On International Day of the Girl Child, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is highlighting the importance of uniting resources and efforts to address the challenges faced by girls in Canada and around the world.
“The key messages are really about how do we unite our efforts -- as individuals, as girls, and as women, uniting together, with men as well -- and how do we unite all of the organizations on the ground’s efforts to be able to impact the lives of girls and women across the world with more efficiency and collaboration,” Grégoire Trudeau told CTV Power Play’s Don Martin on Wednesday.
Since 2012, the UN’s Day of the Girl has occurred annually on Oct. 11. According to the UN, the day “aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”
In 2016, Canada ranked 35th on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, falling several places below Rwanda, Philippines, Namibia, and Nicaragua.
The challenges that Canadian girls face differ greatly from the issues experienced internationally. Still, the country has a long way to go in addressing the needs of its girls and women, Grégoire Trudeau says, starting with our social culture and the media.
“Here in Canada . . . I meet young girls who are telling us that they are anxious, they are feeling overwhelmed in a culture that asks them to be what they are not -- physically, mentally,” she said in a video chat from the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
“[I]n a culture of competition, of individualism, they need to be able to be leading themselves, and not being led, by the media, by social media, by the pressure of becoming a person that they are not.”
When it comes to issues like cyberbullying, Grégoire Trudeau says that girls need to have access to tools that will help distance them from social media and empower them to talk about their experiences in a safe space.
“Nobody should suffer in silence,” she said. “When it comes to these kinds of issues, silence can kill . . . we want to change that. That can’t happen.”
Grégoire Trudeau adds that mentorship from parents, community leaders, and peers are needed more than ever to combat the stress of media standards and body image ideals -- two things that many Canadian girls have told Grégoire Trudeau they struggle with.
“When it comes to having conversations with girls what I hear from them is that there is a lot of pressure to look a certain way, act a certain way, perform a certain way, and there are very mixed messages,” she said. “We are telling them, ‘Be yourself, be true to who you are,’ but what does that mean in a society of comparison, competition, and individualism? So I think it’s very important to be able to mentor young girls, and for young girls to gather together and to have true conversations on what they feel intimidated with.”
In a column in Marie Claire magazine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opened up about the importance of raising children of all genders to understand the many challenges faced by women and girls all over the world.
“Sophie continues to inspire and challenge me, and a few years ago, she helped me reach a turning point. I was talking about teaching [our daughter] Ella that she can be anything she wants to be. Sophie said, ‘That’s great -- but how are you raising your sons to be strong advocates for women and girls, too?’” Trudeau wrote.
“Our sons have the power and the responsibility to change our culture of sexism, and I want [our sons] Xavier and Hadrien -- when he’s a little older -- to understand that deeply.”
Grégoire Trudeau says she and PM Trudeau are transparent with their kids about the challenges faced by women and girls, and that having such honest conversations at a young age are invaluable in shaping the thoughts of children.
“My kids ask me questions on what I do and I’m very honest with them,” Grégoire Trudeau said.
“We all want equality, we all want to be loved, we all want to have the full potential and opportunity to grow and to participate fully in our societies. So the conversation always comes back to equality.”