Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is playing host to a major international feminist conference this week. Women’s Worlds 2011, which has about 1,600 attendees from around the world, is the 11th Women’s World congress and marks 30 years since the first congress at Haifa University in 1981. The conference co-hosts, Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, have been organizing and planning this event for the past four years.
The theme of the conference, which runs from July 3 to July 7, is inclusions, exclusions and seclusions in a globalized world. According to the conference description, globalization has had a complex impact on women:
Globalization has contributed to the destabilization and marginalization of women and communities. Yet certain consequences have yielded positive results for women. Globalization has meant enhanced communications and organization — trans-national connectivity that must be depend as women’s organizations and networks struggle to sustain themselves and maintain resilience in the face of forces that oppose women’s equality.
The conference emphasizes the participation of under-represented and under-resourced groups, such as young women, women with disabilities and indigenous women. It also encourages inter-generational dialogue and other critical exchanges, such as North-South, East-West, academic and grassroots, resourced and marginalized.
The conference kick-off on July 3rd was not without some controversy. The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Canada’s Status of Women Minister, welcomed women to the conference. She was booed by some members of the audience when she spoke about her government’s commitment “to bettering the lives of women and girls in communities across Canada and around the world.” The Conservative government is known for significant cuts to funding to women’s organizations, including most recently its decision to deny funding to the International Planned Parenthood Foundation. While the Conservative government has made some high profile funding announcements recently that relate to combating violence against Aboriginal communities, critics feel that it is only a drop in the bucket compared to what is truly needed.
Francoise Boivin, the New Democratic Party critic on the status of women, told the Globe and Mail that despite Ms. Ambrose’s enthusiasm, “there is so much missing” from the government’s approach to women’s issues. Ms. Boivin noted that the Conservative government can’t simply ignore things like poverty, housing, and pay equity. She also noted that while things are bad for women in general, they are much worse for native women. She would like to see Ms. Ambrose use her energy to push the Conservative cabinet to see these problems and “push really, really hard” to address them.
Outside of the political sphere, the exchange of ideas at Women’s World promises to be productive and inspiring to the 1,600 delegates who are soaking up new ideas and networking with women from around the world. Care2 will be reporting on several conference themes over the course of the conference.
Photo credit: WW2011 on flickr