On October 22, CAM showcased midwives’ efforts to save lives and speak up for the rights of women and girls around the world and in South Sudan in particular. More than 200 international parliamentarians were in Ottawa to attend a high-level conference on population and development.
CAM, in partnership with UNFPA South Sudan and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, celebrated the accomplishments of the Global Affairs Canada‑funded Strengthening Midwifery Services in South Sudan Project. As well as international delegates, Canadian parliamentarians took an active interest in the event – notable attendees included: Minister of Global Affairs and La Francophonie, Marie-Claude Bibeau; Minister of Crown‑Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett; Minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould; MP for Pontiac (QC), William Amos; MP for Vaughan‑Woodbridge (ON), Francesco Sorbara; MP for London‑Fanshawe (ON), Irene Mathyssen; MP for Sarnia‑Lambton (ON), Marilyn Gladu; and Senator Marilou McPhedran.
Why were 200 International Parliamentarians in Ottawa?
IPCI stands for the International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Program of Action. The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo articulated a bold new vision about the relationships between population, development and individual well‑being.
At the ICPD, 179 countries adopted a forward‑looking, 20‑year Program of Action that built on the success of the population, maternal health and family planning program of the previous decades while also bringing a rights‑based perspective to population work for the first time. Instead of just focusing on controlling population growth, as previous conferences on population had done – an agenda that many in the global south perceived as racist – the Cairo Consensus acknowledged for the first time that women’s empowerment and gender equality are cornerstones of population and development program.
Women’s rights and gender equality worldwide continue to be fraught topics, and building consensus is hard, making IPCI more vital than ever. IPCI conferences gather motivated parliamentarians, many of them young women, from around the world, every two years to reassert the need for the ICPD agenda, and to keep resources focused on achieving equality for women, and access to reproductive health and rights for women, girls, and families around the world. The first ever IPCI meeting was held in Ottawa in 2002, and it is a mark of Canada’s leading role in women’s rights worldwide that Canada again held this important meeting in 2018.
CAM’s reception aimed to be interactive, with learning stations where parliamentarians could practice delivering babies using emergency skills models, documentaries produced about the Strengthening Midwifery Services in South Sudan (SMS II) project, and information booths. Hands on learning opportunities for delegates reflected the key components of the SMSII project and emphasized the power of partnership and mutual capacity building. Canadian midwives involved with the SMSII project, as well international midwives from CAM Global’s other projects, and Canadian and NACM midwives, engaged with parliamentarians through conversations throughout the evening on the role of midwives in promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights.