8000 people, more than 85% of them women from more than 165 countries and guess what they were talking about – connected communities!
The 2019 Women Deliver conference was electrifying. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be surrounded by people who for four days talked, learned and listened to each other on topics of power, of gender equality and the incredible potential of seeing complex issues and their solutions through a gendered lens. And it turns out that the underlying principles and approaches that we use here in Toronto to foster connected communities are profoundly connected to the philosophies of this emerging movement for global change.
The Connected Community Approach was born out of localized poverty and marginalization in East Scarborough, a suburb in one of the richest countries in the world. The hundreds of people who galvanized around this community created an approach that looked beyond helping individuals, and sought to fundamentally change the paradigm to prioritize power equity, sharing and relationships. These are the underlying concepts behind a women led movement to overcome our most intractable social issues.
The movement is not new. Women have always, in big ways and small, organized in ways that run counter to patriarchal, hierarchical, and capitalist philosophies. Indeed, some of my own deepest learnings about the power of collective action came from the women’s movement in the 1980’s and 1990s. What I found so electrifying and so energizing at the Women Deliver conference, is the sheer scale at which this movement is gathering momentum across the globe.
I met and heard from dozens of leaders, and, to a person, they all echoed the words of a 27 year-old HIV prevention and women's health rights advocate from South Africa: “Communities drive change" or, as UN Assistant Secretary General from Switzerland put it “Change grows from the ground up like vegetables”
When it was all over and I had the opportunity to reflect, I began to recognize that we are truly part of a worldwide movement that, as Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International said “Put the lived experience of women at the centre of every decision and break out of siloed thinking…these”, she says “are the things that will be the drivers of social change”
I’m going to spend the rest of the summer reflecting on how, we at the Centre of Connected Communities, can continue to act locally, and simultaneously think globally…and lend our support to this incredible global, community based movement for equity and human rights.