A global voice for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment
Interview conducted by Marie-Christine Tayah
“People often ask me why we choose to focus specifically on women. My answer is simple – we focus on women and girls because evidence accrued over decades of international development work has proven that the status and role of women is the best clue to a nation’s growth potential, and is a key factor in determining a society’s standard of living.” – UNWNCC President Almas Jiwani, HSBC Canada, November 2012
Close Up on Almas Jiwani
Almas Jiwani, President of UN Women Canada National Committee and CEO of Frontier Canada Inc, is a fiercely vocal champion for gender equality. She is internationally renowned for her efforts to encourage women’s social,economic, and political empowerment. She spearheads initiatives where corporate growth intersects with humanitarian development.
A model of perseverance and determination, Ms. Jiwani’s efforts to strengthen women’s economic capacity as entrepreneurs and producers have earned her accolades. She plays a crucial role in building networks among charitable institutions and socially responsible businesses.
Ms. Jiwani is a powerful and influential speaker and she continues to travel across the globe to deliver keynote addresses, speeches, and presentations on improving the status of women. She addressed over 400 parliamentarians from 42 countries on the benefits of economically empowering women and the roles and responsibilities of parliamentarians at the International Assembly in the Dominican Republic and Quebec City.
More recently, she addressed the Pan Africa Media Conference, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, World Bank,Women in Leadership Forum in Abu Dhabi, African Development Bank conference, and the World Forum alongside Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and holistic health/New Age guru Deepak Chopra.
Almas Jiwani is the CEO of Frontier Canada, a communications and marketing company based in Toronto, Ontario. She has gained international recognition and commendations from governments and the media. She has been honored with numerous awards globally for her work on gender equity and women’s empowerment.
How did your personal path lead to become President of UN Women National Committee Canada?
I must admit that I have been an ardent supporter of gender equality from the earliest age that I can remember. When I immigrated to Canada from Africa in my early teens, I noticed that many communities had apathetic attitudes toward girls and women, and did not allow them an environment for their intellectual and social growth. This experience inspired me to begin volunteering with initiatives to promote women. I owe my humble beginnings in international development to the exceptional work of institutions in the Aga Khan Development Network, and Focus Humanitarian Assistance. They operate in some of the most inhospitable and backward sectors of civil society, and provide an enabling environment for humanity. An environment where women are able to flourish under the umbrella of social and ethical responsibility in a culturally, religiously pluralistic ethos and pathos for the greater good of humanity.
Eventually my volunteer efforts with the Aga Khan Council for Canada led to an elected position of President on the Board of Directors of UNIFEM Canada, now known as UN Women National Committee Canada.
My role as inaugural President of UN Women National Committee Canada is a heavily demanding and challenging role with many responsibilities which involves many sacrifices, challenges and barriers. At the same time, I truly appreciate the opportunity to serve humanity. This has given me the important opportunity and honor to advance the empowerment of women around the globe, and here in Canada, and this is a privilege that I deeply value because these core issues are close to my heart.
Spreading the word as a speaker is one thing and calling for action is a different story…what is the key of a call for action? What do people need in order to start ‘changing the world?’
Mobilizing people is no small feat. However, I have found that people fundamentally uphold human rights as a standard for all, and often take the initiative upon themselves when an injustice is identified.
A compelling “call to action” for me was the phrase of power of one. This saying resonated with me as it encapsulated the one thing that amazes me time and again about women: their incredible resiliency.
I’ve been privileged enough to travel to many different countries but if there is one asset that I can attribute to the many, amazing women I have met, it is their resilience.
I will briefly share incredible achievements last year which depicts the true power of women from different horizons, and that serves to inspire me and spur me into action every day.
Take an example of women’s global achievements, three recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize: Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Lemay Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman. From the Nobel Peace Prize to the courage and strength of women across the Arab world, who played a vital role in the democratic uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and now Syria, these women exemplify the power of one and actualizing the power within