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Girls & Women

Melinda Gates and Justin Trudeau Just Had A Conversation About Feminism And It Was Great


“We get that diversity is a source of strength,” Justin Trudeau said, in conversation with Melinda Gates. “One of the most obvious diversity plays you have to make is that you have equal representation of men and women.”

Gates introduced the Canadian prime minister today at Goalkeepers, an event dedicated to accelerating world progress, hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in New York.

The Canadian leader self-identifies as a feminist and appointed a gender-equal cabinet when he took office — and he’s making leaps and bounds in the global fight for gender equality.

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Trudeau’s government has committed to allocating 95% of Canada’s foreign aid towards gender equality, and Canada established a Feminist International Assistance Policy earlier this year. In March, the government pledged $650 million towards sexual and reproductive health rights.

Under its Feminist International Assistance Policy, Canada announced a contribution of $150 million to women’s grassroots organizations around the world.

Certainly, the current government has implemented change in its approach to gender and Gates asked the Canadian leader whether it has been difficult to bring more women into politics.

“We’re having a bit of a challenge — not a huge challenge — but a a bit of a challenge around retention as people are realizing that, ‘Wow this is a really nasty place to work,” he said, “Parliaments are built for elderly white grandpas.”

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But he contends that a more balanced government has led to better discussions. There is a minister who is expecting a child next March, and her pregnancy has led to discussions around how to best enable women to do their jobs as they become mothers too.

“Those are way overdue and we wouldn’t be having them if we hadn’t pushed the envelope on the dynamic,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau has publicly called himself a feminist a number of times, saying that he will only stop saying so when it’s no longer seen as a big deal.

Today, he told a story about seeing actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt saying he was a feminist on camera in 2014. Trudeau said he had called himself a feminist long before that, but seeing another man publicly do so made him think, “Great — I’m going to finally do that [too].”

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Trudeau believes that men need to play a part in reversing the gender imbalance too, if we’re going to make global progess.

“If there is an imbalance — which there is — of men having more strength and more weight to their words in an unfair way, then men have to be part of the solution,” he said.

The word feminist has evoked all sorts of debates across various platforms. Some don’t believe that men can or should be feminists; others feel that it’s an attack against men; just to name a couple.

“There is a reclaiming of that word in a good way that is not exclusive, is not about bashing the other sex, it’s about saying we stand for equality and we know there is a lot of work still to do,” Trudeau said. “If you believe those two things, then you get to be a feminist. And that’s the approach that I’ll take on it.”

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Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and you can use this platform to take action and make your voice heard on a number of issues, including gender equality.

Governments and organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are vital in the fight to end poverty, but everyone can make a difference.

“Treating citizens like reasonable, thoughtful adults is going to transform the way our politics, and therefore our world, works,” Trudeau said.