Over my long affiliation with Results Canada (15 years and counting) as a volunteer, a donor, and an on and off Executive Director, I’ve been fortunate to have many amazing moments as an advocate. Every day I feel lucky to be doing this work alongside so many people who inspire me. However, one day in particular stands out – as I’m sure is the case with many advocates – and I’ve grown to think of it as my favourite advocacy moment.
It was throughout 2017 and 2018, when Results was working with a small group of Canadian civil society partners calling for Canada to lead on a signature G7 initiative to ramp up support for girls’ education globally. Alongside that effort was a call to advance a G7 declaration in support of the rights and health of adolescent girls. Intending to ignite G7 leaders, the Whistler Declaration on ‘Unlocking the Power of Adolescent Girls for Sustainable Development’ was introduced to show the importance of recognizing the power of young girls and women as drivers of development.
As a result of our advocacy effort on the declaration, Canada’s then Minister for International Cooperation set aside time at a global meeting to be held in May 2018 in Whistler (British Columbia) for adolescent girls from countries around the world to speak directly to G7 Development Ministers. These young women were invited to share their priorities and aspirations for our global future. Partners like UNICEF, Save the Children, Right to Play, World Vision, and Plan Canada rallied and brought together six young advocates from Lebanon, Benin, Jamaica, Mali, South Africa and Wikwemikoong (unceded territory in Northern Ontario) to speak truth to power. I was honoured to be invited to mentor and coach these amazing young women on advocacy ahead of the meeting and I was then honoured to join them at the meeting to moderate the discussion. A full description of how it all unfolded is on our YouTube channel.
After spending three days with Reine, Irmine, Alnastazia, Aissata, Motshedisi, and Hannah, I felt inspired and impressed by these amazing young women. When the big day finally came for them to address some of the world’s most powerful development actors (Ministers who controlled about 80 percent of the world’s official development assistance) we rallied for one last huddle. I shared a story I had heard at a Results International conference that you may have heard by now since it’s core to the Results approach to citizen advocacy.
I talked to these young women about how powerful they were and how as advocates they should be proud of pushing themselves to be bold. I told them that when we go beyond our comfort zone it’s not unusual to feel our hearts beating hard in our chests. When that happens, there are two ways to think of it: the first is as an emblem of fear; the second is as ‘inner applause’. So when they were representing the truth of young women around the world, I said they should listen for that ‘inner applause’ and take it as a signal of their power and courage.
One hour later, these young women and I found ourselves at the conference centre surrounded by big cameras and ‘important’ people. As we waited for the proceedings to begin with the young women sitting around the horseshoe table, I took a walk around to share a few more words of encouragement before taking my own seat.
That’s when it happened. Just as people within the centre were getting settled, I looked over at Irmine from Burkina Faso who smiled at me as she put her hand to her heart and tapped it lightly, acknowledging her ‘inner applause’. And then Hannah did the same, followed by Aissata, Alnastazia, Reine, and Motshedisi. All of them were powering each other up (and me) with that silent nod to acknowledge their ‘inner applause’.
They went on to call for the leaders present to take action in support of adolescent girls around the world. They spoke so compellingly that they were invited to stay through lunch to carry on the conversation. The result was the passage of the declaration and a renewed commitment to support adolescent girls, which also helped pave the way for the Charlevoix Declaration in support of educating girls in emergencies that followed at the G7 Summit.
Over the years I’ve had the chance to work with parliamentarians in Ottawa, collaborate with frontline advocates in Kenya, and even march through the streets with protestors in Cape Town. I’ve sat down with one Prime Minister, encouraging Canada’s leadership on child and maternal health, and held hands with struggling women borrowers who were part of a microfinance circle in Bangladesh. And most importantly I’ve had the chance to work with some amazing Results volunteers and advocates – like you – who are donating your time, energy, talent, and heart for a world free of extreme poverty. There are so many days I count as blessings but sitting in solidarity around that G7 table as a witness to the power of those strong young advocates, who were in turn being powered up by their own ‘inner applause’ and by each other, was a day I’ll never forget.
Share your moment
We empower each other by sharing our advocacy experiences so now it’s your turn! I want to hear about your own favourite advocacy moment. Tell everyone when you felt the biggest ‘inner applause’ as an advocate by posting about your moment on social media, using #Canada4Results. Let’s celebrate each other as empowered volunteers and share in each other’s best moments as passionate advocates!
Thank you, as always, for being a constant inspiration to me and the Results team.