Canada - Gender equality

Canada is an explicitly feminist donor

In 2020, Canada spent US$2.7 billion (89%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on development activities that targeted gender equality as a principal or significant goal, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) gender equality policy marker (DAC average: 45%). This makes Canada the highest funder of gender equality in relative (or seventh-largest donor in absolute terms). Canada’s funding for gender equality has increased 36% since 2017 when Canada implemented its Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP).

Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is the first ‘Action area’ in Canada’s FIAP, which came into force in June 2017. Within this area, it commits to four key actions:

  1. Addressing sexual and gender-based violence;
  2. Providing support for local women’s rights organizations and movements;
  3. Helping governments in partner countries improve policies and service to better address the differential needs of women and men; and
  4. Stepping up its commitment to evidence-based decision making.

The policy outlines the government’s belief that empowering women and girls is a cornerstone of economic and social development in all sectors. The FIAP commits to spending 95% of Canada’s bilateral ODA on investments that target or integrate gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls by FY2021/22. In 2019, Canada released a set of ‘Key Performance Indicators’ (KPIs) to track progress in all six of the FAIP’s Action areas, as well as complimentary indicators to track gender equality efforts specifically.  

In March of 2022, Oxfam Canada released its sixth annual Feminist Scorecard which grades the federal government across 10 policy areas including Global Development, Conflict & Crisis, and Climate Change. Between March 2021 and February 2022, Oxfam gave Canada a yellow grade (based on a traffic light approach), indicating that the government has made some progress, but still requires more action on gender issues in these areas.

In line with Canada’s overall policy focus, the humanitarian assistance sector received the highest share of the country’s gender-focused funding in 2020 (US$557 million, or 21% of overall bilateral allocable ODA). Government and civil society followed, accounting for 20% or US$532 million, in line with the government’s commitment to helping partner countries implement gender-sensitive policies and services. Health and populations received US$441 million (17%) in funding for gender equality. This is not surprising given Canada’s firm commitment to health, particularly sexual and reproductive and health and rights (SRHR) and maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH; see Sector: ‘Global health’). US$291 million (11%) was spent on gender-focused funding for education (See sector: ‘Education’).

Canada is also a firm supporter of multilaterals in this sector. Canada is among the top 10 government partners of the UN Women. According to UN Women, in 2020 Canada was the 10th-largest total government contributor with almost US$19 million in funding provided. Canada also supports gender-related health initiatives through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and ‘She Decides’ (See Sector: ‘Global health’).

Canada’s commitment to women and girls extends beyond its financial contributions. At the 2021 Generation Equality Forum, Canada co-led the Action Coalition on ‘Feminist Movements and Leadership’. At the March 2021 event in Mexico City, Mexico, Canada, and the Ford Foundation, suggested the formation of a multi-stakeholder Global Alliance for Sustainable Feminist Movements to increase and sustain resources for feminist movements. Canada also promotes gender equality at the G7.

Funding for projects with a principal gender focus has increased significantly; the government has reached its of 15% by FY2021/22 target

Of the US$2.7 billion spent on gender equality in 2020, 28% (US$749 million) went toward projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal (see box). This corresponds to 25% of Canada’s overall bilateral allocable ODA (DAC average: 7%). Canada’s funding for projects principally focused on gender equality has increased significantly (1,313%) since 2016 and by 259% between 2019 and 2020 alone (from US$208 million in 2019).

In 2020, Canada disbursed US$1.9 billion on projects that targeted gender equality as a significant objective. Significant funding has also increased in recent years (38% between 2016 and 2020), but declined slightly between 2019 and 2020 (-3%).

Of Canada’s remaining bilateral allocable ODA for 2020, US$322 million was spent on projects that did not integrate gender. All of Canada’s funding was screened against the gender equality policy marker in 2020.


Gender policy marker: Projects which “advance gender equality and women’s empowerment or reduce discrimination and inequalities based on sex” are tagged in the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database.

Recent research by Oxfam found that around 25% of projects self-reported by donors using the gender equality marker were mismarked. This has implications for the validity of funding figures.

The marker rates projects based on three possible scores:

  1. Principal: meaning that gender equality is the main objective of the project or program;

  2. Significant: for projects in which gender equality is an important and deliberate goal but not the main objective; or

  3. Not targeted: used in cases where programs do not target gender equality.

Not all projects are screened against the gender marker; this funding falls into the ‘not screened’ category.


GAC sets policy; Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Development are supported by Minister for Women and Gender Equality

Global Affairs Canada (GAC), in particular, the Minister of International Development, steers development policy that includes gender equality as a cross-cutting objective. GAC is committed to ensuring that women and girls take on an active and meaningful role and participate in decision-making for all international assistance initiatives, including in project implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Development work on gender equality abroad, with support from the Minister for Women and Gender Equality. Both GAC and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) are responsible for the implementation of gender-focused development projects.