Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau joined world leaders and artists at Global Citizen Festival in Hamburg today to reaffirm Canada’s commitment to a fairer, more sustainable, and gender equal world.
Before introducing Coldplay and Shakira, the prime minister had a message for the audience.
"Global Citizens like you know that that fight for fairness and equality starts with empowering women and girls," Trudeau, who was decked out in a Global Citizen t-shirt, said as Global Citizens in the audience cheered.
“The really big issues we face — things like climate change, poverty, and disease — these affect women and girls more than anyone else,” Grégoire Trudeau said. “That’s why, just a few weeks ago, we announced Canada’s first feminist international assistance policy."
Canada's new feminist international assistance policy puts women and girls at the heart of aid efforts around the world.
Trudeau said the new policy invests in women's grassroots organizations like never before and highlights an idea we all know to be true.
"Given equal opportunities, women and girls can change the world," the couple said in unison.
He told the crowd that he plans to bring to this same message to the G20 summit, which starts tomorrow.
Within the policy is a commitment to better support positive health outcomes for women and girls by putting gender at the heart of healthcare initiatives.
This includes empowering healthcare workers (many of whom are women), as well as applying initiatives that help fight diseases through equity-based approaches, and focusing on diseases that disproportionately affect women and girls, like HIV.
When Trudeau returned to the stage later on in the evening, he spoke about diseases that greatly affect women around the world, like polio, tuberculosis, and AIDS. He spoke of the risks associated with pregnancy and child birth, and said that malnutrition is a constant concern in societies where women and girls eat least, and eat last, he said.
"The good news is that there is a good number of people that work hard every day to help the poorest and most vulnerable citizens to escape the cycle of poverty and disease," he said before introducing Sufi Mujhgan, a woman who fights on the frontlines of polio eradication.
He also mentioned Canada's massive commitment toward fighting the crippling disease.
"Canada recently announced a contribution of $100 million to help eradicate polio worldwide. And I know it’s a goal we can reach, thanks to people like Sufi," he said.
It will be women who are trained in their communities to make sure that every child is reached when it comes to polio eradication.
Canada made the pledge to polio eradication in June after Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau received an e-petition from Global Citizen.
The polio eradication efforts are a perfect example of how putting female empowerment at the core of international assistance could greatly benefit communities.
Women are at the heart of the polio eradication effort. In Pakistan, for example, thousands of women visit communities every day to deliver immunizations against polio and other preventable diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In 2016, there were more than 177,000 vaccinators working in Pakistan, 58% of whom were women. Thousands more women work as social mobilizers to support vaccination, according to WHO. Other important roles include health workers, union council polio workers, area coordinators, and polio eradication officers.
In some of the hardest-to-reach places, the vaccines wouldn’t even reach children if it weren’t for female vaccinators. In some parts of Pakistan, for instance, male vaccinators cannot enter homes.
As Trudeau said, focusing on and supporting the empowerment of women and girls is the most effective way to lift people out of poverty.
In fact, achieving gender equality worldwide could increase the global GDP by $12 trillion in just one decade, according to a 2015 McKinsey Global Institute report. Women tend to spend more of their incomes in ways that benefit their children. This improves nutrition, health and educational opportunities for future generations, according to Canada’s feminist international assistance policy.
Other benefits of gender equality range from reducing chronic hunger by empowering female farmers, creating longer-lasting peace through women’s involvement in peacebuilding and decreasing overall discrimination and inequality.
Canada’s new policy’s action areas include gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, human dignity, growth that works for everyone, environment and climate action, inclusive governance, and peace and security.
This isn’t the first time Trudeau has tried to put Canada in a leadership role when it comes to gender equality and hopefully it won’t be the last.