Gender equality and empowerment of women and girls

Canada is committed to advancing gender equality, the empowerment, promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls.

What are we doing for gender equality?

Gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls as well as the promotion and protection of their human rights are key Canadian values. Advancing gender equality supports long-term sustainable economic growth, social progress, and sustainable development. Gender equality can contribute to national, political, economic, social and cultural development.

We are committed to promoting these values through:

Advancing gender equality is at the heart of Canada’s international assistance. Canada integrates objectives to empower women in all of its development policies and programs and implements specific projects to achieve these goals.

The protection and advancement of the human rights of women and girls remains a foreign policy priority for Canada. These discussions take place with other countries and in multilateral forums.

Canada promotes the empowerment of women and girls and the equal participation of women as decision-makers and agents of change in economic, social and political processes. The focus is on achieving equitable and sustainable progress, improving women's status, and respecting women’s rights and contributions. Progress toward gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment in the development agenda requires a human-rights-based approach, the engagement of men and boys and support to women’s organizations.

Supporting the rights of women and girls

Canada works to support international efforts to enhance the role of women and girls though its international development and peace and security initiatives.

Canada played an important role in advocating for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a stand-alone goal in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We work with like-minded partners to effectively implement gender equality within all programs.

Canada was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which set international standards for eliminating gender discrimination.

We participated in the ground-breaking development of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in 1993. This declaration affirmed that “women’s rights are human rights.” It also called for action to integrate the equal status and human rights of women and girls in the mainstream of UN system-wide activities.

At the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Human Rights Council and in other fora, Canada supports resolutions calling for the elimination of violence against women (including with respect to girls, honour crimes, and the elimination of traditional or customary practices affecting the health of women and girls, including female genital mutilation). Canada was also instrumental in ensuring sexual and gender-based crimes were included in the draft Statute for the International Criminal Court.

Canada’s work at the UN has contributed to the development of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the establishment and renewal of the mandate for a UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences. The Special Rapporteur’s role is to seek and receive information on violations and develop recommendations on eliminating violence against women and remedying its consequences.

Canada also launched an Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security in October 2010.

World Conferences on Women

The UN World Conferences on Women have been important catalysts to move the agenda forward on gender equality, women’s and girls’ empowerment and women’s human rights.

Canada played a key role at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which resulted in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The declaration identified 12 critical areas of concern and set out a course of action to ensure protection and advancement of women’s rights around the world.

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meets every year to evaluate progress on gender equality and identify areas where challenges remain.

Following the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the CSW annual meeting has reviewed the Beijing declaration every five years. It reaffirms the international community’s commitment to its full and accelerated implementation. Canada will become a member of this Commission for the 2017–2020 term.

Canada promotes similar efforts in other international platforms such as the 

Gender-based analysis

Canada promotes gender-based analysis. Conducting this analysis will provide key insights about how to achieve sustainable development results for gender equality.

The Government of Canada adopted the Federal Plan for Gender Equality in 1995 as a response to the Beijing Platform for Action created at the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995). The key commitment of the Federal Plan was to “implement gender-based analysis throughout federal departments and agencies.”

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