18 July 2023 | Women Deliver has heard and understands the criticism from our stakeholders about the participation of President Novak at the opening ceremony of WD2023.
Personally, I welcome this feedback. President Novak’s views on gender equality, inclusion, and sexual and reproductive health and rights are in no way aligned to the views of Women Deliver, so I am glad that there is a backlash.
Our approach is to maintain an open line of communication, explaining the circumstances, our position, and the steps we're taking to navigate this situation. We believe in the importance of policies that support equal opportunity for all gender identities and that challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes.
The opening ceremony was led by the host nation, and therefore inviting the speakers for the opening fell under its purview. Women Deliver is working in partnership with the Government of Rwanda. They have been an incredible partner and host. When we said we were going to bring thousands of people from all over the world they said, “anyone is welcome, we will give them all visas.” No country that we have ever worked for before has done that. This is why we have 170 countries represented here.
I also admire that they have been able to achieve so much when it comes to gender equality. Rwanda has been at the top of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s monthly ranking of women in national parliament for years. They are ranked among the top 10 countries to have narrowed the gender gap.
Yes, we see differences with them, and they see differences with us. We have been approaching these differences with honesty and working in close partnership despite these, which is the only way we will be able to move gender equality forward. When we said that we were bringing in advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community and we want them to be safe, they gave us their commitment that they would welcome them, protect them, and do everything they could to accommodate them.
So, when it comes to President Novak, we invited all the Heads of State and Heads of Government in collaboration – and while we did not agree on the decision to give her a platform, just as Rwanda accommodated us on so many things, we did so in the spirit of the partnership.
I agree with very little of what President Novak believes in, and I am sure she agrees with very little of what I believe in, especially around our views on the role of women, reproductive rights and justice and other issues. It’s also important to note that if we want to achieve our goals as a feminist community, we have to talk with people whom we don’t always agree with.
Women Deliver's stance on promoting gender equality and women's rights is unwavering and unambiguous. We are determined to stand by our values while also welcoming feedback, differing opinions, and criticism. The presence of President Novak at the opening ceremony does not reflect nor will it change our commitment to these values.
We trust in the strength of our mission and the impact of our work, and I hope others will also.