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As critical AIDS conference approaches, Trudeau writes: “Poverty is Sexist”

Responding to open letter from nearly 100 high-profile signers and more than 200,000 activists around the world, Prime Minister Trudeau pledges to make girls and women focus of aid policy

OTTAWA — Responding to an open letter to world leaders by supporters of the ONE Campaign about how extreme poverty disproportionately impacts girls and women, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today wrote back: “I wholeheartedly agree: Poverty is Sexist.”

Continuing, and noting Canada’s increased pledge to the fight against the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, the Prime Minister wrote: “Canada’s commitment to the Global Fund is the first step on a path toward a new global policy that prioritizes equal treatment of girls and women. Investing in health will enable girls and women to survive and flourish, including by making key contributions to ending extreme poverty for everyone.”

Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, Sheryl Sandberg, Melinda Gates, Bono, George Stroumboulopoulos, Sir Elton John, Samantha Bee, Danai Gurira, and Meryl Streep were among nearly 100 high-profile signers of an open letter sent to world leaders on International Women’s Day in March. The letter declared poverty is sexist against girls and women and urged action to address it by, among other things, fully financing the Global Fund. Since then, more than 200,000 people — including nearly 20,000 Canadians — added their signatures to the letter.

Prime Minister Trudeau is the first world leader to respond.

Stuart Hickox, ONE’s national director in Canada, said:

“The influencers and activists who signed ONE’s letter back in March did so because they wanted to use their voices to help achieve important policy changes here in Canada and in the world’s other leading countries. Given his outspokenness on feminist issues, maybe it’s not surprising that Prime Minister Trudeau would respond to a letter about how poverty is sexist, but it’s actually a remarkable gesture, and one that he appears ready to match with policy actions. Prioritizing investments in girls and women is the key to breaking the intergenerational cycle of extreme poverty. As a Canadian, I’m proud to see the Prime Minister endorse this approach and commit to modernizing Canada’s aid programs to help implement it.”

Canada will host the fifth replenishment meeting of the Global Fund in Montreal in September, aiming to raise as much as $13 billion USD to finance the next three years of the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The Global Fund is a public-partnership that pools the world’s resources to strategically invest in programs to end three epidemics. It is credited with saving 20 million lives to date.

AIDS-related illnesses are now the leading cause of death for women aged 15 to 44 on the planet, and nearly 17,000 women of all ages are infected with HIV every week. In sub-Saharan Africa, young women are twice as likely as young men to be infected with HIV, and 700 young women contract it every day. ONE released a report in March detailing these and other ways that poverty is sexist.

The text of Prime Minister Trudeau’s letter:

Dear Friends,

Thank you for the letter you sent to me on International Women’s Day and for calling on world leaders to recognize the indisputable link between gender inequality and extreme poverty. 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. I am grateful to groups like ONE, who work toward ending extreme poverty and gender inequality around the world, while also holding global leaders accountable.

I accept your challenge to lead. As a feminist, I know that women must be treated equally everywhere. That is why, as one of my first actions as Prime Minister, I named a gender balanced Cabinet. It is my hope that this will set an example for governments around the world.

The Government of Canada is taking another important and concrete step: we will host the Global Fund replenishment conference in Montreal in September. We have also raised our contribution by 20% to $785 million CDN.

Investing in the Global Fund – which fights HIVI AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis – is critical, particularly for young women, who account for a shocking 74% of all new HIV infections among adolescents in Africa. Canada’s increased investment means more mosquito nets and medicine, and greater access to treatment and therapy, all of which will help the Global Fund meet its ultimate goal of saving an additional eight million lives and averting an additional 300 million new infections by 2019.

This commitment could not come at a more important time. The world has a unique opportunity to make lasting progress. By fast-tracking investments and building global solidarity, we can bring an end to three devastating epidemics – HIVIAIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis – that have tragic and far-reaching impacts on the most vulnerable people around the world.

Canada’s commitment to the Global Fund is the first step on a path toward a new global policy that prioritizes equal treatment of girls and women. Investing in health will enable girls and women to survive and flourish, including by making key contributions to ending extreme poverty for everyone.

But no one leader can make this happen alone. Canada can play an important role, but we need other leaders around the world to step up, too. And that’s where you come in.

Please continue to use your voice to ask for more from all leaders around the world. Please ask them to come to the Global Fund Replenishment Conference with ambitious goals, investments, and innovations in support of girls and women everywhere.

And please know that your call has been heard and that the Government of Canada is taking action.

Thanks, and see you soon.

Justin Trudeau

The text and signers of the original open letter:

Dear World Leaders,

Nowhere on earth do women have as many opportunities as men. Nowhere.

While the debate around this truth rages everywhere, girls and women living in extreme poverty – those often hit hardest by the injustice of gender inequality – have been left out of the conversation.

This must change. The fight for gender equity is global.

Some 62 million girls are denied the right to education. Half a billion women can’t read. 155 countries still have laws that discriminate against women.

Last year, you signed up to end extreme poverty, and because poverty is sexist, you promised to tackle the gender inequality that keeps people poor.

This year, there are a series of historic opportunities to test your commitment and to make meaningful progress by delivering:

  • Funding in 2016 at the Nutrition for Growth and Global Fund Summits to help girls and women fight HIV and malnutrition, because it is an outrage that girls account for 74% of all new HIV infections among adolescents in Africa and 40% of women on the continent suffer from anaemia which results in 20% of maternal deaths;
  • Policies which support female economic empowerment: access to electricity, connectivity, education and justice, so girls and women have the right to own property, start a business and decide when and whether to marry;
  • Better data on the girls and women we can’t see, don’t know exist and therefore can’t yet deliver for.

International Women’s Day must be about advancing girls and women everywhere.


  • Ali Hewson, Founder, Edun and Nude
  • Alyse Nelson, President & CEO, Vital Voices Global Partnership
  • Aminatou Sow, Digital Strategist, Co-Host, Call Your Girlfriend podcast
  • Amy Poehler, Producer, Actor and Co-Founder of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls
  • Andrew Zimmern, Chef
  • Andrew Hozier-Byrne, Musician
  • Angelique Kidjo, Grammy Award-Winning Artist and Activist
  • Ann Friedman, Columnist, New York Magazine, Co-Host, Call Your Girlfriend podcast
  • Anna Loos, Actress
  • Anne V, Model
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO, New America
  • Anne Wizorek, Author, Consultant, Activist
  • Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group
  • Arielle T, Singer and Activist
  • Asa, Singer, Songwriter and Musician
  • Ashley Judd
  • Aziz Ansari
  • Bobby Shriver, Co-Founder, ONE and (RED)
  • Bono, Lead singer, U2 and Co-Founder of ONE and (RED)
  • Caitlin Moran, Journalist, Broadcaster and Author
  • Carey Lowell, Artist and Actress
  • Carolin Kebekus, Comedian
  • Charlize Theron, Founder of Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project and UN Messenger of Peace
  • Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief, Glamour
  • Colin Farrell, Actor
  • Condoleezza Rice, Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, Founding partner of RiceHadleyGates, LLC
  • Connie Britton, Emmy-Nominated Actress
  • D’Banj, Singer and Activist
  • Danai Gurira, Actor and Award-Winning Playwright
  • Derreck Kayongo, CEO, National Center for Civil and Human Rights
  • Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa, Member of Executive Committee, Africa World Economic Forum
  • Sir Elton John, Founder, The Elton John AIDS Foundation
  • Emma Freud, Writer and Broadcaster
  • Emma Watson, Actor and UN WOMEN Global Goodwill Ambassador
  • Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, World Food Programme
  • Femi Kuti, Musician
  • Gabriela, African Pop Star
  • George Stroumboulopoulos, Television and Radio Personality
  • Helen Clark, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme
  • Helene Gayle, CEO, McKinsey Social Initiative
  • Jeff Skoll, Social Entrepreneur, Founder & Chairman of the Skoll Foundation, Participant Media, Skoll Global Threats Fund, and Capricorn Investment Group
  • Jennifer Lopez, Entertainer, Entrepreneur and UN Advocate for Girls and Women
  • Jessie J
  • John Green, Author and YouTuber
  • Jude Kelly CBE
  • Judith Sephuma, South African Musician, Jazz and Gospel Artist
  • Kakenya Ntaiya, Founder & President, Kakenya Center for Excellence
  • Karen Kornbluh, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Kathy Calvin, President & Chief Executive Officer, United Nations Foundation
  • Katie Holmes
  • Katja Iversen, CEO, Women Deliver
  • Lady Gaga
  • Laura Ling, Correspondent, Discovery Digital Networks
  • Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO & Co-Founder of FEED Projects
  • Lea DeLaria
  • Lilly Singh, Comedian, Writer and YouTuber
  • Lonnie Ali, Wife of Muhammad Ali and Co-Founder of The Muhammad Ali Center
  • Luvvie Ajayi, Writer, Digital Strategist and Executive Director, The Red Pump Project
  • Mabel van Oranje, Initiator & Chair, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage
  • Marc Benioff, Chairman & CEO, Salesforce
  • Maria Shriver, Award-Winning Journalist and Founder of Shriver Media
  • Marian Salzman, CEO, Havas PR
  • Mark Ruffalo
  • Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook
  • Mary J Blige, Artist and Activist
  • Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA
  • Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Meryl Streep
  • Michele Sullivan, President, Caterpillar Foundation
  • Muhammad Ali, 3X World Heavyweight Champion and Global Humanitarian
  • Oprah Winfrey, Chairman & CEO, Oprah Media Group
  • Padma Lakshmi, Author and Host of Top Chef
  • Patricia Arquette, Actor and Activist
  • Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever
  • Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women
  • Rea Garvey, Musician
  • Robert Redford, Actor, Director and Environmental Activist
  • Rocky Dawuni, Grammy-Nominated International Music Star and Humanitarian Activist
  • Ruby Rose, Actress
  • Samantha Bee, Television Host, Comedian
  • Sarah Degnan Kambou, President, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
  • Sean Parker, President of the Parker Foundation
  • Selmor Mtukudzi, Zimbabwean Musician
  • Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook
  • Sheryl WuDunn, Co-Author, Half the Sky and A Path Appears
  • Shonda Rhimes, Creator & CEO, Shondaland
  • Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube
  • Tété, Singer and Songwriter
  • Thandie Newton, Actress
  • Tina Fey, Writer, Actress and Producer
  • Tina Brown, Founder & CEO, Tina Brown Live Media and Women in the World
  • Vanessa Mdee, Afro Pop Musician
  • Victoria Kimani, African Pop Artiste
  • Vincent Cassel, Actor, Director and Producer
  • Yemi Alade, International Award Winner “MAMA AFRICA”

ONE has offices in Ottawa, Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Abuja, and Johannesburg.