In the immortal words of Cree Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, “Take your voice to where it’ll be most effective”.
That’s exactly what young Australian leaders Madison Birtchnell from Queensland and Madeline Wells from Tasmania intend to do at the triennial Women Deliver conference that will be held in Vancouver from 3rd to 6th June 2019.
For four days, Birtchnell and Wells will join over 6,000 delegates and thousands of virtual attendees from across the globe to share, discuss and think outside the box when it comes to addressing gender equality, health, rights, and well-being of women and girls globally.
Both Birtchnell and Wells will be attending the conference on a full scholarship as part of the Women Deliver Young Leaders Program where they have been active participants since 2018. The Young Leaders Program provides youth advocates from 138 countries with opportunities to build and strengthen their advocacy capacity through online training, speaking opportunities, small grants and mentorship opportunities.
Madison Birtchnell said that she was “blown away” when she discovered that she was one of the first adolescents ever accepted into the Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. She is also very excited to be heading to Vancouver as this is what she has “been working towards for so many years” through her social justice and community work.
For Madeline Wells, the young Trawlwoolway, Wadi Wadi, Madi Madi, Wemba Wemba and Wotjobaluk woman said she is looking forward to meeting on the lands of the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam and Squamish Nations to “really learn and to take it all in…the feeling of being there, and being motivated that change can happen, that it has happened, and will continue to happen”.
While these two young women have varying opinions on the length of the flight from Australia to Vancouver, both Wells and Birtchnell are eager to meet many of the other Young Leaders at the two-day Youth Pre-Conference as well as world leaders, influencers, advocates, academics, activists, and journalists at the main event.
“I believe that as young leaders, this is our opportunity,” Wells said.
“Let’s support each other, stand by each other, and stand up for the rights of all.”
As she prepares for her journey across the Pacific, Birtchnell has been reflecting on the past 16 months of the Women Deliver Young Leaders program, saying she is grateful for this opportunity and that it has made her realise the “impact that so many young women in particular but also the young men who are in the program are making in the world and it is something really inspiring to be part of”.
Birtchnell is looking forward to implementing her skills from the Women Deliver experience into her future projects and using it to build on the successes of her International Women’s Week event in 2017 that brought together more than 180 women from across Queensland to discuss the importance of pursuing adventurous and previously unconsidered careers.
“I am definitely looking at doing another International Women’s Week event in the future, possibly next year,” she said.
“It is an optional endeavour with Women Deliver and they are even kind enough to offer some financial support after the conclusion of the program so that is something I am definitely keen to explore.”
Wells is planning to use the experience in Vancouver to inspire her next move. For her, she plans to use this opportunity to “ask those who are directly impacted, see how I can support them, and be a good ally”.
She believes in the power of youth, but also takes inspiration from her past.
“My elders and ancestors that fought for my country and future of my culture inspire me,” she said.
“They continue to remind me of my strength as a First Nations person, and that they are with me every step of the way”.
Despite their different paths to gender equality advocacy, both Wells and Birtchnell are looking forward to taking their voice to where it will be most effective. As Wells concluded, “Now is the time I think that we must come together, plan, talk about the solutions, and talk about what we, as people, as women or any gender, as communities, can do together”.
For more information on the Women Deliver Young Leader’s Program, click here.
To participate in the 2019 Women Deliver Virtual Conference, click here.
Photos courtesy of Women Deliver Young Leaders Program