Lauren and I joined over 60 EWB members in Ottawa this summer to take part in the “Day of Action”. The group attended 85 meetings with Members of Parliament, policy advisers, and staffers.
Earlier that month, EWB celebrated a huge policy win, as the Development Finance Institute was established and funded with $300 million to provide financing to low and middle income countries. The institute would work to distribute loans to growing businesses with a specific focus on supporting youth and female entrepreneurs. Canada is the last country in the G7 to form a DFI, and EWB is hopeful that it will be built to be both profit neutral and be complimentary to the organization’s investments in Sub-Saharan social enterprises. The goal of the Day of Action was to ask MP’s to hold Global Affairs Canada to keeping poverty alleviation at the heart of the the DFI.
The first day was intense, as we learned about the policy we were going to be advocating for. I only learned about the Development Finance Institute in the reading we were given on the flight, and I quickly needed to memorize facts, come up with concise and coherent explanations, and practice with my partner so we could work the next day like a seamless team.
I was nervous, because I had not done anything like this before, and felt a good conversation and new ally for the DFI was crucial for our policy ask to become a reality. Some meetings went well, they listened to what we were saying and committed to getting in touch with those able to influence the DFI. Some MP’s had little experience with international development but were excited to hear what we had to say and support young people. Others, despite all the preparation beforehand, did not agree with the DFI and our message, or had valid questions we could not answer.
When the news leaves me usually feeling discouraged, it felt great to talk about something as empowering and uplifting as supporting entrepreneurs in low income countries. I was surprised that in each of my meetings, I was able to talk with the MP’s as people about something I cared about and without barriers of class or hierarchy. Feeling motivated by this work and the responsibility elected officials hold to their constituents, I called my Senator from Maine in opposition to the US Health Care bill for 22 consecutive days, until it was defeated.
– Jane Ouillette