PM Trudeau moderates a panel discussion on gender equality and women’s empowerment
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE JUSTIN TRUDEAU (Prime Minister of Canada): I think one of the questions that we need to start with, hearing the extraordinary bios and extraordinary strength and paths of these panellists, these incredible women who, all of them, get drawn on and requested to be part of so many different things, why was it that you felt that being part of this G7 advisory council was a useful use of your time? And what do you see as indicators of success and how do you feel this council is going? I mean, what are the challenges that you see around this and how do you think that we’re going to be able to make an impact with this? And I’ll start with Phumzile down at the end.
PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA (Executive Director of UN Women): Thank you very much, Prime Minister, and to everybody who is here, for making this day possible. This is a dream come true I think for me, to have an opportunity to influence the discourse within the G7, the most powerful men, and a woman, in the world… who impact the lives of so many people in the world. If we are able to shape the outcome of their discourse in such a way that what comes out of there would make today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today, and forever, that would be a turning point in the history, not of G7 citizens but the history of the people and especially the women of the world. So this is a unique opportunity and I’ll be damned not to grab it.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you, Phumzile. Leymah, what’s your perspective on this council?
LEYMAH GBOWEE (2011 Nobel Peace Laureate): (Inaudible)…
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: She’s got a mike on her.
LEYMAH GBOWEE: I’ll be very honest. In my native language we say I’m bringing a lot here. You don’t hide your nakedness from your back pocket. Meaning that people you have to interact with for a long time, you have to be honest. I met with you a few months ago. We sat in that room. You didn’t have to take me seriously. We talked about front line grassroots activists and the need for you to diversify funds that will go directly to them. I told you let’s name it the Justin Fund and you said, no, Leymah, we’ll name it the Canada… maybe we should think about the Canada 150. I walked out of that meeting and told Liz Bernstein from the Nobel Women’s Initiative and my colleague Sarah that we came from the real lean. Because most times you go to meetings with politicians, you leave the room… I have gotten to the place where I now know bullshit lean – sorry for the expression – and bullshit lean is when they just look at you and you’re not getting a thing from them. They speak all the right language, but at the end of the day to hell with you.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I think there’s some folks that have seen that look and recognize that from various meetings.
LEYMAH GBOWEE: So a few weeks later, you made the announcement of $150 million for grassroots women. We’re getting there. When you asked me to join this, I said this is someone who’s not afraid of all of the trouble that I will bring.
But like Phumzile said, I’m not even from a G7 country, you didn’t have to invite me, but it means that you respect the voice, the work, not just of me, but a lot of the front line activists. Because I see myself as a representative of those women. If I have to say anything, it has to be from the perspective of their work. So trusting you, that was the first thing.
And the second thing is what I could bring to the council that no one else would bring, like bullshit lean.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Chris, you…
LT.-GEN. CHRISTINE WHITECROSS (Commandant of the NATO Defence College): I’m not sure I want to go next.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: You come from an engineering and obviously a military background. No bullshit in the military, that’s obvious. Why don’t you tell me about what your hopes are for this council and what you think… how you think it will work.
LT.-GEN. CHRISTINE WHITECROSS: Nobody ever wants to go after Leymah. Just two things, Mr. Prime Minister. And the first is, I had the opportunity on a couple of occasions to deploy as a military member to countries – Bosnia, Herzegovina and Afghanistan – where I saw the effect of… many effects, but the effect of women and girls on resources and very talented people that didn’t have the wherewithal or the abilities or the networks to do things that needed to be done.
And then I had the other opportunity, and some would say slightly negative opportunity, to lead the sexual misconduct response team with the Canadian Armed Forces, which some would say intuitively, why you? And I would say, why not me? I’m very passionate and I think the team that we had was very dedicated and really wanted to make a change.
Which leads me to the answer to the question, which is, I think we have an opportunity for change and I think the people of the council, which I am absolutely humbled to be amongst these extraordinary men and women, but also I think we have something to offer. And, quite honestly, I want to do it for my children, who are young and motivated, talented and very tolerant people I think, and it’s an ability for us to make a change. Thank you.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Melinda, I don’t think I’ve met many women who are busier than you. Every time we run into each other we’re, you know, in different places around the world and you’ve got a thousand things on the go. Why did you see not just being on this council but co-chairing this council as an important thing to do? And what do you hope to bring to impacting the G7 through it?
MELINDA GATES (Co-chair, G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council): Well, when I look at the history of the G7 and what it has done and what it has stood for, it’s really been three things: economic, security, and environment. Those are the three things the G7 stands for. And when I think about our economy, it’s built on the backs of women. When I think about women in the labour force today and are we there yet, my answer is still no. We’re getting there but we’re not where we need to be on pay or leave, the proper leave policies, etc., or equal representation.
When I think about security and the peace and security of the world, who brings peace and security? So often it’s women, if we give them their agency. Look at what Leymah did in her country. Look at what she did. Look at what women do.
When I think about the environment and our climate and I think about climate change and who’s going to have the greatest impact, it’s often female farmers. Most women are farmers around the world.
And so when you provided this opportunity to be part of the G7 I thought, what better way for us to get all the women’s issues up at the G7 level? Not just a few, but all. And I was very encouraged by the substantive discussion we had today at the Gender Council and the lunch, hearing what the W7 has brought forward. You know, it’s only been a few years that we’ve even had a W7. It was under Prime Minister… under Chancellor Merkel that that body first came into being. So the chance to have gender issues cut across and really be named, not just in this G7 but in your commitment to getting it in G7s going forward… And the reason I do it is because I am lucky enough to travel. I travel to Africa many times a year; I’m in Southeast Asia; I’m in villages with women; I sit on their little mat that they put out or in their mud hut, and we talk about the real issues they face. And if we can break down the barriers for women, no matter where you live – low income, middle income, high income country – we can break down those barriers, we will give women their agency and their voice. And believe me, when they get those two things and they get decision-making authority, they change the world. And that’s what I want to do.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Ah, bravo. Now, when we talk about the G7 there really is a sense that these are the world’s, you know, leading industrial nations and there’s often a big division between north and south and how we think – well, what we need to do for our economy isn’t what we need to do to have a positive impact in leading around the world. But I think it’s really important to recognize that even within our own economies we are facing huge challenges and huge inequalities that we don’t always do a very good job of paying attention to. And I’ve been incredibly proud that Canadians over the past years have brought forward reconciliation with indigenous peoples as one of those great elements that Canada needs to do, needs to tackle, if we’re going to be the country that we all know we want to be. And reflecting on how that fits into the G7 agenda, how we look at our own examples as well, is something… is one of the reasons why I’m so, so proud that, Roberta, you agreed to be a part of this advisory council, to make sure that people know that different identities, intersectionalities, but also the extra challenges faced by indigenous women around the world but also in Canada is brought forward. So thank you for being part of this and what are your hopes for this?
ROBERTA JAMIESON (President and CEO of Indspire): Thank you, and you’ve just summed up a lot of it, Prime Minister. When you…
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I’m not used to moderating, sorry.
ROBERTA JAMIESON: When you called me, I mean, I think you know what you get when you invite a strong Mohawk woman to sit on a council. So...
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: It’s sort of what I get when I invite Leymah on the council.
ROBERTA JAMIESON: I figured when you picked up the phone, Prime Minister, you knew who you were calling. And again today you’ve encouraged us to be bold and I have to say… and I was thrilled to hear that, because I would find it difficult not to be. You’re willing to use… why did I say yes? Because you’re willing to use the G7 presidency to advance issues that are important to the world. You’re not afraid to look inside as well as outside your country. And, yes, we’re on a journey of reconciliation in Canada, and it took us 150 years to get into this situation and, as my friend Senator Murray Sinclair says, it won’t be changed overnight. It’s going to take a lot of work, serious and sustained investment, much of which you’ve already committed to, and I’m probably more optimistic today than I ever have been in my life.
Because you are not afraid to look inside and acknowledge that in a First World country like Canada we have women and girls living in Third World conditions. If you can’t drink the water, you can’t live in your house, you can’t go to school, you have no food to eat, I mean, these are real challenges which I don’t think the world knows about Canada. But you’re not afraid to expose that. And so that’s one of the reasons why I said yes.
Also, as you spoke today you understand the importance of education, and you know how passionate I am about that. Not only education of Canadians and others about indigenous peoples and what we have given the world and still can give the world in our ways of knowing environmental stewardship, conflict resolution, traditional healing. We have solutions as well as being the marginalized, the downtrodden, the victims. We have answers and we’d love to provide them. So education of that and education of our own people. When you only have four out of ten of our kids living in reserves who get out of high school, whereas you’ve got close to nine out of ten non-indigenous Canadian students who do that, we have a problem. And we know how we’re going to change it. Investment, yes. Also though education that validates who we are as indigenous people. This country’s tried to turn us into something else, that’s been a colossal failure, as we know, and now we’re proud to step up and, with your support, we are making strides forward. So I said yes for that.
And of course when we get to the G7, I don’t think there are any issues at the G7 or at the UN that aren’t women’s issues. I think…
…so for me success would be to mainline from here on forward, following your lead, intersectional lens, cross-cutting across all agenda items that gender approach that understands the intersectional nature that is critical and this is… So this is just the beginning of a very exciting historic journey.
I thank you for your courage and your leadership and look forward to presenting you with a dynamite report, along with my other colleagues.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you. Obviously we have a very small amount of time right now and there’s so many different things to talk about, but one of the things that has come back regularly is the importance of education as a lever to create success both here at home and around the world. Education and empowerment of women and girls, particularly when we look, when we bring in the different identities and intersectionalities. We can always look at the successes or the increases of women on, you know, Fortune 500 C-Suites, but when you dig into it a little more they’re almost all older white women. There are an awful lot of women who are being excluded because of multiple identities that they hold and it’s harder and harder to make sure we’re folding them in. Or it’s more and more important to be able to fold them in and we’re seeing increasing challenges as the world does move on. So I’d love to dig into education, whether it’s education within the developed world or the developing world, the priorities that each of you are focusing on.
Because one of the tangible things that we know is coming through this G7 is going to be a concerted effort on development that is focused on education. Whether it’s the folks who are getting humanitarian aid while they’re in refugee camps but not getting the education because there’s still this thinking that, oh, you know, they might only be in that camp for a year or two. No! We know realistically we’re talking about decades of displaced persons in their lives. You can’t miss out on education. Or whether it’s areas where, culturally or traditionally, women are excluded from educational pathways, or just places where the economic barriers are so great that women fall off the priority list in terms of who gets educated. So maybe we can dig into education a little bit. Who’d like to start? Leymah, go ahead. You’re wearing a mike too, so try it.
LEYMAH GBOWEE: I think you’re trying to silence me.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Oh yeah, no. Of anyone on this panel I’d suspect we might be able to silence, you’re the last one.
There you go, there you go.
LEYMAH GBOWEE: Thank you. I mean, we all know that education is very important. I’m from a family of five daughters and it became very clear from the get go for my parents that we had to go to school. Years into my formation we became refugees in Ghana at 17. The opportunity presented itself because I had graduated from high school the day before the civil war started. So we got to Ghana and I was one of the first students that was given a scholarship to go to nursing school. My mother was excited. I wasn’t. I refused the offer to go to school.
Two reasons. While my mother sold vegetables in the camps, my sister had given birth and her husband was nowhere around. The vegetables my mother sold was to provide for the ten of us that came in that camp. My sister had a baby. I started selling donuts, and the donuts that I sold was to help buy milk and diapers for that baby. When he got sick, it was proceeds from the donuts that sent him to the doctor. When I was presented with that opportunity, the only image I had in my mind, who’s going to take care of Josephine and the baby? And so I said no.
When we decide to discuss education for girls, let it be holistic. Because there are many issues confronting girls in refugee camps, in communities, that we cannot… none of these things that we’re trying to resolve can happen in silo. It has to be interconnected.
My own experience (inaudible) providing education, a young lady came to me and said, thank you but I don’t want your scholarship anymore. I used to sell before you gave me this scholarship. My mother is mentally ill. The donuts that I sold, she sold bread, every week provided opportunities for my siblings for me to save for them to go to school. I received your scholarship, I’m supposed to bring a 3 point GPA as a science student. I study all of the time. I can’t sell, so I come home to a hungry mother, siblings that can no longer go to school. So as we think education, as we think any form of, even as we present these to the G7, let it be in a holistic form. We can never ever look at development from a one size fits all perspective. And I think my own personal experience is something that drives me all of the time to say yes, it’s important, but you can never separate Leymah from her eight children, and you can never separate the mothers in this room from their daughters’ wellbeing.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Phumzile and then Melinda.
PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA: Thank you for this very important subject. Because education is probably one of the closest things to a silver bullet, but by itself it is a bullet that might not give you the benefits of a silver bullet. So as Leymah says, it has to be within a broader context.
If I think of displaced persons, refugees and so on, the one thing they have when they’re displaced is rights, thanks to international law that still gives people rights even though those rights may be denied and compromised but they can never be taken away from them.
The second thing that people could have in difficult situations, which no one can take away from them, is their education. All of us, education is the one thing that when people look down upon you, when people despise you, when people racially discriminate against you, etc., they can never take the fact that you have education. It might not work for you, but it can never be taken away from you. So this is an important tool to provide to people who are displaced so that if at some point they get to a place where they can rebuild their lives, this is something that they will have with them in order to use.
If you think about the fact that when people are displaced, the girls are at higher risk to be married off as children. If they are in school this is the one thing that stops them from being married. And so it’s a cure to some extent, a reducer of early marriage. So these benefits are actually quite important. So when we talk to G7 it is important for us to talk about ending violence against women, ending child marriage in the same context as education. Because it solves so many of the big problems of the 21st century that are winnable. This one is one of the winnable problems that we have. Thank you.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Melinda, your foundation has been incredibly active in the area of education all around the world. Tell us about what you’ve been doing, what you see as the key for the coming years.
MELINDA GATES: Yeah. So education… I think… the most important statistic that I think of in terms of education… there’s so many reasons education is important, I think we all know them, but if a mom is educated or a girl is educated, her baby is twice as likely to live to his or her fifth birthday. Twice as likely. And it’s because the education gives that woman her voice, gives her that decision-making authority, gives her the ability to take a higher-paying job if she chooses, or has the opportunity. And so when we… when Bill and I look out at the world, we look at, you have to start with good health. If you don’t have health, you don’t even get a chance to get on to get an education. So you have to have good health. But if the child is sick, you… then there’s not a chance to go on and get a good education, so if the mom is educated, she can give all the right things to her child, so her child has a chance to grow up healthy and go to school, and I sit many, many times with people… I will often sit for hours with men and women around the world, talking about health, talking about their basic needs, etc. And I’m just a woman from the West in a pair of khakis and a t-shirt. Whenever I say to them, what are your hopes and your dreams for your future, or for your family's future? I have never had anyone say anything other than educating my child. Educating my child.
And when I think about my own children’s education, and what I’ve said to them since they were… could ever remember, what my parents said to me about my education, what my education allowed me to go on and do, or all the women and men on this panel, right? So education is just a fundamental thing, and I guess that last thing I’ll say, in the U.S. we have a saying that says, a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and I when I think about the 50% of the minds that are out there, wow, I think of the potential of what they can do in the world.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you. Now… we’re going to turn to questions from the audience in a moment, and not many because I know we all have a reception where we can actually chat with these extraordinary women and men on the panel… on the council. I’ve made a rule to myself never to sit on any panel that didn’t have a decent gender balance, but I think you can understand that this is one I’m very delighted to be on, but that actually brings me to the question I want to ask. We were talking earlier about what I wanted from this panel, and I think it was Roberta who mentioned that, you know, they want to be able to push the right things, but you know, they know that the political context is sometimes difficult and G7 being a consensus-based organization, you know, there may not be… they might be not as far along on their gender equality journey as others, and can we, you know… the question was, you know, how far do I want this council to push? And I basically said, look, this is an opportunity to create a report, a set of recommendations that is bigger than the G7.
These are extraordinary minds and experiences come together to talk about what the world really needs to do as we move forward, so don’t worry about how tough it is on me to create consensus around the G7 table. That’s our challenge as G7 leaders. Make sure that you’re looking for the bold, concrete ideas that are actually going to move us forward, and that’s exactly what we’ve been hearing throughout the course of these past two days, and I know it’s going to be part of the full report.
But it does bring a question that I think is worth discussing, whether it was when we brought forward a gender-balanced cabinet, or when we brought forward a budget with gender analysis and GBA+ at the centre of it, because equality is also an economic argument, there was a lot of pushback. There’s a lot of people defending the status quo, there’s a lot of folks who aren’t there yet in understanding the hard, cold economic facts and value of education, of proper development. These kinds of things bring in, how do we deal with the pushback, but also how do we create space for more men to be comfortable saying that they are allies and feminists, and being part of the solution. How do you see the moving of the conversation forward in a way that is both inclusive enough to bring everyone along, but challenging enough to make up for, you know, decades or centuries of lost time? And maybe I’m going to start with Chris, because she’s coming out of an organization that is fairly hierarchical and patriarchal in…
I’m talking about Engineering, of course.
But also the military.
LT.-GEN. CHRISTINE WHITECROSS: Thanks, Mr. Prime Minister.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: She’s a General, she can handle it.
LT.-GEN. CHRISTINE WHITECROSS: So in complete honesty and complete transparency, what I have learned, I think, in the last maybe 5 or 8 years, is that not everybody gets it. Okay, that’s not… that was a trite statement. But to the extent where people will say the right… I think somebody on the panel here said that people will say the right things and they’ll nod their heads at the right time, but they really don’t, either understand, get it, or quite frankly, care. And I think that puts us at such a disadvantage, because when you see whether it’s biasness in policies or just in the way we treat people, and the way we think, such good can be gained from a slight change of character. I’ll put it that way.
And I look at the NATO Defense College, where I am right now, and we’ve just, for the first time, assigned a Gender Advisor, who happens to be American and a male. My choice. And I did it for a couple of reasons, because most of the people didn’t think it was necessary, and because I believe that there was an opportunity for us to look at education at a very strategic level, and put the gender discussion or conversation on the table. But how do you do that without creating the dialogue? And I think the dialogue was such an important part. And we’re only starting, so we have a lot of work to do, but just in the sense of… as we talk to people, and as we give them pragmatic solutions to old problems, I think people are starting to learn and to be a lot more engaged on it, but it is very, very difficult and it has a lot of baggage in many, many cases that you’ve already eluded to a couple of times, today, so that’s what I can offer.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Roberta?
ROBERTA JAMIESON: Three things. Start with boys. We need to change how boys are asked to see themselves and their role in society.
And to understand how impoverished they are, for lack of having more women in different roles throughout their life. Number one.
Number two, the people who are open to it, and will listen to you, talk to them, not about… only about justice, I think those people are hearing, not only about rights, those people are hearing, talk to them about the cold, hard facts of how the economy will benefit. I talk a lot to people about, if we close the gap with Indigenous People, in education and employment in Canada alone you’re going to add $335 billion to our GDP by 2031? Pretty convincing argument. People do things that are in their self-interest, so I’m very practical as you know, Prime Minister. I’d appeal to the self-interest.
Third thing, the people who will not get it, do not get it, don’t waste your time.
Confront them, but more people need to confront them than you, Prime Minister, and others in your close circle. Those of us out and about, the average person need to shout those people down, call them out, call them to account, and then we need to just move on.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Phumzile, you’re at the UN, which is an organization that certainly has a certain level of challenges to it, while you also have a certain level of enlightenment in there. How do you see our capacity to bring people along and wake them up?
PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA: You know, I think, because of the digital age, our outreach to people, including those that are in the last mile, has increased dramatically. Our capacity, for instance, to achieve universal education has increased dramatically, but I don’t think that the capacity of leaders to comprehend this opportunity has increased dramatically. I used to be… I’m mean this in a loving way to politicians.
I used to be in government, in my country, in South Africa, I remember distinctly when officials used to present to us on issues to do with ICT, we were either so impressed by the razzmatazz that we sometimes agreed to spend money on things we didn’t fully understand, or we were so scared that we pushed back, and the importance of getting to know what opportunities we have as a result of technology in the 21st century to solve development issues is a critical requirement for decision-makers to have, otherwise decision-makers become part of the problems that slow down development of society. There is a disconnect between those who understand technology and science, and those who are social scientists and in the arts, and the overlap isn’t happening enough so that we can leverage the strengths that come from both, because you want… this is one Engineer with a hat, but there’s lots of Engineers who are not… who’s emotional intelligence isn’t strength.
As much as you have a lot of people who are in the arts who don’t like technology. As a teacher, I know. As teachers… as a teacher in the social sciences, we actually never thought that technology was for us, so the bringing of these issues together, I think, is a big missing piece so that we can leverage everyone else’s strengths, but especially for taking education to the furthest children, young people, women, so that we can have quality education everywhere in the world.
You think blockchain technology and the delivery of cash transfer to refugee camps. That’s phenomenally life-changing, but I worry that it is not being discussed in the cabinets where poverty alleviation is being discussed, so this learning that is very binary, where if you are going to be in the ICT you have to have grade twelve set marks of a particular level, then you go into a particular faculty and so on, and that’s the only channel to increase the digital skills. I think it’s wrong.
We need to find the way in which learning is multidisciplinary. You can go into the art school and then end up heading a tech company, because people in arts use technology. Why can they not lead in the tech industry and just have one stream in which people close the gap in this area where there’s a shortage of skill? So, out of the box. Throw away the box. Don’t shift the paradigm, take away the paradigm, and let’s start all over again.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Leymah… Leymah, how do we teach our sons to be feminist, how do we teach our leaders to be feminists, how do we… how do we bring people along, it… to this awakening that so many people are either resistant to, or just afraid of because they don’t understand?
LEYMAH GBOWEE: Well, I’m a practical person, and I believe in practicality, practical examples-on-the-ground thinking. A few years ago, I saw my father work his village about girls’ education. I had won the Nobel Peace Prize and as part of our tradition we have to go there for 24 hours of dancing.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: That wasn’t part of the original Scandinavian tradition for Nobel Prizes.
LEYMAH GBOWEE: But it was beautiful. We got there, and the men sat around him. Of course, he was the big guy that day even though he didn’t have any Chieftaincy title. For many reasons. He refused to allow us to go through the process of FGM, so he became a disgrace to his community, but when we… when I won the Prize and we went back, they all came to honour him, and someone asked… and then he said to one of my uncles, “you see the point I always made to you, boy, was sending your children to school, especially your daughters. Now I travel whenever. I change cars every now and then. My hospital bill is not a problem. These five girls have been taking care of me. That is the reason why your daughters needed to go to school.
It stuck with those people, because they could see him… see his life… that was the first thing. The second thing that I saw, I was at a conference in the UK, many years ago, and we’re talking about sexual and gender-based violence against women, and the role that military is supposed to play, especially around peace-keeping. One of the Generals stood up and said, if anyone in this room thinks that I went to military college to be a part of anything called firewood brigade to protect women from rape, they should think twice. I wanted to throw my shoes at him.
But, there was this Nigerian General, Festus Okonkwo, sitting next to me, and he grabbed me and said, don’t move.
So I said, General, he said, Leymah, I’ll handle that. It was his moment to present. And General Okonkwo went and put a picture of a very graphic image of death and destruction. This woman’s case was a huge case during the Taylor era. She was raped, killed, but they used an object inserted it, excuse me for saying, but this is the reality, in her private, it came out of her mouth. He put that picture up and turned to every General in the room. He said to them, how many of you, on your watch, can see this happening, and still conclude, that you shouldn’t do firewood brigade? No General in that room could speak, because he had nailed it. He said, we are failures, every time on our watch these things happen. How can you look at your daughters and wives when you go home, and knowing that on your watch, women and girls are not safe?
It’s time for us… when people come to me and say, I’m going to present at the UN and they’re so excited, I said, don’t write anything. They know it already. There’s volumes and volumes and it’s collecting dust and dirt. Take the community into that space, and let them see the reality of what is happening on the ground. Some of these things will transform. We can never continuously be diplomatic about women’s issue, diplomatic about global problems that we are having. It’s time to throw out diplomacy, because I always tell people there are two options, personally, that I have: Speak the truth, never get invited, say a lie, don’t get invited. I choose to speak the truth, it’s up to you to call me back any other time.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I don’t know how anyone follows that, but Melinda, you’re going to try.
Melinda, you have been active in extraordinarily influential political development private sector circles over the past years with… you and your husband, as you’ve really taken on these global issues and this particular cause. You must’ve encountered, and a whole bunch of folks from a different mindset who are not necessarily ready to learn a whole way… new way of approaching things. How is it that you find bringing them along to be most effective?
MELINDA GATES: Yeah, I think I started learning that lesson, I was fortunate enough to go to an all-girls school for high school, run by some Catholic nuns and we got computers, and luckily I had a father and a mother who believed in all four of us kids getting educated. Two girls, two boys. My dad totally told me all the time about these amazing mathematicians that he would attract to his teams. He was part of launching the first Apollo Mission in the United States, and he said his team was always better when there was a female mathematician on it, and I learned very early on that women could be good at math and science, and I knew I could be good at math and science because of my father. But I started running into this bias, where people didn’t think that in computer science, as you can imagine in college, after I came out of this all-girl environment, so I’ve run into it all over the world, but what I find is, I find all the men who are champions of women, and I work with them, any man I can find, and any woman, but it’s often the men, let’s be frank, who hold the power, who hold the keys to the power, and so I try to elevate other women every chance I get, mentor, sponsor, elevate women, I try to hold men to task who hold up barriers for women, I call them out on it. Even inside our own organization, even if I do it, I inadvertently have bias at times. My husband has bias when we’re leading. I call him out on it. I call myself out on it.
So… but I find the men want to champion things for women, the generals, the people in the military, the people who are legutiers, who are willing to speak and I may sure that they share that power and they use it on behalf of women. And then secondarily, the other piece I’ll say that was already brought up, as well, by Roberta, is boys. We have to educate our boys. We have to stop telling our boys to man up. That is the worst thing you can tell a boy.
So I have three children, a daughter, a son and a daughter. College and two in high school. The son is about to graduate college, and… graduate… about to graduate high school and I was so proud of him, on his 18th birthday we had had so many discussions around our dinner table as a family about feminist, about LGBTQ rights, about issues all over the world, our kids have travelled to incredibly impoverished settings with us and lived in impoverished settings and I asked my son whether he’s let me publish a piece on him being a feminist. I knew he was. And he… we guard his… our kids’ privacy up to a certain age very closely, and he said, absolutely, mom, I have no problem with that. And I thought, I must have gotten something right as a mom. And so I will tell you it’s working with the men who are for women, and it’s teaching our boys to be feminists.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you. I’ve promised an element of questions from the audience, so we’ll take three questions from the audience, one from each section and then we’ll take them one after the other, and then the folks on the panel can both answer and wrap up. I don’t want to do a huge conclusion here because this work is ongoing, it doesn’t end here on this panel.
So does anyone have any questions, please? Okay, we’ve got one hand over there, right there. Dalal, just hand it to her, yeah.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, to the distinguished panel and the Prime Minister. My name is Emily Mills, and I represent a network called How She Hustles; one of the conversations that’s happening right now with many of the diverse women in my network is how they can be at the table when these conversations are happening and many of the women, actually just today, are having an online discussion on Facebook about how some of these critical conversations about the future of our world and our country, are limiting. They’re not having access because sometimes they’re in places and spaces and rooms where they’re not on the right list.
So, I guess my question to you is, how do women who do not have a certain amount of privilege and access, or not on the right list, how do they become part of this conversation?
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Great question, thank you very much. Let’s take another question; there in the centre. Yes. Stand up please.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you for doing this and inviting all of us here. My name is Huda, I’m a start-up founder from Toronto. I run a company called Dot Health. I’ve noticed in some of the grassroots organizations and work that is done where people have this negative reaction to things like quotas or things like affirmative action; and I wonder from a G7 angle and in all the respective organisations that all of you are a part of, how can we hold organizations, people, government, global policy, accountable for outcomes not just stuff that we say? Thank you.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you. Another question in this section. Yes.
QUESTION: Hi, my name is Helen Kennedy, I’m with an organisation called ‘Egale,’ which is Canada’s LGBTIQ2S human rights organization. And I loved your analogy around the thinking out of the box, and I just want to know, are you thinking out of the box when you’re thinking of gender, and non-binary, and intersectionality around LBT and 2S as well. Thank you.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you. Alright, so, questions around grassroots and how to get more women at the table, and the non-empowered women at the table; and questions on quotas and affirmative action and then great question from Helen on non-binary identities and how we affect intersectionality there. Who wants to give it a shot first? Chris, you go the mic.
LT.-GEN. CHRISTINE WHITECROSS: Can I… I’d like to actually talk about the targets and affirmative action and the like… so in the Canadian Armed Forces we do have a target of 25% women in the Canadian Armed Forces, and we’ve never met that target. We’re at about 17% now, and we’ve had the target for probably 20-odd years. And there’s some really good rationale for it, and a lot of people would say, well obviously women don’t want to join, so why would you have targets? And that’s not the answer, the answer is we’re not… there’s a whole bunch of answers. But my point is… if you’re serious about targets, which I am, then you need to be draconian about it. And sometimes that means that you need to make decisions that are not popular but that are outcomes-based, and sometimes you just have to really dig deep and get a little bit of moral courage to do the right thing. So, the CDS and I worked very hard to do one percent per year for the next ten years; what that meant is completely changing the way we recruit, the way we retain, the… engaging the different cultural groups, the non-binary groups, engaging everyone on the platform that they’re comfortable at, and ensuring that how their careers in the Canadian Armed Forces can be as productive and as engaging, and as enjoyable, and challenging as they want it to be, and not to create an environment where every square goes in a square box, and every circle goes in a circle box, because that is not the answer in today’s day in age. And in many ways it really… it comes down to leadership, and leadership doesn’t mean you’re the Prime Minister, or you’re the CDS, leadership means in every single facet of humanity people have opportunities to make change, and you really have to take those opportunities and harness as much as you can about them, and to do what you know to be the effect in a very positive light. And sometime that takes a lot of angst, and a lot of soul-searching, but you know, ultimately it’s the right thing to do, and people will really appreciate that I think in the final analysis.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you.
LEYMAH GBOWEE: I don’t know if I can answer my sister’s question about how to bring many women around the table, but the one thing that I know is that in this day in age of technology, women are setting a gender in spaces and places that are not necessarily around a table. I know that those who have started different hashtag movements, even though I don’t like to glorify some of those movements, because I’m one of those Africans who believe that before ‘TimesUp’ or before ‘MeToo’ women in grassroots communities were dealing with those issues, and it is not now when you have lights, camera, action, that people should be hyped up about them.
You know, but I think we can… even from our communities begin to set agendas that people, that we can put out there, and people can get… some of these spaces and places is… Minister Monsef said, and I always butcher her name, that we’re knocking on open doors. But I think in most cases, it is not that way. You know, the door can be similar open, but getting results is something else, so I think we just need to keep pushing and having confidence in the ability of those around the table that they are there to represent the interests of those of us who are not around the table. Because most times, the assumption is that they’re one group of people or a few individuals that they are bringing around the table and they are not representing our interests. Ambassador Hudon and Melinda can attest that this morning we really, really, really, really gave them a tough time. And because we knew, and I like the way Katia (ph) put it: that we brought our integrity and the voices of our constituency into this working group, and we were not going to leave anything out that wasn’t going to be a representative of the voices and the individuals that put confidence in our ability to be sitting there.
So I think it’s understanding, having trust… because just as we’re talking, trust for women who are at the table, we’re also asking for trust when it comes to funding issues. Issues of money to women because now as a grassroots activist, I see funding and trust just like going to the Canadian Consulate, we can’t give you a visa because you’ve never travelled before. But how would I travel if you don’t give me a visa? You know?
We can’t give this women’s organisation this fund because they’ve never done this kind of work before, and I know I’m supposed to give my closing remarks, come back to #MeToo, hashtag and all of the different things, I know everyone has said a lot about it, including you Mister Prime Minister in your statement, but when we look at the successes of those campaigns, people want to come out and speak out about their experiences. And I sat with a sister on the table who said since #MeToo and #TimesUp, she runs a service provision place for women who are survivors of violence here in Canada, the number of people who come to their centre has increased 100% increased, 0% funding for the work that they do.
So let’s think about all of those things, confidence, trust in one another at the table, but also as we’re asking for trust from one another, we’re also asking for trust from the donors and the funders, and we also have to come to the place where we understand that when these movements come up, they come with successes but also are accompanied by challenges that we need to deal with.
PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA: Just to also further aid on the issue of reaching out and bringing all women to the table; on one hand, not all tables are worth sitting at for women. So, women also need to create their own tables, and will be surprised at the influence we can be.
We have chosen to be at the G7 table because we think that table is going somewhere, but there’s many others that we refuse to go to because we are not confident that it is a good use of our time, so there is that element. But in this day also of informal, and yet far-reaching power that comes with what technology offers us, that is also a table. If I had listened to the number of powerful people who talk about the #MeToo -- that is a table that created itself that did not wait to be invited. So, it’s also about looking at different ways in which we can appropriate power to ourselves, and use it in an effective way. But having said that, I think your point is still valid, and that is why supporting grassroots movements that can engage with women everywhere because of proximity still remains important, and that is why the funding of grassroots women that Leymah was talking about, which the Prime Minister announced, is still an important intervention because through that mechanism, you bring in more women into the table.
And I also want to address the issue of binary and non-binary approach to the work that we do, and by starting to say sexual and reproductive rights and health is foundational.
If women are unable to make a choice about their… men and women about their sexuality, if they are unable to make a choice about their reproductive activities, if they are unable to choose when and how to space their children, that is a tragedy. If you can imagine anyone of us sitting in this room, if we did not have the capacity to decide when to have children, how many to have, it is just unimaginable to be in that situation. There’s millions and millions of women in the world today who are in that situation. I sometimes feel that the most liberating thing that has ever happened in the last century to women was the birth control pill. There is nothing more empowering than that. And we still now… we’re now looking for the next big thing. But, at the same time, not all women are enjoying the liberation that has come with that particular scientific invention, because men deny them.
The one good thing that every woman needs, is something that governments and men don’t control, so that… oh and partners, rather, don’t control, so that they can make their choices about when to have it, how to have it, and the pill to some extent provided that because even when the partner didn’t want you to have it, you could still have it, if you can afford to buy it, you didn’t need permission to have it. So, we need these mechanisms for women to be in full and total control.
And Prime Minister, sometimes I am so exhausted and frustrated at the U.N. when we have to argue with member states about women controlling their bodies. We have a bunch of men sitting at the highest body that is supposed to be looking after all of us, ganging together to deny women control of their bodies. This is something that is really worrying. When it comes to women choosing their sexuality, we have the same challenges sometimes. And that is why the language is still a bit vague. As women, the language of ensuring that we are not just thinking binary, and that we are actually able to be open and to create the space and the vocabulary for member states to embrace non-binary choices that are living and out there, and are a right is still a struggle. I don’t want to lie. We have it, we use it, but we are not yet finding it at the formal and official documents of the institutes. So it’s a battle that I think we must wage together, the more we say it, the more we come to countries like Canada where the Prime Minister speaks like that, Ministers use… we are like wow… it’s not like this all over the world. And we need to help each other in order to make it the acceptable language and that way we will be completely out of the box. We are still inside the box a little bit.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Roberta?
ROBERTA JAMIESON: I won’t repeat what has been said, except that I totally agree with the last few comments that have been made. I will speak to the issue of quotas only; I’m for quotas.
I don’t care what we call it, but I am tired of hoping, waiting, volunteering… explaining… like, it doesn’t work. You know? If you take alone, like I’ll take a mainstream example: corporate boards, let’s take a private sector mainstream… corporate boards. In the last couple of years, the changes in gender alone on corporate boards, glacial, glacial. I think it’s a little over 1% increase in the last year. Now, that’s not to talk about the other areas of diversity. I’ll talk only about Indigenous; we’re going backwards, folks, we’re less than 1%. We eked up I think 1.3%, now we’re back to 0.8; so, regressive or glacial, I am for G7 setting a way for countries to be transparent, and to be accountable for the many, many, many marvelous statements and declarations, and communiques that have been made over time. We all feel wonderful when we read those and then we wait till the next meeting, and then they get reinvented, and then we all go up again, and then we go back. So I think quotas measure, report, publish, hold yourself accountable. All those things I think it’s long past due. That’s my thoughts Prime Minister.
MELINDA GATES: I won’t try to answer all the questions because I think the panel’s done such a good job of that already. Let me just lift up in saying a little bit in closing is, I think we’re all committed to making this real with the G7 to helping you make something real for women and by that I mean people of all types; we did have a conversation about intersectionality and binary in our council, and I know the W7 did as well; I do think we need more data around these issues, because what gets measured is what gets done, and when there is then transparency around data like we’re seeing in the UK where there’s a policy that was passed that you have to have… show your pay results for men versus women and then there’s now transparency, and there’s a lot of uh-oh; we know that any time you want to move society forward there has to be commitment in political will, and there has to be transparency, and then you get change. So I think data, data, data matters, and the second thing I’ll just say is, we have to invest in women. We have to put resourcing behind women, because women they invest in everybody else.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Well, I want to once again thank the extraordinary leaders on this stage who have given up their time and their energy. I want to also thank the entire gender advisory council to the G7, and I know there’s lots more conversations, but I’m also very excited that there’s going to be an opportunity for all of us to continue these conversations in a more informal setting across the way.
I want to once again thank you all for being here, I wish there were more men in the room, but that’s a constant challenge that we have; but hopefully through the magic of the media this message will get out broad and far.
Thank you all, and how about another round of applause for these extraordinary women.
Thank you very much.