03/09/2018 10:50 EST | Updated 03/09/2018 15:22 EST

Feminism Will Light The Way On Our Path To Equality

Every single one of us has an important role to play in order to transform our society and move us closer to equality and justice.

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau speaks at the Women Deliver kickoff event in Vancouver, B.C., on Nov. 16, 2017.

Today, I'm full of hope — and pride. For a long time now, feminist activists have worked tirelessly to advocate for women's rights and make women's voices heard. Thanks to their vision, we've made amazing progress towards building a world where women are truly free to pursue their dreams. Women have demanded justice and equality. Women have transformed our world for the better. But we still have a long way to go.

Women are half of our population, but there is so much in our society that seeks to diminish women. Certain women, especially Indigenous women and women living in poverty — face distinct, disproportionate obstacles from an elevated risk of experiencing violence, to unequal access to education, services and opportunity.

We all know that this reality is unacceptable. Yet a better world is within our reach. Every single one of us has an important role to play in order to transform our society and move us closer to equality and justice.

Gender equality is not only about women and girls.

I stand by this: men and boys have to come together and be part of the solution. Gender equality is not only about women and girls. Toxic masculinity harms all of us; rigid gender norms hold men and boys back, too. When we teach boys and young men to devalue women, we cut men and boys off from their own humanity, too. This is a tragedy, and it leads to violence. When we force anyone to conform to narrow definitions of gender, we force them to deny parts of themselves that should be experienced and celebrated.

Boys need to know they have amazing power to create change and heal our world. They have a vital role to play in advancing gender equality, because none of us are free when some of us are held back. Violence, injustice and inequality hurt all of us. No matter our gender identity, we need to come together and move forward together, because the road to equality is the path to healing.

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A few weeks ago, something happened which gave me even more hope. For the first time in Canada's history, the government of Canada released a budget that put gender equality at its core. It's a feminist federal budget, and it's unprecedented. Budget 2018 is remarkable because it says loud and clear that everyone, no matter their gender identity or background, should have an equal chance to succeed and realize their dreams.

This is not just symbolic. This budget lays the groundwork to close the gender wage gap, promotes equality by encouraging more parents to take parental leave, and includes the proposal to make Status of Women an official department of the Government of Canada. There are measures here that are going to make a concrete difference in the lives of women of every background, across our country and around the world — from stronger support for women from Inuit, Métis Nation and First Nations communities, to major funding for Canada's Feminist International Assistance Policy, which puts the empowerment of women and girls at the core of all our international assistance.

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It's far from perfect, but it's a big step forward. I deeply believe that by working together, we can create a more just and equal world for all of us. We are not there yet, but change is happening — from the #MeToo and Time's Up movements, to the many young women and gender non-conforming people who are making their voices heard.

To all those young people, know that nothing can diminish you, because you are powerful, amazing and enough — exactly as you are. Be proud of yourselves, and believe in yourselves! When women and girls rise, we all do. Feminism will light the way on our path to equality.

—Sophie Grégoire Trudeau

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