A feminist policy can guide all policymaking.
Canada’s prime minister and government are openly feminist, and ‘feminist foreign policy’ is the new buzz phrase on Parliament Hill. Is a feminist foreign policy what Canada most needs?
The answer is absolutely yes — one centred on addressing the historical and structural gender power imbalances at the root of gender inequality, and their intersection with race, ethnicity, and other identity factors. This implicitly involves alleviating symptoms of inequality such as violence, early and forced marriage, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, and barriers to participating in politics, peace processes, and the labour force.
“Canada must be held to the same rigorous standards as other countries to address the root causes of persistent gender inequality here at home.”
Collecting disaggregated data on gender inequality and using it to guide gender-sensitive programming and policy-making is part of implementing a feminist foreign policy. But implementation also involves upholding international human rights laws and standards for all people, being inclusive of gender-diverse individuals, maintaining strong partnerships with rights holders and civil society organizations, and transparent decision-making.
A feminist foreign policy is the lawful thing to do to uphold international human rights standards. It is the smart thing to do to promote global peace and security, given that research shows peace processes are more lasting when women are involved. It is the prudent financial thing to do to address root causes, rather than perpetual band-aid solutions that address only the symptoms of inequality.
Equally, Canada must be held to the same rigorous standards as other countries to address the root causes of persistent gender inequality here at home. To quote American poet Emma Lazarus: “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” Canada certainly does need a feminist foreign policy. But what it needs more is a feminist policy to guide all of its policy-making and programming, to end gender inequality both in Canada and abroad.
Jayne Stoyles is the executive director of Amnesty International Canada (English branch).