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Harry And Meghan's Tell All Interview; Just How Racist Is Buckingham Palace? Pope Leaves Iraq After Widely Hailed Visit; Pope's Iraq Visit Ends; Harry and Meghan Make Stunning Claims in Oprah Interview; Myanmar in Crisis; Gender Inequality in Japan Holds Economy Back; The Real Winners of the NBA All-Star Game. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 8, 2021 - 01:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Racist remarks, threats of suicide and feeling trapped. Just some of the damaging claims from Meghan and Harry's jaw-dropping interview with Oprah.

The Pope wrapped up his historic visit to Iraq after celebrating mass to a packed stadium in Erbil.

Plus, it is International Women's Day and in some countries women are still forced to choose between motherhood and career.

Hello, everyone. And welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

And we begin with the breaking news.

Stunning claims from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their highly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey which aired just a few hours ago.

Harry and Meghan speaking candidly about everything from the British tabloids to racism with a blaring message that they did not feel supported by the royal family.

At one point, Meghan admitting she thought about suicide.


MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: But I knew that if didn't say it, that I would do it. And I just didn't want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.


HOLMES: Now that was just one of many bombshell claims.

Another stunning revelation; Harry and Meghan say that there were concerns about what color their baby's skin might be. They were told the baby wouldn't get a title or have security. And Meghan says the tabloid reporting that she made Kate Middleton cry ahead of her marriage to Harry was exactly the opposite of what really happened; Kate made Meghan cry.

Also revealed. Both Harry and Meghan said they felt trapped in the institution and, at one point, Prince Charles apparently stop taking Harry's phone calls. Harry says while he loves his big brother -- William, of course -- the two of them need space to heal.

All right. Let's get more reaction to all of this with our Anna Stewart who is in Windsor, England.

I guess a lot of people wondered how far this couple would go, and I suppose the answer is far.

The notion that she was suicidal and wasn't being heard and that someone, whomever that was, raised the color of her child -- it's pretty stunning.

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: It's stunning. I think we were all prepared for some shocks and bombshells to be delivered, Michael. I didn't think I'd feel so concerned after this interview.

The idea that Meghan felt suicidal at times when she was in the U.K. and as a member of the -- working member of the royal family back then -- I can't believe that all those public engagements we saw the couple at, I've been at many of them myself, that so much was going on behind the scenes.

And yes, we were expecting to hear a bit about how there were racist undertones in the British media when it came to betraying Meghan. We were not expecting, I think, to hear there were racist undertones within the royal family.

Meghan says Prince Harry had a conversation with one member of his family and this was brought up. Take a listen.

MARKLE: And also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born.


MARKLE: And --

WINFREY: Who is having that conversation with you? What?


WINFREY: There's a -- hold out, stop right now.

MARKLE: Several. There's several conversations. .. WINFREY: There's --

STEWART: That conversation has been had between Prince Harry and a member of his family, we don't know who. Meghan said it would be very damaging to them. And Prince Harry, when he was asked later in the interview said he just wasn't going to talk about and I don't think he ever will.

Absolutely shocking revelation. All of this, of course, will have to be put to the palace and serious allegations. The idea that Meghan felt suicidal, asked for help and didn't get any, the idea that there could be racism within the royal family.

And they also said that Archie, little Archie, was not given a royal title not out of their choice but they were told the royal family weren't going to give him a title and he wouldn't get security.


A lot of the stories we've heard about Harry and Meghan over the years were really turned on their head. We thought the Sussexes chose themselves not to give Archie a title so that he could live a more normal life.

Absolutely not the case, according to Meghan.

Also, stories about how Meghan made Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, cry ahead of her wedding also not true, says Meghan. It was the exact opposite.

So a really -- well, just two hours of revelation after revelation. Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. A lot of it pretty jaw-dropping. It struck me that she also spoke a lot about losing her sense of identity. I think she said even her passport, her driver's license were taken at one point.

Not being -- or not leaving the house for long periods of time. And as you point out then given no help, no support. She really felt like she'd lost control of her life.

STEWART: Yes, she said she felt trapped. She almost sounded like a prisoner of the palace. The idea that her even her passport was taken away from her.

She says there was a moment where feeling very isolated she asked the firm -- which is the term referring to the royal family -- whether she go out for lunch with some friends, and she was told no, the media was over-saturated with Meghan stories.

She says she had left the house twice in four months. She said it was ridiculous, I'm everywhere but I am nowhere. She felt so lonely and isolated.

So I think -- well, there's a lot to be said about mental health. And it's interesting because the palace really promote talking about mental health at the moment, particularly Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

But from all accounts, it sounds like Meghan was asking for help, she told them her mental health was at a real low, that she was having suicidal thoughts but no help was given. And she felt trapped in the royal family.

HOLMES: Yes. Anna, good to see you. Thank you there in Windsor for us. Anna Stewart.

And joining me now from London is royal commentator and historian, Kate Williams. Kate, good to see you.

The world had wondered what might be said but I don't think many would have thought they'd hear this much. Suicidal thoughts, the possible color of Meghan's baby being raised.

What did you make of it and how damaging is it for the family?

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, Michael, we had expectations. I think we all knew that there was going to talk about the racist coverage in the British press and how that's been -- really suffering for Harry and Meghan. We expected that.

But this was a bombshell interview, revelation after revelation.

It was Harry and Meghan's story. They were finally telling their side of the story. And so much of what we thought to be the case was simply not the case.

I was very struck when Oprah said to Harry so if you'd had support, you'd still be in the royal family, they wouldn't have left in what's been coined as Megxit -- but it wasn't, of course, Meghan's idea -- but you wouldn't have left. And Harry said, without question.

And it really painted a picture -- just as you were saying with Anna there -- of a young couple without any support.

They had no support in the royal family. Harry was saying -- he said to his family, to the firm, can you stop this coverage, can you call the dogs off? And he said that he felt his family were afraid of the press, they were afraid of the British press so they wouldn't say anything, and they said you've just got to deal with it.

And very moving. It was very moving, very distressing to hear Meghan talk about her suicidal thoughts when she was pregnant. That when she was pregnant, she was so afraid of what she might do that Harry had to -- she had to accompany Harry because she was so afraid.

And that she didn't get the support. That she asked for help, she felt she needed actual intervention and it would make -- apparently what she was told was, it would make the institution look bad so she couldn't have that.

And on top of this, while she was pregnant, there is this point that Archie could not be a prince which meant he wouldn't have security. Of course, that's a great concern for them.

There were racist memes being made about Archie -- he needs security.

And that he wouldn't have that title of prince. And that there people in the royal family -- there was one particular person, it appears, expressing concern about the color of Archie's skin.

Which -- Oprah was shocked, all the audience was shocked at the idea that the child, as Oprah put it, would be too brown.

And really, this was -- shocking revelations. And these are real points that the palace have got to answer here.

HOLMES: I'm curious in your thought of why they decided to do this interview -- obviously, deeply personal stuff. What do they get out of going public in this way?

WILLIAMS: Deeply personal. Very brave to speak to power, as they were. Well, simply for so long the other side of the story has been put. We've heard all these stories about Harry and Meghan that were not the case.

As she said, she didn't make Kate cry, it was the other way around. We were all told that they didn't want Archie to have a title, that wasn't the case either.


Of course, Archie wouldn't automatically get a title but it can be intervened to give him one. So Prince George, the son of William and Kate, did get a title but it was intervened that his brother and sister, Charlotte and Louis, could have a title.

So the intervention could have been made on behalf of Archie and the choice was made which was clearly was very distressing for Harry and Meghan.

And they came out, they told their story. Because I think they saw, they felt, they suffered, of all these falsehoods circulating around them.

And they said very clearly that they felt that the firm, the royal family, no one in the palace was really pushing back against these falsehoods. It was up to them to have to do it.

HOLMES: Right.

WILLIAMS: I suspect we won't hear from them too much again but they have really come out and told their story. And it's not a pretty story and there are big questions to be asked.

HOLMES: And I think another thing that made it more poignant. Speak to the parallels between Harry and his mother, Princess Diana, and what she went through.

Harry says in the interview he can't imagine what it was like for her going through the process on her own. And here he is finding himself going through his own process of separation from the family.

WILLIAMS: Well, Diana too suffered at the hands of the press. And she was criticizing, she was attacked both before and after the divorce. And in her interview in 1995, she talked about how she was seen as a problem, she talked about how people wanted her to go quietly.

And really, she wanted to talk about she wanted to speak up and really make her decisions and her voice clear.

And, Harry of course, he was so young when she died, he was so very young. And he knew how the lack -- she didn't have her security after the divorce which, really, for him I think he definitely feels that added -- that added to her tragic death just two years after the 1995 interview, 1997.

And Diana spoke out about how she suffered within the royal family, and now we've heard the same.

And what was very striking to me was Diana had thought of self harm, Diana was very, very distressed in the royal family and she really had talked about suicide. And now we see Meghan saying she had the same thoughts.

And really, that is really incredibly important. And it does suggest that what have we learned after Diana when we have a situation that a young, confident, glamorous woman of color marries into the royal family and very soon after she marries in, she's suffering extreme mental distress.

HOLMES: I want to put up for people something that's really unusual. Some of the British papers are doing what they call a 3:00 a.m. edition. And they're already out on the streets.

What you're looking at there is the "Daily Mail." And the headline, "Meghan accuses palace of racism."

And then there is the "Daily Mirror," has its paper out as well, "They asked how dark Archie's skin would be." And then their sub-heads are saying things like she says Kate made her cry. Meghan claims Harry's family raised concerns blah, blah, blah.

So that just shows how important this story is in the U.K. But it's also -- some of these are the very papers that both Harry and Meghan were complaining about and their intrusion. It just seems a little ironic that they're out with 3:00 a.m. editions around this interview.

WILLIAMS: Yes, that is the case, Michael. And this week we've had all kinds of stories. Some of these website, these news websites, there have been 50 stories, 40 stories about Meghan and all of them negative stories in the run up to this interview. And now they are on the front page.

And there were all kinds of stories saying no one was going to watch and no one cared, yet here we are. It is front page news in the United Kingdom.

And I think that there are going to be a lot of serious questions here. And I think the press too, they are going to -- everyone who marries into the royal family has a hard time. Diana had a terrible time. There was mockery of Kate Middleton and her parents. But Meghan has had it the worst of all. And Harry touched on that. It was social media and it was also race.

And really, I think, in Britain, it's not just about the press. People in Britain and people all over the world, we're reading these stories, we're clicking on these headlines.

And I think we need to remind ourselves that there are real people behind this, and real people who are suffering. And that Meghan even when she was smiling for the cameras and couldn't have looked more glowing at the Royal Albert Hall engagement where she said she was at the greatest low of her mental health.

And I think we are going to see a reckoning with this. And certainly, the papers -- it's going to be front page news for the next few days to come.

And this interview is going to be seen, historically, as one of the most important royal interviews in history.


HOLMES: Yes. And then the pressure will be on the palace to respond or not.

Kate Williams, great to have you there analyzing all of this for us. Appreciate it. Thanks so much there in London.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

HOLMES: Well, Pope Francis is wrapping up his momentous trip to Iraq. Exultant crowds gathering in Erbil as he held mass and prayed for peace.

We'll have a live report coming up after the break.


NARRATOR: Seoul. It's a buzzing, lively metropolis. And it also has a surprising secret.

The South Korean capital is a cultural hub, home to over 200 museums. And one of the city's stand out museums is located here. The Dongdaemun Design Plaza or the DDP.

Its large, open spaces have made it an example of safe, socially distance events to come.

Like this one. By international art collective, Team Lab (ph), and curated by local company Culture Depot.

BAE JI-WOON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CULTURE DEPOT (Through Translator): We prepared this exhibition with the hope that people could enjoy the beauty of life. How it's all around us.


HOLMES: Now in just a few moments, Pope Francis will be wrapping up his historic visit to Iraq, and heading back to Rome.

These are live pictures coming to us from Baghdad, I'm told. As the Pope continues the final moments of his visit.

But as he heads back to Rome he says Iraq will remain in his heart. The Pope visiting three key cities to pray for the victims of war and holding mass at a stadium, packed with at least 8,000 people in Erbil.

CNN's Ben Wedeman joins me live from there. He's been following this visit all along.


It occurs to me it wasn't so long ago we'd be hearing about U.S. politicians visiting Iraq only after they'd arrived or even after they'd left, the so-called unannounced trip to Iraq.

And here we have the Pope wrapping up a very much announced visit which, by all accounts, has been a extraordinary success. What's been your take?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SNR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been a success, Michael. And in fact, he's due to take off in exactly 20 minutes according to the publicly made available schedule going back weeks. He's supposed to take off at 9:40 local time to return to Rome.

And really, this trip has been extraordinary. First of all, that it happened in the first place given there was, apparently, resistance within the Vatican for security reasons and COVID reasons to this trip.

And even his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, described it as a dangerous trip. But Pope Francis being a man who when he makes up his mind he is not going to change it, he said he was coming and he came.

And the whole trip, so far -- we still have, what, 18 minutes left -- went off without a hitch. And not only that, people were across the board thrilled by the trip.

According to all accounts, when he spoke to that audience of more than 8,000 people in the Franso Hariri stadium here in Erbil, happiness was in the air.

And what's interesting is that, for instance, this is really the first high-profile trip by anybody to Iraq in decades. And one that was broadcast live on TV around the country, around the world.

As I said, his schedule was made public, step by step, hour by hour, where he's going, what he's doing.

And keep in mind, Michael, that -- I was looking it up this morning -- the median age here in Iraq is 21. If you were 21, you were coming to awareness just after the American invasion of Iraq. You have seen nothing but bad news and trouble in this country since

then. In fact, you'd have to be over 40 to remember a time when life was, perhaps, normal.

And for this trip to happen is something that I think has left many Iraqis in a pleasant state of shock. Michael.

HOLMES: Exactly. In a delightful way.

He's talked -- obviously, one of the main thrusts of his visit has been inter-faith connection, a co-existence of religion. You know Iraq better than most, is there any meaningful coexistence of religion these days between Muslims and Christians -- well, let alone between Sunni and Shia.

Is that a pipe dream or do you get a sense that religious coexistence is doable?

WEDEMAN: Coexistence has always existed here. There have been rough patches, for instance, 2004, '05, '06 and '07. But oftentimes you will run into examples of Iraqis of different religions, different sects, acting in a humane manner among one another. In fact, that is actually the rule.

I remember, for instance, back in Baghdad in 2014 when ISIS was really on a rampage in the country doing a story about a Muslim mechanic making his workshop available as a place to stay for a Christian family from Mosul. In the holy Shia city of Najaf, they hosted Christian families from the north who had been driven from their homes.

Ordinary Iraqis get along very well. Political forces, the stream events has really disrupted what was, by and large, a harmonious society.

That's not to say there haven't been dark chapters in this country. Going back to the '30s when there was massacres of Syrians in Northern Iraq by the Iraqi government, and of course, let us not forget the Anfal campaign by Saddam Hussein targeting the Kurds in Northern Iraq.

Bu it's always amazing how Iraqis of all sects and religions have friends across the spectrum.

I think it's an impression abroad that may not really be accurate. Michael.


HOLMES: Yes, exactly. Ben Wedeman, who knows the region well. Thanks so much there in Erbil.

Now during his Iraq trip, one of places the Pope held mass was in St. Joseph's in Baghdad.

Now back in 2011 as Iraqi Christians continued to be targeted by terror groups like ISIS, I reported on the tribulations of the faithful, attended a pre-Christmas service and met now bishop Saad Sirop Hanna.


SAAD SIROP HANNA, THEN PARISH PRIEST, ST. JOSEPH'S CHURCH, BAGHDAD: We are afraid, we are afraid of attacks.

HOLMES: The war here has done the Christian community no favors at all. Saddam Hussein, of course, often brutally kept the lid on extremists and Christians here benefitted from that. Those who would have wanted to do them harm could not. Well, that, of course, has now all changed.

SIROP HANNA: I was kidnapped in 2006 from my Church. I was --

HOLMES: Father Saad Sirop Hannah was held by Muslim extremists for 28 days.

Did you think you would die?

SIROP HANNA: Yes. Yes, sometimes, actually.


HOLMES: I'm delighted to say that was 2011. I'm now joined by Bishop Hannah who is in Sweden where he now lives. Bishop, it's good to see you again after so many years.

What was it like for you to see the Pope himself holding mass in your old Church in Baghdad? It must have been an emotional thing for you to see.

BISHOP SAAD SIROP HANNA, APOSTOLIC VISITOR TO THE CHALDEANS OF EUROPE: Good to speak to you also, to everyone. Thank you for having me.

It is a great, actually, joy and great moment for Iraqi people, for the holy of Iraq, and especially for the Christians of Iraq to have the Pope in Iraq at this time.

With all of the difficulties that we are facing because of the political, economical situation and because of the coronavirus also -- but the Pope actually made this visit, this trip, this courageous trip to Iraq that give hope.

And actually make us think of peace, of a new life, a new start again.

HOLMES: When you and I spoke in your Church back in 2011, you -- the community as well -- but you personally, had endured so much already including kidnapping torture in 2006. But you stayed and we spoke in 2011. But then you decided to leave. Tell me why?

SIROP HANNA: Well, I haven't left actually Iraq until I became a bishop when they nominated me as an apostolic visitor in Europe for Chaldeans. So I was in Iraq, I just came out of Iraq in 2017.

I left Iraq in 2006 after the kidnapping but I went back to Baghdad in 2009. I started to work at St. Joseph, actually, as a parish priest. I was there all the time, until 2016. So (inaudible).

HOLMES: You're a very courageous man. And I remember when we talked back then, we talked about how many in your congregation had fled for their safety. And even that day, people told us that other members of their families were too afraid to attend mass because of the attacks.

And since then, of course, even more Christians have left Iraq.

Given what we've heard from the Pope, the confidence he has, do you think some of those Christians might return, that the community could grow again? Because it is a fraction of what it used to be.

SIROP HANNA: Well, going back and return to Iraq will be a difficult, actually, discourse to make or speech because the situation is still very complicated.

There are many problems, actually, in Iraq; politically speaking, religiously speaking, economically speaking. Iraq is unstable now. I think the visit will facilitate this process of having peace or making peace with each other.

So returning to Iraq, well, that depends on the situation inside Iraq in the future.


I think that this visit will be very important to the Iraqi people to rethink everything from the beginning. Because the whole process since 2003 until now actually didn't bring to Iraq any good.

It brought some goodness in these years, but it brought also some disasters, and some very difficult times for all Iraqis. For Christians, Yazidis, for the minorities, and even for the Muslim people -- Shia, Sunni, and good people, Arab people.

So what we need to -- I think the visit was to say also to the Iraq people that change is possible. If we wanted to change, if we work on that change, if we want to -- the peace, the peace will be done for us and will be given for us. Or we'll be (INAUDIBLE).

But without losing this will, this also effort, human effort that we have to put in the process will not be able to look for Iraq's table, and peaceful for all Iraqis.

I think returning back depends on all of these things.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I was watching the Pope live images coming from Baghdad as he prepares to depart Iraq. I mean an important visit, incredible that it even happen, but again you know I was reading a quote from a Christian in Iraq. He was a student and he said he hoped the visit might convince some Christians who fled the country to return.

Do you have hope that the community can at least sustain itself in Iraq? I mean do you have optimism? BISHOP HANNA: Well, I am optimistic actually in the sense that so many Christians here are looking for a stable Iraq, at least not for going back completely after living here for 20 or 30 years, but at least for having -- for having a home they used to always live and they grow in it.

To have it stable, to have it peaceful, they can go back and visit all those places in which they -- actually they've grew up and lived and had friends and had also work and houses and territories there.

So I think it will give hope for so many Christians, even from outside of Iraq, to look to Iraq interact differently. And I saw (INAUDIBLE) in these last 2 years, so many Iraqis have shown so much support for the youths who were demonstrating and the policy of (INAUDIBLE) to have peace in Iraq, who are living and existing -- a peaceful, existing in Iraq.

So I think so many Iraqis begin to think differently of Iraq. And this visit (INAUDIBLE) that position.

HOLMES: Exactly and that visit literally wrapping up. The Pope heading towards the plane. Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna, a great pleasure to see you again. It has been nearly 10 years, you haven't aged a bit. Good to see you. I hope to see you again.

BISHOP HANNA: Thank you so much. Good to see you and to speak to you all. Thank you so much.

HOLMES: All right, we're going to take a quick break. We will be right back.



HOLMES: And welcome back to our viewers all around the world.

I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

We've got some more on our breaking news. The bombshell revelations from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their interview with Oprah Winfrey. At one point, Meghan speaking candidly about the isolation she felt within the royal family and her thoughts of suicide.


MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I just didn't want to be alive anymore and that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.


HOLMES: And another stunning revelation. Harry and Meghan say there were concerns about what color their baby's skin might be. They were told the baby wouldn't get a title nor have security.


MARKLE: But the idea of our son not being safe, and also the idea of the first member of color in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be.

PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: I feel really let down, because he's been through something similar. And knows what pain feels like and this is -- and Archie's his grandson.


HOLMES: Now at one point during negotiations over their exit, Prince Harry says he was frozen out by his own father.


PRINCE HARRY: When we were in Canada I had three conversations with my grandmother and two conversations with my father before he stopped taking my calls. And then said can you put this all in writing what your plan is.


HOLMES: And some of the British newspapers have taken all of this and run with it because these are what they call 3 a.m. editions of papers that normally are on the stands until the morning. And they come up with special editions. This is "The Daily Mail". You can see the headline, "Meghan accuses palace of racism".

And "The Daily Mirror" another London Fleet Street tabloid. "They asked how dark Archie's skin would be". All the other papers will be out with their headlines by now as well. Running 3 a.m. editions is pretty unusual.

Pro-democracy protesters marching again in Myanmar, this follows a weekend of huge demonstrations and more violent crackdowns. Police firing tear gas and live ammunition at protesters in some of Myanmar's biggest cities on Sunday.


HOLMES: Also an official in Myanmar is asking India to detain and return police personnel who fled to that country last week.

Paula Hancocks following all of this for us from Seoul. Tell us -- bring us up to date but also tell us about these eight police seeking refuge in India.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Michael, it's certainly an embarrassment for the Myanmar military leadership, the fact that these eight police officers apparently did flee across the border. The military leader on this side of the border, on Myanmar's side of the border, saying that India has to detain them and hand them back quote, "in order to uphold friendly relations".

So far, Indian officials have said that they're looking into the matter, they're trying to gather more information.

But elsewhere we also have confirmation from one of the Burmese NGOs who's looking at political prisoners, saying that one member of the Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party has died in custody.

Now the AAPE saying that Khin Maung Latt has died in custody. He was arrested over the weekend, Saturday night when we know there were many reports of arrests taking place when it was dark. And according to the AAPE, they say that this lawmaker was actually tortured to death in his cell.

Now CNN cannot independently verify this at this point, but that report is certainly of concern.

And then also, we are hearing from state media that the military has actually decided to exhume the body of one of the protesters. This was a 19-year-old girl who was called Angel back on Wednesday of last week, wearing a t-shirt saying everything will be ok.

It was not. She was shot in the head and has been exhumed by the military, now saying that they believed it was not their bullet that killed her, Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Thanks Paula. Paula Hancocks there in Seoul for us.

All right. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.



HOLMES: Today is International Women's Day in Japan women's day -- the day underscores gender inequality.

Officials with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development say under utilizing women in the workplace has been a major factor in Japan's economic stagnation.

Blake Essig is in Tokyo with the details.

And I know you've been looking into this Blake, what did you find?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Japan as promised to deliver the Olympics of the future filled with robots, instant language translation, and self-driving vehicles. But when it comes to gender equality, Japan seem stuck decades in the past.


ERI SUENAGA, STAY AT HOME MOME: I feel very powerless at the moment.

ESSIG (voice over): For the past seven years with her husband at work, Eri Suenaga spends her day doing the dishes, cleaning, laundry and taking care of their daughters.

SUENAGA: Right now I am the main person to do that.

ESSIG: But for Suenaga, a college-educated woman who worked nearly nine years in finance, spending her days like this wasn't her dream.

SUENAGA: I feel, how should I say, very useless.

ESSIG: She planned to return to work after having kids, but during the interview process, Suenaga says she quickly realized that for women in Japan, the choice to have kids essentially means the end of your career.

SUENAGA: They would ask about again like how would you take care of your kids? Do they get fevers once in a while? What would you do? Then do you have a babysitter?

ESSIG: Questions, she says, that would never be asked of men.

SUENAGA: Well, I was really shocked.

ESSIG: It's a choice, career or family, that many Japanese women are confronted with at some point in their lives.

MAHO HIROKAWA, 18-YEAR-OLD COLLEGE STUDENT (through translator): I'm worried what is going to happen in the future, especially when I get married or when I have a child.

YUKIKO MAKOSHI, 41-YEAR-OLD FULL TIME WORKER (through translator): Working is essential for me. I don't want to give up, that's why I could not make up my mind to get married.

ESSIG: Yuriko Murakami (ph), the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Tokyo says the underlying problem is decision-makers afraid of change.

YURIKO MURAKAMI, ORGANIZATION FOR ECONOMIC COOPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT: But when it comes to the mindset of people, I think it is still very much last century.

ESSIG: Murakami says women are not given the same level of opportunity and responsibility and therefore, aren't being paid as much as men.

Experts believe that Japan could add an estimated $550 billion a year to its GDP, just by paying women as much as men. Men take home almost 25 percent more than female colleagues. A major reason is the job that women are expected to do.

70 percent of housework in Japan is done by women, meaning far less time to advance their careers. In business, only 15 percent of senior and leadership positions are held by women. Instead, studies show that the main careers open to women are in traditional roles, such as education and nursing.

MURAKAMI: If you're not really understanding why diversity is important for your business, for your country, you probably don't understand why our country is not having a lot of innovations. ESSIG: Innovation that could come from people like Suenaga. Instead she spends her days taking care of her family, and left feeling that the system is punishing women like her for wanting to be a mom and have a career.

SUENAGA: If I can't choose multiple choices, if I only had to choose one, I think I would choose my kids.

ESSIG: A choice she doesn't regret, but one that she hopes her daughters will never have to make.

SUENAGA: I would definitely want them to have more choices than myself.


ESSIG: Now I have two young daughters myself and while they aren't Japanese, gender inequality and discrimination based on sex are global issues. Issues that as a father keep me up at night.

Now as my two little girls grow up, I'm going to do everything that I possibly can to make sure that they know that they are capable, more capable than this world gives them credit for. Michael, I got to say, the future is female. I see it every day.

HOLMES: I agree. I got one going off to law school. Yes.

Great piece, fascinating. You'd think, you know, such an advanced country like Japan would have figured out the value of women, particularly in the workplace. Blake Essig in Tokyo. Blake, thanks.


HOLMES: Ok, we are going to take a break.

When we come back an NBA all-star game like no other. The star players shined as bright as ever, but education and social justice took center stage on Sunday. We'll have the details when we come back.


HOLMES: A thrilling NBA all-star game just wrapped up a few hours ago right here in Atlanta, next door to CNN in fact. And even though Lebron James and his team came out on top, the real winners of the night were not the players, they were students from historically-black colleges and universities.

CNN's Andy Scholes explains.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the normal NBA All-Star weekend happening all in one night. And there may not have been a packed house for this all-star game, but it was special, raising more than $3 million for historical black colleges and universities. The league honoring different HBCUs and frontline workers throughout the night during the game. And before the game started, actor Michael B. Jordan chatted with Vice President Kamala Harris. She's a proud HBCU graduate of Howard University and she encouraged everyone in that chat to get the COVID vaccine when it's their turn.


SCHOLES: Now the game featured Team Lebron versus Team Durant, the first time ever Lebron and Steph Curry were teammates for a game. But this game was the Steph, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard littered show. Steph shooting those three shots from half court, even catching an alley-oop in this one. He scored 28 points. Giannis made all 16 of his shots, scoring a game high of 35. He was named the MVP of this one.

And Lillard winning the game from a way downtown as Team Lebron would beat Team Durant in this one 170-150.

Now this game was Steph Curry's encore because earlier in the night, he put him on a show in the 3-point contest. The 2015 champ putting up a record 31 in the first round. Then Steph needed to hit his last two shots in order to beat the Jazz's Mike Conley. And of course, Curry made them both to become the 7th player ever to own multiple 3-point titles.

Now at half time of the game was the dunk contest, and it was the Blazers Anfernee Simons outlasting the Knicks Obi Toppin, skying high almost kissing the rim top become the 2021 slam dunk champion.

Now Lebron in the NBA also using all-star weekend to fight voter suppression. Many states including Georgia where the all-star game was held, have introduced legislation to restrict voting.

And in a new ad for "More Than a Vote" Lebron says there's still plenty of work to do.


LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: So this isn't the time to put your feet up or to think hashtag black squares is enough. Because for us, it was never about one election, it's always been more than a vote.


SCHOLES: And Lebron saying before the all-star game that he will continue to highlight and educate people on what's going on in communities around the country.

HOLMES: Andy Scholes there.

Thanks for watching the program everyone.

I'm Michael Holmes. Follow me @HolmesCNN on Twitter and Instagram.

More CNN NEWSROOM with my colleague Robyn Curnow in just a moment.