting women's rights is shrinking. Less than two per cent of Canada's aid budget in the past five years has been allocated to programs specifically designed to advance gender equality and women's empowerment, below average in comparison to other donor country spending.

To truly recognize mothers and women in Canada and around the world, this government needs to:

• Get serious about ending violence against women and girls, including the extreme levels of violence against aboriginal women and girls in Canada and showing leadership on the international stage to end violence against women in all forms;

• Take action to end women's economic inequality by significantly increasing the percentage of Canada's international development budget allocated to advance gender justice and women's empowerment;

• Support women's leadership by re-investing in Canada's organizations and institutions that champion women's rights, and by creating a flagship Canadian fund to support women's organizations and women's human rights defenders around the world.

Women made up the majority of voters in the last federal election, but federal party leaders haven't publicly debated issues that are important to and affect women and girls for more than 30 years.

This year the government needs to put the flowery Mother's Day speeches aside and get serious about creating real and lasting change for women and girls. They can get started by calling for a leaders' debate ahead of this fall's national election that is focused on issues of concern to women and by increasing support and funding for women's rights both at home and abroad.

Mélanie Gallant, Media Relations, Oxfam Canada, on behalf of Up for Debate.

Up for Debate is a pan-Canadian conversation on gender justice and equality, and a call for all political parties to make meaningful commitments to change women's lives for the better.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CCIC or its members


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