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4 Things We Learnt From Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard

January 1 | 2 minute read

Memo Mpower Julia Gillard Interview Hero 16x9


Originally published on | April 12

At MECCA, advancing equality through the education and empowerment of women and girls is a key focus of our social change initiative, MECCA M-POWER.

In our MECCA M-POWERED interview series, fearless women from around the globe share their incredible stories – from overcoming adversity to following their passions and inspiring a future generation of female changemakers.

Here, we’re sharing five insights we learnt from The Hon Julia Gillard AC, former Prime Minister of Australia, during her recent visit to MECCA HQ in partnership with CAMFED (the Campaign for Female Education) – a non-profit organisation, of which Gillard is Patron, that focuses on educating girls and young women across Africa. CAMFED is a long-term member of our M-POWERed Collective.


Memo Mpower Julia Gillard Interview 16x9 2
Abigail Kaindu (left) and Yvonne Chari (right) from CAMFED share their stories with Julia Gillard (centre) about the barriers to education they experienced and the impact CAMFED has had on their lives, during the recent CAMFED event at MECCA.

There are almost 200 million girls who aren’t in school

“The big driver really is poverty. When you talk to the individual girls, it's often the inability of their families to pay school fees, because in the countries in which they live, there's not access for everyone to free government schooling.

“Or, it's things like transport. Girls tell you stories about walking kilometres – tens of kilometres – to get to school, but for many, school is out of reach. And then there is the need for their families to have them at home; perhaps doing domestic chores, looking after younger siblings or taking goods to market, because without everybody pitching in, then perhaps the family is not going to get by.

“If you can change that equation – and that's what CAMFED does – by meeting the costs of schooling, then you can overcome the barriers, get girls into school and then you'll change their families’ lives as well when they are educated and they're able to earn money.”

Access to a great quality school is, I think, the foundation for a great life
Julia Gillard

Less than 20 United Nations member countries are led by women

“We still lack women leaders everywhere. If you look at who is leading nations around the world today, it's still less than 20 nations out of almost 200 that are members of the United Nations. If we look at corporate boards, it's only about 15 percent women – and that tends to be true for those who are in the C-suite, the highest level jobs.

“And we're at about 23 percent of parliamentarians around the world who are women. So, there's so much more to do if we're going to really harness the talents and skills and the perspectives of half the population.”

Change can’t come without addressing structural barriers and attitudes

“I think change is partly structural and partly about aspiration. Structural, because it's things like poverty that hold women back – it's structures that don't enable people to put work and family life together, it can be bias in political parties and bias in communities where leaders have always been men. We need to change all of that – and we need to make sure that we're changing women's aspirations too.

“The old saying is, ‘You can't be it if you can't see it,’ and unfortunately our world still persists with too few role models for women who have got right to the top – and I think organisations like CAMFED, educating girls and unleashing their power, can make a huge difference in that regard.”

The Hon. Julia Gillard AC with MECCA Founder and Co-CEO Jo Horgan.

Individuals can make a difference

“Everybody can talk to a local politician and say, ‘I would like more funds to go into education, particularly girls' education, because we know that it's disproportionately girls who are missing out.’

“Individuals can make a difference too by donating to organisations like CAMFED, enabling a girl to go to school. Each year, one of the gifts that I buy for members of my family is a donation through CAMFED, which is the equivalent to a girl getting to go to school for a year. You can say that, along with all of the presents and food and things that we get to enjoy here in Australia, you’ve done something that will have an impact on the world as well.”

CAMFED invests in community-led programs to support vulnerable girls in more than 7,000 schools across sub-Saharan Africa. Through our social change program, MECCA M-POWER, MECCA supports CAMFED’s mission to educate 5 million girls by 2025. Click here to learn more and make a donation.

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