“That will be me one day” – Why girls’ empowerment matters more than ever

Gender inequality isn’t just an issue for developing countries. It’s a reality here in Canada, in the United States, and in other developed countries too. While the challenges girls and women face can take different forms depending on the community, culture and nation, there’s one unfortunately clear commonality: systemic discrimination reinforces the idea that the rights and voices of girls and women matter less.

When girls are disproportionately affected by practices like child marriage, when sexual assault cases aren’t taken seriously and perpetrators go unpunished, and when sexism plagues society from media to sports to politics, it’s easy to feel defeated.

Now – more than ever – is the time to rally together for the long run, because change won’t happen overnight. Full and true equal rights, representation and respect for women won’t happen if we don’t value our girls. The empowerment of girls matters, and is a critical place to start if we want to truly achieve gender equality.

Girls’ empowerment matters

When girls have the opportunity to not only break the gender stereotypes that tell them what they can and cannot do or be, but actually put themselves into positions and roles that are often occupied by boys and men, then they see and believe that they belong there – and the world sees it too.

Empowered girls will grow up to be empowered women, who challenge and stand up against gender inequalities

Empowered girls will grow up to be empowered women, who challenge and stand up against gender inequalities. Boys who grow up recognizing that the girls in their lives deserve equal treatment will become men who support and champion gender equality as allies.

Empowering girls isn’t about benefiting girls at the cost of boys and men. It’s about shifting mindsets so that seeing girls on the playing field or women in leadership roles isn’t something to be surprised about – it’s the norm, or at the very least, it’s welcomed.

“That will be me one day”

Three girls standing in front of the Peace Tower in Ottawa.

Georgia, Gelsey and Jathusha joined federal ministers in Ottawa to celebrate girls’ empowerment.

This past International Day of the Girl, girls across Canada and the world made it their mission to make girls’ empowerment and leadership a force to be reckoned with. A groundswell of girls stepped into more than 250 leadership roles worldwide.

Girls from across Canada spoke up and called on Canadian leaders to show their support by providing girls with a chance to take the lead for a day. Federal ministers, members of parliament, directors and CEOs accepted, and a group of girls were able to show their country why girls’ empowerment matters and the powerful impact it can make.

17-year-old Georgia, who joined the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism for the day, believes that the lack of equal representation sends a message “to young girls that they cannot achieve these levels of leadership because they do not see themselves at the helm.”

Currently, the United Nations estimates that only 22% of parliamentarians across the globe are women. In business, only about 24% of women hold senior leadership roles. While we’ve seen significant progress over the years, there’s a lot of room for improvement.

“These numbers need to change,” shared 14-year-old Diviya, who joined Rachael Harder, Conservative MP and Critic for Youth and Persons with Disabilities, on the job for a day. “It is crucial that young girls see themselves reflected in roles across the board, so that they can aspire to fill those seats one day.”

A girl sitting in a meeting room with two women.

Diviya took the lead for a day with Rachael Harder, Conservative MP and Critic for Youth and Persons with Disabilities.

“Seeing truly is believing,” shared 19-year-old Roshni, who joined Caroline Riseboro, Plan International Canada President and CEO, for a day. “By having equal representation, especially in spaces where females are not traditionally seen or heard, diverse career paths can open up for both boys and girls. Stereotypical gender roles will dissolve if we continue to push boundaries and show the world that equal opportunities can create growth and development.”

A group of girls and women.

Roshni (second from right) joined Caroline Riseboro, President and CEO of Plan International Canada, for a panel discussion on gender equality with other young women and Madame Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Plan International Global Ambassador.

“It’s important for girls and women to be fairly represented in leadership roles because it gives women and girls a reason to believe that someone of their gender, race or age will be able to lead them and represent them in a way that they deserve,” shared Mariama, who took the lead for a day with Robert Witchel, CEO of Jays Care Foundation. “It gives girls the opportunity to look at one of these women and say, ‘that will be me one day’.”

While we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality, we know where to start – with girls. When girls have access to opportunities to lead, make decisions and raise their voice, and when they have role models to look up to, then they gain the experience, confidence, and skills to break glass ceilings and topple gender barriers. And that’s what girls’ empowerment is all about – sparking and igniting the potential that girls hold within.

This is girls’ empowerment!

Spread girls’ empowerment

Girls everywhere have the power to change the world, and you can help them get there. With this girl power Gift of Hope, you can help ensure girls in developing countries access the education and opportunities to reach their full potential.

Give the gift of girl power