The head of the UN agency devoted to gender equality is praising Canada's change in approach to women and girls under the Liberal government.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women, says the UN is "celebrating the shift in alignment" of Canada's agenda to match that of the rest of the world, and says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is saying things "you don't normally hear from leaders and from heads of state."

When Trudeau "says I'm a feminist, that lights the fire," Mlambo-Ngcuka said in an interview with CTV News.

Mlambo-Ngcuka is in Ottawa to kick off her first official visit to Canada, which will also include stops in Toronto and Waterloo, Ont., where she'll meet with students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The head of UN Women met with International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu Monday morning on Parliament Hill, and the three of them sat down for an interview with CTV News about a range of women's issues in Canada and abroad.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said at eight months into governing, it's too early to expect any concrete results from the Liberals, but she has a list of goals for Canada, particularly when it comes to improving the lower life expectancy of indigenous Canadians.

"We definitely want to see a measurable decrease of incarceration of indigenous people. We would like the disappearance and the killings [of Aboriginal women] to stop. We would like to see higher rates of education, retention and completion by indigenous people, and we would like to see indigenous people appear prominently in the life of the nation, at policy-making, in the labour market and at other levels," she said.

More money for aid

Former prime minister Stephen Harper made women and children's health a focus of his international development policy, pledging billions from 2010 to 2020 for improving their life expectancy around the world. But the Conservative government refused to let any Canadian funding be used for abortion services abroad, and devoted very little to providing contraceptives to fill the unmet needs of an estimated 220 million women.

Bibeau says she has told the organizations awarded funding before the Liberals took office that Canadian government financing now covers the full range of sexual and reproductive health services. But she admitted stepping up those services could cost more money because the projects running now were awarded under the Conservative government's more limited project criteria.

Bibeau says she hopes to announce new policy – and a proposed budget for the next five years – by the fall. Global Affairs Canada is expected to complete a review of its international development policy by then.

"The idea is to have an increase in our [official development assistance] financing," Bibeau said. "I don't have any specific objective for the time being but this fall, for the 2017 budget, I will be asking for more based on a five-year financial framework."

While the G7 countries have committed to spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on international development, almost no one has met that target. Bibeau said it's not realistic to go from Canada's current 0.28 per cent to 0.7 per cent, which would mean an increase of about $10 billion a year.

Work started on gender-based violence strategy

Hajdu's agency has started working on a federal strategy to counter gender-based violence, putting together an advisory committee ahead of a series of consultations over the summer. She says she'll soon be meeting with Aboriginal Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos to discuss what kind of system Canada needs to assist women fleeing violence. The Liberals budgeted $3.4 billion over the next five years for "social infrastructure," which could include anything from shelters to seniors’ centres to child care facilities.

"The challenge we have with the sheltering system writ large is that right now it is really a one-size-fits-all and we know women need different things in different communities and [coming] from different backgrounds. And our challenge will be to make sure we get the best outcome with those dollars," Hajdu said.

Lack of co-ordination among service providers is a big problem when it comes to violence prevention, she suggested. The goal is to have the spending, including on shelters and emergency services, be cohesive and show measurable improvement.

"We have anywhere between seven to 10 different agencies that are funding gender-based violence initiatives, whether it's programming for people who have experienced violence or doing prevention in schools," Hajdu said. "Nobody is talking. There's no planning."