"My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante is the first of the mysterious Italian author's Neapolitan novels. The series tells the story of a life-long friendship between two working class girls in Naples. Critics have called Ferrante “one of the greatest novelists of our time.” Yet nobody knows her true identity. Join Diane and her guests for a discussion of “My Brilliant Friend.”
Guest Host: Susan Page
Julia Gillard was the first woman in Australia to be prime minister. But she came from humble beginnings. Her father was from a coal mining village in Wales and never went to high school. He moved the family to Australia for a better life and to give his children a better education. Gillard has never forgotten that. She’s worked for decades on education reform – first as politician in Australia and now as the chair of a global education coalition. Join guest host Susan Page for a discussion with the former Australian prime minister about her role in government and her current efforts to help educate children in the world’s poorest countries.
- Julia Gillard the former prime minister of Australia
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In this interview with The Global Partnership For Education, Julia Gillard, now the chair of the GPE board, discusses her views on education and its future.
While Julia Gillard was still in office, she made news by calling the leader of the opposition party a misogynist.
Watch the full 15-minute speech below.
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Julia Gillard was Australia's first woman prime minister for three tumultuous years. She's in Washington this week as part of her new role chairing the Global Partnership for Education. She joins us this hour to talk about her tenure as Australia's leader and her current efforts to help educate children in the world's poorest countries. She was supposed to be in the studio with me, but we're a live show. Sometimes there are hiccups. She is apparently trapped in traffic, and we're hoping she can join us by cellphone. Prime Minister, are you there?
MS. JULIA GILLARDI certainly am. Thank you, Susan. I'm delighted to be with you.
PAGEWe're glad to have you join us. We hope that you'll be in the studio with us shortly. We're going to invite our listeners also to join this conversation later in our hour. Our toll-free number is 1-800-433-8850. You can send us an email to email@example.com. Or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, since leaving the prime ministership last year, you've become chair of this new -- of the Global Partnership for Education. Tell us what that is.
GILLARDThe Global Partnership for Education is the big global funder of education in developing countries. It's truly a partnership. It brings together governments that donate money and developing country's civil society, the private sector, and then we work with developing country governments in their nations to improve education, get more kids into school, and to make sure that the quality is getting better and better.
GILLARDAnd the donor funds are matched by contributions from developing country partners. Donor money goes in, but developing countries have to release their expenditure on education, too. We've had a proud track record of making a difference and getting kids into school. But there's still a lot to do in our world, 57 million children who don't get access to even primary school.
PAGEFifty-seven million children don't go to school at all. So what are the biggest hurdles that makes that number so large?
GILLARDIt is shockingly large, and we've got to remember the world promised these kids through the Millennium Development Goals that there would be universal access to primary school. There's a range of reasons why kids don't get to go to school. Many of them are in conflict and fragile affected countries. And the Global Partnership for Education works in some of those tough environments to create education opportunities for kids. Many of them are in rural areas, so enrollment rates, the availability of school is better in urban settings. But by the time you're in country areas, there's not the same infrastructure, and kids don't get to go to school.
GILLARDMany of them are girls, and that is because there are barriers, cultural barriers, and other barriers to girls getting a fair go at education. Some are children with disabilities, and there just isn't a way for them to get into school. So there are many issues for us to address. We know we can make a difference. We have made a difference. And now we're looking to make a bigger difference through our Replenishment Conference in Brussels next week, collecting money to make a big difference for the kids of the world.
PAGENow, you have been involved in the issue of education for many years, in Australia, in politics, a personal issue for you. Your dad didn't go to high school. He moved your family to Australia to give you a chance for a better life. Tell us about your background.
GILLARDYes. I was actually born in the United Kingdom in Wales. My father is from a small coal mining village called (word?). And he was an intelligent man. He was an intelligent boy. That was in the era when they had examinations at 11 years old as to whether or not you'd get to go on in school. And he passed both exams, the third highest in all of South Wales.
GILLARDBut by 14, no more school for him because his family just couldn't afford not to have him working. So that's my family history. I of course had the opportunity to get a great education at public schools in Australia. And, you know, it's made a big difference to my life. And so it's burned into me from that family experience that, you know, every child has got to have a great education and has got a right to that.
PAGEAnd you of course went to law school. You won a seat in Parliament. You then held ministerial positions before you became the prime minister. So take us back and tell us about what drew you into politics. And I'm glad to tell our listeners that you're now in the studio. So we can welcome you in person.
GILLARDThank you very much. And it's great to be sitting down and looking at you as I talk to you. I did get the very special privilege of going to university, and I never took that for granted. Coming from my family background, my sister and I were amongst the first in the whole extended Gillard family to get to go to university. And when I was there, year one, I just studied and got used to the environment.
GILLARDYear two, they then-conservative government in Australia -- and this is obviously many years ago since I was in uni -- the then-conservative government in Australia did some big education cutbacks. So I got involved in student-based protesting about that. That took me into student unionism. That gave me a taste for raising your voice and saying, if you really think something's wrong, you can get something done about it. And the rest, as they say, is history.
PAGEYou know, a lot of Americans first heard about you two years ago when you gave a speech in Parliament that was posted on YouTube and went viral. I watched it yesterday on YouTube. I noticed that there were tens of thousands of people who had watched it before me. And I wonder if we could just play a clip, a very brief clip, just a 30-second clip, from the speech you gave in October 2012 before the Australian Parliament. Let's listen.
GILLARDI was offended too by the sexism, by the misogyny of the labor of the opposition catcalling across this table at me, as I sit here as prime minister, if the prime minister to, politically speaking, make an honest woman of herself, something that would never have been said to any man sitting in this chair. I was offended when the leader of the opposition went outside in the front of Parliament and stood next to a sign that said, ditch the witch.
PAGEYou know, I think one thing Americans like about watching that is the difference in the parliamentary system with the catcalls and the shouts and the growling and the noises that the opposition was making when you're making that speech. Tell us a little something about that speech, what prompted you to make it, and what reaction you got.
GILLARDWell, the Australian Parliament is a tough, tough place. We have the Westminster system, so -- built on the House of Commons in the U.K. But I've had the opportunity to speak to U.K. parliamentarians, including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and David Cameron. And they all make the point to me, gee, you do it hard in Australia. So we don't muck around in our parliament. We have a red hot go.
GILLARDThat's said with my broad Australian accent, and that's exactly the way we'd say it at home. On that day, the sexism was in the parliamentary debate because the Speaker of the House of Representatives was involved in a scandal about very offensive text messages he had sent which had become public.
GILLARDAnd the leader of the opposition, now the Australian prime minister, Mr. Abbott, was intending to use that as an issue against the government because we supported the speaker. And I think, just for me, you know, the sense that after everything I, as the first woman prime minister, had seen happen around me about gender and to me in that position, I was not going to stand there and get lectured about sexism. And so I think that frustration, even anger, shows in that speech.
PAGEWe've posted a link to the speech on our website. If you'd like to see more of it, go to our website, drshow.org. You know, I interviewed last week Hillary Clinton about her new book. And you are actually referred to in her book about her years as secretary of state. She talks about meeting with you with you being the prime minister when she was secretary of state.
PAGEBut she also says, in another section of the book, is it is an unfortunate reality that women in public life still face an unfair double standard. Even leaders like Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia have faced outrageous sexism, which shouldn't be tolerated in any country. And I wonder, when you met with Hillary Clinton, did you guys talk about the challenges that women in powerful government positions face?
GILLARDI have had the opportunity to talk to Hillary about that. And I was grateful for it because one of the things about being a leader in today's world as a woman is that there aren't that many others. So, you know, you go to the G20 meeting -- and I did go to a number of G20 meetings -- and there are a few women there, Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, of course, Madame Lagarde, Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, and a few other women. But you're still in the minority.
GILLARDAnd I think, because of that, when we do get the opportunity to say what's it like for you, even across party lines, you know, conservatives, people further to the left, there is some common and shared experiences about being judged on appearance, about often being in rooms where you're the only woman, about not being treated instinctively with the same sense of seriousness or the view that you all have the same gravitas as a male leader.
GILLARDA kind of unusual starting point to the domestic political conversation, I think, for men, that conversation starts with what kind of leader will he be, you know, strong, weak, compassionate, strident. I think for women, it starts with, can she lead? And it's a subtle but significant difference. So, yes, we have talked about those things, Hillary and I. And I've had the opportunity to talk to some other leading women around the world about them.
PAGEOne of the things that Hillary Clinton said in the interview I did with her for USA Today was that she thinks that there's a much more of a willingness now than in 2008, when she last ran for president, to push back as you were pushing back in this 2012 speech. Do you think that's true? Is there a different strategic approach now when there is sexism?
GILLARDI hope so. I hope so. For individual women in the moment, there's always this really difficult judgment call -- and this is true whether you're in the highly exposed world of politics or whether you work in a business or, you know, you're at a university and all sorts of settings -- there's that judgment in the moment of do you name it, or do you just put up with it?
PAGEWe're going to talk more about the strategies and about her work to try to educate more of the children in the world's poorest countries. We're going to take a short break. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio, Julia Gillard. She was prime minister of Australia from 2010 to 2013. She now chairs the board of the Global Partnership For Education, which is working to get the world's poorest children into schools. We're glad you're in Washington and able to join us.
PAGEWe were talking before the break about the conversation you had with Hillary Clinton about being a woman in a powerful government job and having to address different questions than men face. And you were saying just before we broke that the debate that a woman might have in that situation is whether you ignore a slur or address it. What has been your strategy in dealing with that situation?
GILLARDMy initial strategy was to ignore it because I thought it was, you know, so obvious I was the first woman prime minister of Australia. I mean, you didn't need to wander around saying, oh, has anybody told you I'm the first woman? So my first strategy was to ignore it. But as time went on, increasingly I thought it was better to name it.
GILLARDThat happened firstly in the fiery moment of the misogyny speech. But increasingly, I did think that I needed to point to and shine a light on sexism. And coming out of that experience, I've taken that with me and now, you know, I'm in a different role so perhaps less publically exposed than I used to be. But whether it's, you know, in public engagement or the really hard work of getting children into school, we've got to say gender and understand gender and understand that, you know, for the work we do as the Global Partnership for Education, there are barriers for many children, but there are particular barriers for girls, which is why we see, you know, whenever you do the statistics fine-grained, you know, who is out of school in this rural province in a very poor country, it will be the girls who are disproportionately out of school.
PAGEAnd for a very poor country, a country that's in conflict, maybe a state that's in disarray, does it matter that the girls aren't going to school?
GILLARDOh, absolutely, because kids never get those years back. You never get to be 5 or 6 or 7 or 8 again and so if you miss those years of development of developing language and literacy and mathematics and all of those foundation skills that you need for the rest of education and the rest of life, it's very hard to get those years back, which is why one of the things that GPE does, the Global Partnership for Education, which is so important, is it engages.
GILLARDIndeed, 40 percent of our work is in conflict and fragile affected countries. So we don't say we'll, you know, wait for it all to be over and the dust to settle and sometime in the future we'll worry about education and getting kids into school. We recognize the challenge that those children are only children once.
PAGEYou know, it's a question of money. It's a question of stability, ability to have schools open. There's also cultural barriers. And I'm thinking of the girls in Afghanistan who weren't allowed to go to school, the girls in Pakistan who famously have faced problems going to school. How do you address those situations when there is a -- that people in power have a cultural objection to the education of girls?
GILLARDIt's obviously hard, but it can be done and we have worked in some places that people would instinctively think there is all of that cultural objection. Take a country like Afghanistan where our soldiers have fought alongside American soldiers in the long conflict there. We are working in Afghanistan. They are one of our partner countries. They've been involved with the Global Partnership since 2011.
GILLARDAnd if you look a schooling there now, 42 percent of the children in school are girls and very interestingly, 42 percent of the people teaching are women. So change is possible. A very fragile country like Yemen, people would look at that and often see reports about Yemen in their newspaper which would give them cause for concern, but we have worked there and worked strongly with the government and institutions in Yemen.
GILLARDAnd in even some of the most difficult parts of that country, we've seen girls in enrollment rates lift by more than 20 percent. So these are good outcomes.
PAGEThe idea of changing the status, improving the status of women and girls in Afghanistan was one of the things that I think really appealed to Americans early on in our long war there. But now that we look at the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the revival of the Taliban in parts of Afghanistan, I wonder if you think that some of those gains that have been made for the education of girls are really imperiled in Afghanistan.
GILLARDWell, I can give you a perspective from meeting and talking with the minister of education in Afghanistan, Minister Wardak, because they are one of our Global Partnership for Education countries. I've had the ability to meet and talk with him and he is very determined that gain are not lost and indeed are built on for the future. And I've had the opportunity to talk to a school girl in Afghanistan who gets to go to school.
GILLARDShe's in Kabul and she's very demanding about improved quality in her education. She wants list memorization tasks and more creative thinking. The fact that she can voice her concerns like that tells me that she is thinking pretty creatively already.
PAGELet's talk about another place I know that you've done work in and that would be Somalia. Again, a country with great turmoil, lots of problems. How is it working there?
GILLARDThe civil war there meant 75 percent of the public schools were destroyed or closed. I mean, it's just unimaginable for us sitting here in Washington. 75 percent of the schools with no kids in them. And so there were two generations of students who had basically grown up with no access to basic education. We commenced working with Somalia and helped rally support for a plan to rebuild their school system and it's happening.
GILLARDThey're moving away from the really fragmented provision of education that was there after the conflict to better planning and a, you know, whole school system. There's now solid education plans in place. So it's not fixed. A whole lot more needs to be done, which is why our replenishment conference next week in Brussels where we're asking donor countries and developing countries to come and pledge more for education. It's so important.
PAGEYou know, I've got an email from Colin that goes to the idea of funding. He writes, "The U.S. government has really failed to put its money where its mouth is on global education. The U.S. government is way behind its peers in support for Gillard's organization's work, 14th among donors in real terms, at the bottom of the list relative to GDP." And Colin, I think, works for a group called Results, which is a nonprofit based in Washington. Is he right?
GILLARDColin is right, unfortunately. The United States is actually the 15th largest donor to the Global Partnership For Education. That means the U.S. has contributed about $43 million since 2008. By the standards of many other G7 countries, countries like the United Kingdom, that have been contributing in the order of hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, that means that we would like to see a step up by the USA putting money into education.
GILLARDAnd we can assure people the money is used wisely. It makes changes and importantly it leverages increased expenditure by the developing country itself.
PAGEAnd what is the U.S. government response when you ask for more money and they say this is -- and yet the lowest in terms of GDP -- proportion of GDP? What's the U.S. reasoning on this?
GILLARDWe haven't got to the end of the conversation yet. The conversation will end at the Replenishment Conference or potentially. There are opportunities to pledge further monies. I understand the United States political system has its occasional challenges. Can I put it like that, as someone coming in from the outside? But we've had good support in Congress, indeed in the House when they were dealing with the budget bill. They earmarked it to say that at least $50 million per year should go to the Global Partnership for Education.
GILLARDSo we're still working on and hoping for change.
PAGELet's go to Thomas. He's calling us from Dallas, Texas. Thomas, you're on the air.
THOMASThank you for taking my call. And Prime Minister, it's an honor talking with you.
GILLARDThank you very much, Thomas.
THOMASSo I'm not sure if we can make meaningful change in education without changing the poverty level, both in urban areas and with minorities to create a stable environment for people to dream instead of wasting their energy in figuring out how to feed themselves or survive a day. So how should we -- I'm educated myself, I'm assistant principal -- build partnership with government or civic agent to synergically impact education. And I'll take my answer off the air, thank you.
PAGEThomas, thanks so much for your call.
GILLARDAnd that is a great question, Thomas, because you can't have kids sitting in school and all they're thinking about is how hungry they are. I mean, you know, none of us are going to concentrate on the task in front of us if we're starving. We recognize that and in nations where you need to integrate a food provision into helping students learn and come to school and study, there are programs that we've supported that do that.
GILLARDI'm thinking of things like the school meal program that's in my region of the world, in Laos, one of the countries in Asia. And there, you know, girls particularly in rural ethnic populations are very disadvantaged so, you know, just having the food that they need is a big challenge. And we've helped increase their enrollment in school by making school a place that you not only learn, but you can come along and get a meal.
PAGEYou've talked about some of the places where you've been able to do -- make significant change despite great hurdles, like Somalia and Afghanistan and Yemen. Tell us about some place that there's just been a setback, where you've been unable to do what you want for whatever reason because of some special challenge.
GILLARDI think if we look around our world, obviously in a country like Nigeria, the Global Partnership for Education has been in discussions with Nigeria about improving the school system. And yet, when you see school girls not even able to enjoy basic security and freedom, the ability to get to school and stay in school, that breaks your heart and more needs to be done in Nigeria and in other parts of the world to guarantee safety and security.
GILLARDFor many nations, as they move with their education plans and we work on whole education sector plans, there are some steps forward, some steps back, some things that don't work. And we are very focused on the results so, you know, new financing model is a results based financing model. Some of the money's at risk so if there's a program or a policy that's underperforming than it will be exposed and there will be a requirement for change.
PAGESo what's worked to your surprise, a tactic that's successful and then tell us about a tactic that you tried that didn't work and so you're not using it.
GILLARDThe Global Partnership for Education, we don't roll in and say, you know, here's the 10 things that absolutely work and this is how they do it everywhere else so you've got to do it, too. Education is inherently something that's got to fit in with the place. It's a locally provided service and so we work within a developing country with the government, civil society, teachers, education experts, to deliver the right plan.
GILLARDI think for some countries, there's been an image that technology would fix everything and we realize that's a little bit more complicated now.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." In fact, we have a caller, Shulameet, who wants to ask a question I think relates to the issue of technology. Shulameet is calling us from Annandale, Virginia. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
SHULAMEETThank you. So thank you for having this show. It's wonderful. My question is, while I realize that being able to have kids in classrooms with teachers is certainly the best situation, how many of these students who are, especially young kids, who are completely not able to be getting to any school, might have access to the internet?
PAGEInteresting. Would that be an alternative?
GILLARDYes. I made a point just before about technology. I think the thing about technology is it can be enormously empowering and extend the reach of education, but you can't just drop laptops out of the, you know, sky and think it's all gonna work. It's got to have the systems and setting around it. One of the things that we do know, though, is the spread of mobile phone technology is, you know, bordering on the ubiquitous.
GILLARDObviously, there are some place in the world still beyond the reach of mobile phones, but I think the statistics are telling us that soon there will be, if it's not true already, more mobile phones on the planet than there are people. And mobile phones, you know, transferring data, transferring information, paying teachers in hard to get to places can be transformative in education.
PAGELet's to go Kumar calling us from Detroit, Michigan. Kumar, hi, you're on the air.
KUMARHello, Prime Minister Gillard. My name is Kumar Anahmilay (sp?) and I have a question regarding political gridlock in the United States. As you can see, the United States has been experiencing one-sided conservative political gridlock for the past three years of President Obama's second term. What tips or strategies would you give to President Obama to deal with this and to create meaningful progress in a whole host of issues, economic issues, social issues, education, poverty, so on and so forth.
KUMARWhat tips or strategies would you give to President Obama to create meaningful progress in our country?
PAGEAll right, Kumar. Thanks so much for your call.
GILLARDKumar, that's a great and complicated question and I suspect I'm going to do the thing that people expect of politicians and maybe it penetrates to former politicians as well and largely duck it because it's not my role to come to the United States as an Australian and to lecture on your politics. Your politics needs to be thought through by voters and people in the United States in Congress and beyond.
GILLARDWhat I can say as an outsider is it is important to the world that here in the United States there's the capability to make decisions. Your role in the global economy means that we all get a bit white-knuckle if there's a budget gridlock in Congress. Your role in the national security of the world, the security of our planet means that inevitably people look to leadership here in the United States. I know President Obama understands that deeply.
GILLARDI've had the great privilege of meeting him and the best thing I can say is to wish him very well in the many challenges our world faces as he goes about his leadership.
PAGEA lot of look at Washington now with great dismay that Congress doesn't seem to be getting things done. Some people question whether the president has been assertive enough on the world stage. We've had government shutdowns and one fiscal crisis after another. You say that people in other parts of the globe get white-knuckled, I think, was the word you used when there are questions about America's ability to kind of work, focus effectively on the world stage.
PAGEAre people around the world kind of white-knuckled now?
GILLARDI don't -- I was really referring to the shutdown moment and the potential default. I mean, the government shutdown was really more an issue for Americans wanting services. The potential default was an issue for the global economy and the world. I think, at the moment, the world is thinking its way through the very difficult set of issue emerging in Iraq and clearly President Obama is as well.
PAGEJulia Gillard, prime minister of Australia between 2010 and 2013. She now chairs the board of the Global Partnership for Education. We're going to take more calls and comments. You can call our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. In the studio with me, Julia Gillard, prime minister of Australia from 2010 to 2013. She chairs the board of the Global Partnership for Education. That's an organization that works to get the world's poorest children into school. I'd like to read an email from George. He writes, "I left Australia 44 years ago. At that time, there was only one Aboriginal PhD graduate, and he was a male. What is the status of Aboriginal girls and women in Australia with respect to education and career paths? What progress has there been on that issue?"
GILLARDWell, I'm happy to report that there has been some progress on that issue. And I can say one of the things that I did in my time as prime minister was ensure that my political party selected for our Senate an indigenous woman, Nova Peris, who now serves in the Senate. And she's the first indigenous Australian to be a federal parliamentarian.
GILLARDSo I think that that's a progress to celebrate. When we look at education results for aboriginal (unintelligible) to children around our nation, there is still a gap between their achievement and students generally. We've been working hard to close it. And there's been some pleasing progress, more to do but been some change.
PAGEWhen you think about your tenure as prime minister, what achievements are you proudest of?
GILLARDI'm very proud of what we did in education. I mean, it's clearly my passion, or I wouldn't be sitting here with you today as the chair of the Global Partnership for Education. I would have done something else with my time post-politics. So education has been a huge driver for me. And so I'm proud of the big things we did to change Australian education. I'm proud, too, of the work we did to improve the life chances of people with disability with a new approach to providing support with people who are either are born with or, during the course of their lives, acquire a severe disability. I'm very proud that I strengthened our alliance with the United States.
GILLARDAnd that's resulted with American Marines training in our Northern Territory. It's a good place to train. It's a pretty hard environment. And that's closened (sic) the partnership between us. Proud, too, I strengthened our relationship with China. And controversially here -- and it's been controversial in my own politics -- I also took our nation forward on climate change by putting a price on carbon and creating an emissions trading scheme -- big domestic debate in Australia and continues to be. But I'm glad I stepped us up to the plate to get that done.
PAGEAs in this country, a big controversy and a current debate. Is there anything that you regret from your time as prime minister?
GILLARDOh, there are individual things that you look back and think, I could have handled that better. There were some moments during the very ferocious debate on carbon pricing I think I could have handled better. So you wouldn't be human unless you looked back and said, gee, I wish I could live that day again and do something differently.
GILLARDBut overall I'm proud of the record of achievement. And it's not an individual record of achievement. Government is a big, big thing. And you can only get things done in government by working with a good team. And I had fantastic people as ministers who supported me to get those big challenges addressed and that work done.
PAGEAnd you lost the job last spring. Do you think the fact that you were a woman played a -- was a factor in that?
GILLARDLook, there was internal instability in my political party, so that explains the circumstances in which my tenure as prime minister ended. Across the course of being prime minister -- and we've had that discussion -- they were a set of things about gender. So I'm not putting it in the context of within my political party, but the broader environment I worked within, that did cause me some moments of concern.
PAGEYou know, this -- just one more question. When it goes to gender in politics, we have seen a woman leader of Australia, of Great Britain, of Germany now -- no woman president in the United States. Do you think that a parliamentary system makes it easier for a woman to get the top job than a presidential system as we have here?
GILLARDI don't think it's the system, no, because when we look around the world, there are women presidents, a limited number, too, as well. So I don't think it's the system. I think it's, you know, our nation, your nation, the U.K., you know, many nations around the world have been on a journey of change about viewing women's roles, women's lives.
GILLARDI mean, it's -- you know, I was in school, you know, primary school in the '60s and '70s, late '60s and into the '70s, and even when I was in school -- I left school in 1978 -- we would do domestic science, I think they called it, which was, you know, cooking and ironing and laundry. I'm a whiz in the laundry. And, you know, the teachers would say things like, you know, this is preparation for what we'll be the rest of your life, which is being a housewife and being a mother.
GILLARDNow, obviously, not every teacher in my school said that to us because I went to science classes and math classes and chemistry classes where our teachers would say, you know, you should aspire to go to university. But that even any aspect of my schooling could have had that sense of this is the only path for women is telling you something about how big the change has been, but there's more change that is needed.
GILLARDAnd even in saying that, you know, I am conscious that the lives we lead, despite some continuing issues about sexism in our nation and women's roles, the lives we lead are incredibly privileged lives compared with so many women around the world in poor countries who need assistance and help in getting access to the most basic things. Malala Nigerian schoolgirls, it is about their right to education.
PAGESo women have had the top jobs in any number of big important countries, including your own. Would it make a difference, do you think -- is it any kind of special statement if the United States had a women president, whoever she might be?
GILLARDOf course it would be. The eyes of the world would be on the first woman to do the job, and the very fact that a woman was doing that job would make a statement.
PAGELet's go to the phones. Let's talk to Tony. He's calling us from Middletown, Del. Tony, hi.
TONYHello. Good afternoon. I just wanted to say that it's kind of -- I don't know. It's a little stretch to, you know, look to the U.S.A. to give more than $43 million and then not be grateful to get that amount. And we have students in schools here that are -- you know, that go to school in squalid conditions, can't take books home. And it's, to me, it's just -- in a way, it's just disgusting that, you know, we're trying to say, oh, we need to step our game up.
TONYLook, $43 million is plenty money when we're the country that supports so many issues. So, I mean, you know, we just need to get all these countries to stop tagging on us. And then they disparage us, you know, in their countries and everything. But then when they want some money, it's all U.S.A., come on, step it up, please. And, you know what, and America talking about a woman president, we don't need an extension of Obama's lying another four years. So, Hillary, please, don't even run.
PAGEWell, Tony, thanks for your call. You know, talking about a woman president wouldn't necessarily be Hillary Clinton. There are other women Democrats. There are women Republicans who I think aspire to the White House, so I'm not sure that that's a relevant comment. But let's go back to your previous point. Tony was saying that there are needs in America, so maybe America should not give more to global education.
GILLARDLook, we are grateful for every dollar. So, Tony, I can assure you we are grateful for every dollar. But when it comes to, you know, gathering money to help educate children around the world in some of the poorest countries, we do look to the size of economies and to the wealth of nations. America is a strong country, yes, with people who need services and support right here at home, but a strong country. And we compare it with other strong nations around the world, the United Kingdom, even Australia, which is so far smaller, 23 million of us.
GILLARDAnd Australia has been a very big donor to the Global Partnership for Education. So we're grateful for every dollar, but we will quest for more and continue that. One of the things, too, on balancing aid, I understand that people look at needs in their own country. We do that in Australia too. But I think we all want to live in a world which is prosperous and more peaceful than the world we live in today.
GILLARDAnd if we're going to live in that world, then today's children need to get the benefit of education. If they get to go to school, emerge, and are able to take their place as a citizen in the global economy, if they can see a future for themselves and the families they then have, which is not one of poverty and desperation but one of increasing prosperity and choice, then I think the siren song of violence and instability and radicalization is far less. So it's in all of our interests as a global world, where we're so interconnected, to get this right.
PAGEAll right. Tony, thanks for your call. Let's go to Washington, D.C. and talk to Stephanie. Stephanie, hi. Thanks for holding on.
STEPHANIEThank you. I'm the founder of an organization -- it's an international NGO called Women Enabled. And, first of all, of course, many of us, including many of my sisters in Australia, still think of you as our prime minister of Australia and the wonderful work that you did there for women especially. And also I wanted to just commend you and ask you a little bit more detail about your work with your new role on women with disabilities and education when you were a prime minister -- and, unfortunately, not since then -- your government sponsored many women with disabilities to attend the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
STEPHANIERegrettably, none were there this year at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. But I just wondered if you would talk a little bit about what the global fund is doing to advance educational opportunities for women and girls with disabilities because, among the world, women and girls -- women with disabilities have the lowest education rates not only amongst women but also amongst people with disability. So I'd love to hear your view and how you believe that we can continue to support efforts in that direction.
PAGEAll right. Stephanie, thanks so much for your call.
GILLARDThanks, Stephanie. And thanks for the question. And it sounds like you're doing some great advocacy and great work yourself. Stephanie, when we look at who is not in school -- so who's in that 57 million children -- many of those children face disadvantages in getting to school, including the extra difficulties that come with having a disability. It's not the only explanation for the 57 -- being in a fragile, a conflict-affected place, being a girl child, being in a country area -- but disability is part of the explanation.
GILLARDAnd so with our results-based financing model that we're moving to, where funds are on the table from donors, developing countries have to step up their expenditure. Money is at risk if you don't get results. The results, we will be looking for include making education universal. And universal means every child. It doesn't mean that the children with disability sit at home. So there needs to be a plan for them to be included in education, too.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's take another caller. We'll go to Houston, Texas and talk to Ramesh. Ramesh, you're on the air.
RAMESHHi. Thanks for having me here. If it's not for NPR, I don't think I would be talking to the prime minister.
RAMESHSo I have -- premise of the question is, as part of the global education, you're currently working with many countries where there is no access to technology. Do you see any room for technology solutions, such as virtual classrooms, electronic (word?) books? Will these help people who are working in the more country? So at least -- who are from United States, Australia, can act with students and teach them what they require?
GILLARDI do see a role for technology. It needs to be part of a, you know, integrated plan. I think we've probably all heard those horror stories about, you know, some nice individual or company who thought that they would help out in a developing country and delivered a whole lot of laptop computers, only to find that they're in remote places with no electricity and no one to service them. And so they get used for, you know, a kind of kid's building blocks rather than what they're meant for. So the way the Global Partnership for Education works means it's not possible for that to happen.
GILLARDWe do whole education sector planning, working with developing countries. And when you do those plans, I think there are all sorts of innovative roles for technology, bringing expert lessons into places where you can't have a expert physics teacher, as well as everybody else in secondary school, in, you know, primary school where we are working to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of all kids in school. Having mobile technology can bring lesson plans in. It can bring resources in. It can reach kids. It can help pay teachers. So there's all sorts of important roles for technology. It has to be a piece of what works.
PAGESaheed is calling us from Wexford, Penn. Saheed, thanks for joining us on "The Diane Rehm Show."
SAHEEDThank you for having me. Good afternoon, Prime Minister. I have a question. I am an Australian citizen, and I finished my master's project at (unintelligible) and PhD at the University of Melbourne. However, I experience difficulties to secure a position, and subsequently I left. And I came to United States, and I started to work here with my family. What is the next -- that these things doesn't occur anymore for the -- in future Australia while you invite people to come in and do the research and development and then when it's come to contribution, they experience difficulties? Thank you so much for having me.
PAGEAll right. Saheed, thank you for your call.
GILLARDSaheed, nice to speak to an Australian citizen. That's great. We, when we were in government, very much increased the amount of money dedicated to university education and to research. The individual decisions about who gets to do that work are rightly made by universities and research institutes. Government doesn't do that, and government shouldn't. So I'm sorry that there wasn't an opportunity for you. But, overall, our nation has been increasing its efforts in the kinds of areas where you work, and so the opportunities are increasing, too.
PAGEYou're doing important work now, of course, with the Global Partnership for Education. But I wonder, do you think you might get involved in electoral politics again in Australia? Is it possible you'll re-enter that world?
GILLARDWith our system of politics, the Westminster system, once you're done, you're done. So my focus now is really -- and it's a delight for me. I get to work with a fantastic team. Alice Albright is the CEO of the Global Partnership for Education. They're a great team doing amazing things. And I'm getting to meet so many people from developing countries who are driven to give a better future for their children.
PAGEWe're almost out of time. The best lesson you learned as prime minister that you're applying now in your life?
GILLARDBest lesson I learned, don't sweat the small stuff, like running late for a radio interview. Focus on the big things, and you can make some incredible changes.
PAGEJulia Gillard, thank you so much for joining us this hour on "The Diane Rehm Show."
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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