Feb 06, Colombo: The High Commissioner of Canada to Sri Lanka and Ambassador to Maldives, Shelley Whiting, today launched the second Regional Young Women Leaders Dialogue in Colombo under this year’s theme "Young Women Leaders as Agents of Change."
The dialogue brings young women leaders from Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka together for a four-day series of meetings and discussions on the role of women and youth as agents of change in Colombo and Delhi from February 6 -10, 2017.
The Colombo component of this initiative was organized by the High Commission of Canada to Sri Lanka in cooperation with Canadian Embassies and High Commissions in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan.
Key Sri Lankan partners include the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Women's Parliamentary Caucus, the Parliament of Sri Lanka, the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, Kelaniya University's Gender Studies Unit and Hashtag Generation.
This year's event builds on the successful 2016 Regional Women Parliamentarians Dialogue, which included participation from women parliamentarians in Sri Lanka and the region.
Commenting on the dialogue, High Commissioner Whiting stated that "the young women gathered here from across the region and Sri Lanka are our leaders of today and tomorrow. We need to tap into and recognize the value they bring to the table on the whole gamut of issues that we need to address, collectively, for the betterment of our communities and countries."
Equal Voice and Equitas, two of Canada's leading CSOs focusing women's political participation and empowerment, youth leadership, and human rights will deliver capacity building sessions and speak to recent efforts in Canada to strengthen women's political participation and engage youth.
Speaking on Equal Voice's engagement, Executive Director Nancy Peckford stated that "by joining the Regional Young Women Leaders Dialogue in Colombo, Equal Voice will share lessons learned and its best practices as a national non-profit multi-partisan organization, and will increase collaboration with like-minded groups in an effort to create a global network of gender-parity advocates."
Delegates will engage in a series of meetings with Sri Lanka parliamentarians, civil society leaders, youth leaders, social media activists and academics. In addition, they will share their views and perspectives on challenges and opportunities to increased political participation during capacity building sessions with Sri Lankan youth leaders on February 6.
Ian Hamilton, Director General of Equitas commented that "participation is both a means and the desirable end result of human rights education. With the active and informed participation of women, particularly young women, in politics and community life, we can truly achieve gender equality and rights."
The Regional Young Women Leaders Dialogue supports the implementation of UNSC Resolutions 1325 and 2250 which recognize the importance of women and youth leadership in peace and state-building, and SDG 5 on gender equality. The dialogue will provide a platform for constructive, positive discussions among participants with a view to identifying local and regional synergies and networks, and identifying areas for future collaborations.
"Canada is committed to the view that gender equality is not only a human rights issue, but is also an essential component of sustainable development, social justice, peace, and security. We've all come a long way, and we all have valuable insight to share on how to continue to improve," stated High Commissioner Whiting.
"Equal Voice and Equitas have engaged in innovating programming in Canada on these issues and we hope this dialogue fosters a sharing of best practices, lessons learned and frank discussions of ongoing obstacles and barriers to women's empowerment that we can tackle together and in concert. I am looking forward to the discussions with the inspiring young women leaders here today."
The program will focus on empowering young women to become agents of change through leadership and meaningful participation in political and social structures and processes, enabling them to realize their full potential and contribute to their community and country.