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Feminist reflections on the Australian Aid Conference

ARE researchers from across Australia, the Pacific, Asia and beyond working on aid and development policymaking largely white and male? That was my first impression when I saw other registered participants at the two day conference held in Canberra between 18th-20th February. I missed seeing more women at a conference of this scale that was aimed at sharing insights, promoting collaboration, and helping develop the research community.

The Australian National University described this annual conference at the Crawford School of Policy as the ‘largest’ they have hosted – with more than 40 panels on a wide range of topics on aid and development as well as an array of presentations from key note speakers who are ‘thought leaders’ in their fields. Need I add that I wasn’t surprised that both the key note speakers were men from the Global South.

One of the speakers was the current finance minister in the Government of Rwanda – an African country which 15 years ago, was ranked 37 globally for the number of seats held by women in Parliament. Today, at over 60 per cent, Rwanda has the highest percentage of women in parliament in the world! What I would have given to hear a female Rwandan cabinet minister share her reflections of the journey and struggle of her country that has steadily rebuilt itself after being torn apart by ethnic wars. Few know that its liberation struggle was organised, commanded and won by men and women largely under 35 years!

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