Trudeau answered questions regarding his commitment to gender parity with a resounding, “Duh.”
Earlier in the day, on March 16, Trudeau evoked a more political persona, captivating the UN by appearing before a crowd massed in the headquarters lobby that included media, where Canadians beamed at their charming, photogenic new leader (he was voted into office in October) and jostled with others to glimpse the young prime minister, a liberal. Some reporters wondered among themselves later, however, how long Trudeau could keep up his burst of popularity.
It was during the armchair conversation, however, where he expanded on feminism.
“I had the power to appoint 50/50 cabinet. So how do I use that power not only for gender parity but also reflect the diversity of Canada? How to use that power to push the agenda forward? It’s just really, really obvious, the fact that I’m standing up for women’s rights. Well, duh.
Trudeau discussed his program for improving gender parity in politics and civil participation as well. “Before we got to 2015 [when he appointed the 50/50 gender split cabinet], we had to go through 2014, 2013 and 2012,” he said.
He and his administration worked on increasing women’s participation in a variety of ways, from repeatedly asking prominent qualified women to run for office to a digital campaign called Invite Her to Run. According to Trudeau, “many members of Parliament and female politicians” now in office are the direct result of communications sent via email and social media, asking Canadians who knew qualified women to urge those women to run.
Despite the campaign, Canada’s Parliament is only 26 percent female while 51 percent of its population is female.
Institutional change is necessary not just to change attitudes but to literally change institutions themselves. Mlambo-Ngcuka, who is regularly referred to at the UN by her first name, Phumzile, recalled during the armchair conversation with Trudeau the need to add women’s toilets to her native South Africa’s parliament building in the 1990s to support female politicians.
Both Trudeau and Mlambo-Ngcuka spoke about the importance of gender equality in eradicating domestic violence.
“Biggest issue we have to address is violence against women, and particularly violence against indigenous women and girls in our country,” Trudeau said. In Canada, over the past 30 years, thousands of indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been murdered. More than 80 percent of those victims were mothers. Despite being less than 4 percent of the female population in Canada, indigenous women account for more than 10 percent of women murdered. They also experience a much higher rate of domestic violence than other women in the country.
“It’s been something that has been ongoing as an example and key problem of the marginalization and discrimination and lack of proper relationship with indigenous peoples,” Trudeau said.
To counter the violence against indigenous women, Trudeau’s government launched a national inquiry into why these women have vanished, led by three members of his cabinet: Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Indigenous Affairs and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu. All three were present during the UN conversation. Trudeau’s immediate predecessor, Stephen Harper, had actively resisted an inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of indigenous women.
On a more UN-centric focus, when Baderinwa, the moderator, asked Mlambo-Ngcuka what changes she would like to see at the UN, Mlambo-Ngcuka echoed Trudeau’s lingo, saying it was time for a woman to be secretary-general. Why?
“Because it’s 2016.”
Related articles: The UN's First Feminist, Peg Snyder, Describes Her Brilliant Career
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Author: Laura E. Kirkpatrick
*This article originally appeared on PassBlue, and is granted permission to be republished on MUNPlanet.
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