Emma Watson celebrates the "unstoppable current" of the feminist movement

The actor Emma Watson has spoken of an "unstoppable current" in the wider feminist movement's fight for gender equality but revealed she has experienced a "baptism of fire" as an activist.

Speaking at the One Young World 2016 Summit at Ottawa, Canada, she called onto stage nine activists who are the first recipients of a scholarship scheme she has created to challenge gender stereotypes "from the ground up".

 

Reflecting on the response she has received since launching her HeForShe campaign at the United Nations headquarters in New York two years ago, she said: "My best hopes and my worst fears were confirmed all at once. I had opened a Pandora's Box to a standing ovation and almost simultaneously to a level of critique I had never experienced in my life and the beginning of a series of threats."

Her new role as an activist had been "scary", she said as she addressed 1300 delegates at the premier global forum for young leaders. "The last two years have been a baptism of fire to say the least, I learned just how little I know and also how much. It was my scary first step as an activist, a word I never imagined I would use to describe myself."

Describing her pleasure at being able to bring to Ottawa a diverse group of gender equality campaigners, she said she felt a strong connection to the causes they were fighting. "Their notes looked like my notes. The same themes emerged over and over and over again. There was so much overlap with the things that I had been thinking about and struggling with," she said.

The selection process had unearthed "people from such disparate experiences and communities that I have found that I have something in common with," she said. "A community of artists, spiritual teachers, dreamers, thinkers, doers who work together and support each other."

To cheers, she said. "For the first time in my life I have found a sisterhood, a brotherhood, however you want to describe it, I have found my tribe."

One Young World's 2016 Summit has heard from global figures including former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Delegates from more than 190 countries are contributing to plenary sessions on such issues as Environment, Education, Mental Health, Human Rights, Global Business and Peace & Security. 

Ms Watson stressed the importance of gender equality in many areas of life. "We, the entire spectrum of the feminist movement, are building an unstoppable current for which we need ripples of hope from every age, ability, walk of life, from every female experience," she said to applause. "I feel gender equality is as important as any of the other goals that we are here to discuss and actually if anything it's even more important because it intersects with every single other issue that we face."

Addressing the issue of gender stereotyping, she said: "We all have feminine and masculine energies, be honest. And both forces need to be lifted up, respected. We need to work together in order to make the world go round."

The actor said that involvement in One Young World was "the best thing that I and each of us individually can do" and said she was "delighted" to introduce the first nine recipients of the One Young World scholarship that she was "honoured to have in my name".

The scholars chosen by Ms Watson include Jamaica's Aminka Belvitt, founder of the ForUsGirls leadership initiative for marginalised young women, and Eldine Chilembo Glees, who is encouraging female participation in the male-dominated maritime sector in Angola, in which she works. Lina Khalifeh is the founder of SheFighter, an NGO teaching women self-defence in Jordan. Karen Ramirez is co-director of The Leadership Center, a college for women in Honduras. Malta-based Mina Tolu is the communications officer at Transgender Europe. Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu works for school children in Cameroon. Abhinav Khanal, from Nepal, is co-founder of Bean Voyage, which supports female coffee farmers around the world. Carlos Ernesto Cuinica focuses on gender equality and promoting sexual and reproductive health in Mozambique. And Vjola Thoma, from Albania, is founder of A Woman in Power, which empowers women and youth.