Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently condemned sexism in poverty in response to a letter by the ONE Campaign. The open letter was released by Bono and the ONE Campaign on International Women’s Day in March. It was signed by some of the most influential women in the world, including Charlize Theron, Cheryl Sandberg and Angelique Kidjo.
Trudeau is the first world leader to formally respond, addressing the campaign thus: “On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am writing back to let you know that I wholeheartedly agree: Poverty is Sexist. Women and girls are less likely to get an education, more likely to be impoverished, and face greater risk of disease and poor health.”
According to Melinda Gates, one reason poverty is sexist is time. It takes time to finish an education, learn a new life skill or start a business. Men in developing countries are more likely to have access to this time because women are responsible for the vast majority of unpaid housework. There are also more tangible barriers restricting women’s ability to work, whether in the form of laws barring women’s employment or a lack of access to child care for working mothers.
Trudeau had the opportunity to lead by example when Canada hosted the Fifth Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund in Montréal on Sept. 16. The conference brought global health leaders together to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. According to Trudeau, such collaboration is an important step to ending sexism in poverty because young women account for 74 percent of all HIV infections among adolescents in Africa.
Canada has increased its contribution to the Global Fund by 20 percent to $785 million CDN, all of which will go toward providing mosquito nets, medication and therapy. The Global Fund aims to save millions of lives and prevent hundreds of millions of new infections by 2019.
According to the ONE Campaign, nowhere in the world do women have the same opportunities as men do, a fact due in part to the sexism inherent in poverty. Trudeau’s response is one of many steps needed to rectify this major inequality.
– Sabrina Santos