Australia Awards alumnae Dr Jhangmoo Sherpa (Nepal) and Ms Sarah Soysa (Sri Lanka) represented their countries this year at the Women Deliver Conference, the world’s largest gathering on gender equality and the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women. The Conference, organised by the Government of Canada and inaugurated by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was held in Vancouver, Canada from 3 to 6 June 2019 and attended by more than 8,000 participants from 165 countries.
Dr Jhangmoo Sherpa, who holds a Masters in International Public Health from the University of Sydney, represented Action for Nepal, a non-profit organisation working on maternal and child health. She says her key learning from the Conference was that investment in youth-led solutions and increased political engagement is needed to bring about gender equality. She plans to implement advocacy activities and communications strategies to encourage decision-makers to prioritise issues about girls and women and to facilitate youth empowerment and participation.
“Solutions to these issues are not easy but together as individuals and as organisations we can use our unified power to hold governments accountable to more gender sensitive actions and to bring about real and sustainable change. We need to break down the barriers that have historically deprived girls and women from their rights and opportunities. To make powerful change happen fast, people must come together and bring along those who have long been excluded. In a gender-equal world everybody wins’’ says Jhangmoo.
Ms Sarah Soysa, who represented her employer – the UN Population Fund – at the Conference, holds a Masters in Gender Development from the University of Melbourne. She was identified by the Conference organisers as a Young Leader and a Generation Now core group member. Generation Now, a program that supports youth-led and youth-serving grassroots initiatives, provided Sarah with a grant to fund work with Sri Lankan youth who are hard-of-hearing, to improve their knowledge of and access to sexual and reproductive health services.
The conference, Sarah says, has helped her identify ways to address sensitive issues around women’s rights. Sarah plans to develop strategies to increase private sector investment and engagement and to mobilise resources from non-traditional partners for programs focusing on women and youth issues.
The Women Deliver Conference focused on issues such as health, nutrition, education, economic and political empowerment to human rights, good governance, and girls’ and women’s agency and equality.