You may know Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau as the wife of Liberal MP (and son of former Prime Minister Pierre) Justin Trudeau. Perhaps you recognize her from her onscreen gig as Quebec correspondent for CTV's eTalk. My image of Sophie is based on her tireless philanthropic work, including her role as Ambassador for Plan Canada's Because I am A Girl campaign, which will celebrate the hard-earned first International Day of the Girl on October 11th.
Sophie kindly agreed to open up to This Mom Loves' readers about her charity work, family, and what she loves most.
This Mom: You're involved with many charitable organizations. Why did you want to add "ambassador for Because I am a Girl" to the list?
Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau: My heart can't say no when it comes to women's or children's issues. We are still living in an unbalanced "masculine-feminine" society and world. Women will and will always be the nucleus of the family. They foster democracy through their biology and their spirit. And as a mother, I have become even more aware of the importance to reach out to our youth and get them involved in what matters most. This builds enriching relationships from which they can learn, become more aware, and grow as human beings.
So when I found out about Because I am a Girl, Plan’s global campaign to end gender inequality focusing on girls’ rights, becoming a national ambassador seemed like a natural move for me since female empowerment has always been an issue close to my heart. In Canada, I want to be a part of raising awareness and addressing the issue of girls’ rights and to make sure that men are part of the equation as well. We would undermine the beauty of their spirit and intelligence if we didn't.
I’m a proud advocate for the cause because the idea that investing in girls can change the world truly resonates with me. In developing countries, girls face double discrimination simply because they are young and female. In particular, they are faced with barriers to a good education – something we all need to succeed.
Previously, right here in Montreal, I’ve worked with the Shield of Athena, a non-profit organization for victims of family violence, and I’ve witnessed how investing in the potential of girls and women can lead to positive impacts on our community. Research has also shown that by investing in girls we can support a generation of empowered women, mothers, workers and leaders who will improve the lives of everyone around them and lift entire nations out of poverty. I would encourage people to learn more about this issue at www.becauseiamagirl.ca.
TM: After a great deal of campaigning from Plan Canada, and also through its innovative Because I am a Girl initiative, the first annual International Day of the Girl will take place October 11th. Why is this so important, and what do you hope it will accomplish?
SGT: I see it as a day of "heightened awareness"; for me and for all Canadians. Obviously, one could argue that it's kind of sad to "need" this day but I think it's proof that more and more people are coming together to fight against injustice and also to celebrate all the "female qualities" we possess, whether you are a man or a woman. I truly believe that the world needs more of it. Humanity longs for more compassion, more emotional intelligence, and less "ego-driven" super powers.
Also, I feel I should explain a bit of the history leading up to this day, because I want your readers to know that Canadians played a big part in making the day happen: As part of the Because I am a Girl initiative, Plan Canada launched a campaign in 2009 to establish an International Day of the Girl – a day to focus on girls’ rights globally. During the next two years, this campaign garnered huge support from thousands of young and adult Canadians, leading Canadian non-profit organizations, and girls and boys worldwide. Following unanimous all-party support by the Canadian Government, and a final vote at the United Nations General Assembly, the International Day of the Girl Child was officially announced on December 19, 2011.
The day is important to us because it’s about bringing world attention and focus to the barrier and challenges girls face but it will also draw attention to the fact that girls can be powerful agents of social change in their communities and countries. It’s a day to inspire and drive action.
I hope this day will advance equality for all girls and women, in developing countries and across the world. There are going to be quite a few celebratory events taking place to mark the first official day on October 11, 2012.
TM: Why do you devote so much of your time to philanthropy, and what inspiration or tips can you offer busy moms who just don't think they have the time to get involved?
SGT: I think for those of us in the public spotlight there is a responsibility to lead by example or bring attention to certain issues. We have so many opportunities to use our voice and our influence to create positive change for others and to serve those in need. There’s always more that we can do – it depends on how conscious we choose to be of what goes on around us.
I always say "think small"! I know how busy life gets and sometimes it can get overwhelming. But there is always a way to find balance within. Start by giving a small amount of time, even a drop-in into a women's shelter for half an hour. You will feel something moving deep inside you and that can become truly powerful. Nurturing a philanthropic heart starts right at home. Giving your children opportunities to perform small acts of service will develop their sense of compassion and kindness and only encourage them to want to connect with others, such as in their school or community.
I'm thinking of bringing my kids to help out this year to make Christmas baskets for those in need. My husband Justin does it every year and my kids are now old enough to understand. It's not about how much volunteering work you do, it's about human connection. Human compassion. Bottom line.
Whether it’s raising money for girls’ rights with a Because I am a Girl Pink LemonAID stand, donating hair for cancer patients’ wigs, or participating at an annual Cure for Cancer walk, starting small and building up from there can lead to valuable and amazing work.
TM: Justin is away Monday to Friday. Who do you count on for support with the kids, and what keeps you sane during the week when you're parenting on your own?
SGT: I miss him. The kids miss him. He also works on the weekends in the riding so it's not always easy. But we are slowly finding a "rhythm" and are trying to create more time to be just the four of us... in our little bubble filled with laughter, adventure, and love.
I don't have a nanny but both grandmothers are helping out. I also found an amazing babysitter who can help out at night time when we have events to attend.
My priority is my family. Everything else comes second. So I have to decline many invitations, work opportunities, etc. I know and feel that it's the right thing to do.
I've been practicing yoga for six years now and I'll become a certified teacher this December. This discipline and mean for "expanding and exploring our consciousness" has helped me create balance in my life—a true blessing that I want to share with as many people as possible. Imagine what kind of politicians we could have if more of them meditated and practiced yoga! Trust me; I'm on my husband's case!
Sophie with Justin, Xavier (5) and Ella-Grace (3)
TM: I'm an anglophone with a French major, so I'm curious to know if both English and French are spoken in your home, and whether the kids are bilingual?
SGT: Yes. This was a given for us. We were both raised that way. We speak to the kids in French but they are also learning English as they -and we!- have many anglophone friends and family members! I also try to teach them a bit of Spanish, which I love to speak. They're like sponges at that age and learn so quickly.
French is my mother tongue and Justin's father, Pierre Trudeau, always told him "Tu es plus élégant en Français!" It's just such a poetic and romantic language...
TM: How would you complete the sentence "This Mom Loves..."?
SGT: My children glancing at me from their backseats through the car mirror when I'm driving and seeing joy and love in their eyes...pure bliss!
Gardening with Ella-Grace and Xavier; they helped me "seed" this spring and are picking their own carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, beans, etc. They love it and eat everything!
Spending time at the beach in New Brunswick this summer building sandcastles...for which Justin won a contest!
Swimming with the kids, biking with them, hiking with them...anything in nature!
Singing with my daughter - she has a beautiful voice and sings "in tune"! She learned my Sanskrit yoga invocation chant and surprised me with it! I thought I was going to faint when I heard her!
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your inspirational message, Sophie! We will be thinking of you on October 11th, the first International Day of the Girl.