By Sebastien Malo
NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - World leaders should do more to promote women's leadership in politics, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday, putting Canada further under the global spotlight as a champion of gender equality.
Trudeau, speaking at a summit at the United Nations focusing on women, reaffirmed his support for gender equality when he kicked off an hour-long discussion punctuated by repeated cheers and applause.
"I am going to keep saying loud and clear that I am a feminist until it is met with a shrug," Trudeau told diplomats, advocacy group representatives and the head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, all gathered for the U.N. 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
"Why, every time I say I'm a feminist, does the Twitterverse explode?" he asked, adding that calling for gender equality should be a mainstream political position.
Trudeau has drawn worldwide attention by appointing a Cabinet with an equal number of men and women, and called on world leaders to follow Canada's lead.
"Any world leaders who tell me 'I'd love to, I just can't do that with the current configuration of our parliament or of my party', I say 'Well, what are you doing to change that configuration and draw out those extraordinary women who can be leaders that we need'?" he said.
Asked where his commitment to gender equality originated, the 44-year-old cast it as a fight between generations.
"For my generation and younger, it's all sort of a 'duh'," said Trudeau. "The fact that (it) gets such a reaction from the powers and the authority structure that surrounds us really shows how much work we still have to do."
Trudeau, son of late prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, also referred to a key legacy of his father in promoting human rights, which he said stopped short of embracing feminism as a factor.
The current prime minister's support for women includes a commitment that his government will set up an inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous people.
Speaking about his government's other priorities concerning women, Trudeau said these included a focus on equal pay.
Canada ranked 30th globally in the World Economic Forum's 2015 Global Gender Gap Report, which measures how equitably countries are distributing their resources between women and men, putting it behind nations such as Rwanda, South Africa and the United States. (http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2015/rankings/)
Trudeau announced earlier that Canada would campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2021-2022.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)