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Empowering the next generation of women leaders: A look at the Embassy of Canada to Costa Rica’s #SheLeadsHere event series

Illustration of a chain of women from different backgrounds

Recognizing and supporting the next generation of young women leaders is crucial as we continue to make strides toward gender equality and women’s empowerment. In line with Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy, that’s exactly what Global Affairs Canada’s #SheLeadsHere event series by the Embassy of Canada to Costa Rica aims to do!

In the past months, the Embassy of Canada to Costa Rica hosted 3 events for young women leaders centered on the objectives of its #SheLeadsHere campaign. The events provided mentoring and leadership opportunities to attendees. Participants aged 15 to 34 and from diverse backgrounds, such as journalism and disability rights, networked and shared knowledge. This article recounts their experiences and positive discussions.

A successful launch

Participants at the first #SheleadsHere event in December 2022
Participants at the first #SheleadsHere event in December 2022

The first event, in December 2022, was a success! It focused on the challenges faced by, and opportunities for, women in activism.

“Throughout my career, I have found sorority and strength in the company of other women who have served as my mentors, colleagues and friends,” said Elizabeth Williams, Canada’s Ambassador to Costa Rica, Honduras and to Nicaragua (designate) to the attendees. “I would like you to help us turn these meetings into a space to support the efforts you lead.”

Participants exchanging views and experiences
Participants exchanging views and experiences

The participants of diverse individual backgrounds (such as student leadership and activism on behalf of People of African descent), all expressed their support for the shared vision of achieving greater equality and social justice.

Leonela Gordon, an activist on issues important to People of African descent, remarked that participants motivated each other to persist with their work. She said that the initial hurdle activists face is often the pressure they put on themselves.

More opportunities to make a difference

Participants at the speed mentoring session in March 2023
Participants at the speed mentoring session in March 2023

After the successful first event, young Afro-descendant women shared their experiences of countering racism at an online meeting in February marking Black History Month.

In March, the Embassy held a speed-mentoring event for International Women’s Day. This was a valuable experience for the many young women participants! They were able to share their dreams, passions and needs with successful women leaders and role models from different fields.

“Working on human rights issues, especially with a gender perspective, has been very challenging in recent times in Nicaragua,” explained Velia Sevilla, a Nicaraguan student attending the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica. “Participating in the mentoring session has allowed me to remember why it is important that we women continue to lead in decision-making spaces, develop proposals, be proactive and take advantage of the spaces to give a voice to other women. Having the presence of mentors who shared their dreams, struggles, memories, achievements and life lessons has allowed me to rethink my life project, recognize the importance of what I do and acknowledge the role of persevering to achieve results.”

A step toward gender equality

Overall, these 3 events were a resounding success! They provided a platform for advocating for gender equality in leadership positions and decision making. Later this year, the Embassy will hold more meetings based on the needs and recommendations expressed by the participating young women leaders. These include self-care and the prevention of online violence against women and will be aimed at supporting activists and journalists.

#SheLeadsHere is just one of Global Affairs Canada’s many initiatives to advance its mission of promoting gender equality and improving the lives of women and girls. This commitment is further demonstrated by our substantial investments in advancing gender equality, including the $300 million commitment to the Equality Fund and the $150 million commitment in support of local women’s rights organizations under the Women’s Voice and Leadership program.

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