“This has got to be the best crowd in the whole world,” Alexander De Croo told tens of thousands of Global Citizens at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Dec. 2. “So let’s do something fun!”
The Belgian deputy prime minister joined Beyoncé, JAY-Z, Ed Sheeran, and more at Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 to show his country’s support for gender equality — including a pledge of over $49 million toward family planning and sexual health.
And it’s in this exact moment that his new book — The Age of Women: Why Feminism Also Liberates Men — begins: as De Croo describes being “pumped with adrenaline” as he was handed the microphone to go on stage.
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Fast forward three months, and De Croo was in London to talk about feminism.
He joined a panel on March 6 with Global Citizen, MTV Staying Alive, and the London School of Economics — and argued that the key to a society’s happiness is gender equality. Unlocking the potential of women, he insisted, was the way to change the world.
A better world for women - means a better world for men too. Ahead of #IWD2019 - @amyagnew joins the panel alongside @alexanderdecroo to discuss his new book #TheAgeofWomen on why men should be feminists too. pic.twitter.com/Dizwy9XSV5— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) March 6, 2019
“The Age of Women, written by a man — doesn't that sound odd?” De Croo told attendees at the Belgian ambassador's residence. “But feminism is needed to liberate men, too."
“We believe in the West that we have already solved gender issues, that it is the rest of the world that still has a problem,” he added. “Nothing could be further from the truth! We have to do better.”
De Croo — also minister for finance and development in Belgium — chatted to Global Citizen after the panel to talk gender equality, lessons he learned as he discovered the importance of feminism, and advice he would offer to a younger version of himself.
Launched ‘The Age of Women’ in London 🚺🚹 in good company.— Alexander De Croo (@alexanderdecroo) March 6, 2019
High time to halt the complacency on gender inequality. Our society, our prosperity, and our economy can only advance if the role of women expands significantly #TheAgeofWomenpic.twitter.com/Kpy7VbXlun
Why did you decide that this was a book you needed to write?
I chose to write about women's empowerment, day care, parental leave, and girls' education, about zero pay gaps, and gender bias because gender equality is not only about doing the right thing. It is an economic imperative as well.
What’s the most important thing you learned while writing the book?
Empower women and the rest will follow.
Why is there purpose behind men being involved in the movement for women’s equality?
As a man you can live blissfully in the belief that gender inequality no longer exists, but the evidence proves you wrong.
The evidence shows that gender-equal societies are richer and happier societies. They are a tremendous opportunity for men as well — men can be allowed to break out of traditional male roles and gender stereotypes. That is why feminism also liberates men.
What do you hope this book will bring to the international conversation about gender equality?
Belgium has offered huge support to the #SheIsEqual campaign, including your announcement of an additional $43 million on the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 stage in Johannesburg on top of previous commitments. Why is Belgium so supportive of that campaign?
Because the She Is Equal campaign reaches millions of citizens and brings our message to the public.
If you could bring in one single reform right now to improve gender equality, what would it be?
Emerging countries: girls' education. Developed countries: proposals on parental leave.
Which women and girls in the world today really inspire you?
Close to home, my mother. She is a strong, independent woman — and a feminist!
During my travels to developing countries, I have met many women, mothers, sisters, daughters, doctors, lawyers, activists … affected by gender inequality every day. They are the biggest inspiration to continue all efforts to advance their rights.
If you could give young Alexander De Croo one very important piece of advice about how to treat women and girls, what would it be?
Treat them as equal.