To unleash the power of the adolescent girls is to create a world where girls are able to take advantage of any and every opportunity to come her way. It means to create a world where she not only has access to education, but also the freedom to attend school. Where she has reliable sources of nutrition-rich food and clean water, and doesn't have to risk sexual assault to collect it.
Nearly 90 per cent of girls tell Plan International that they have more opportunities in life than their mothers did. That's progress. But in developing countries, girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer malnutrition, and 63 million girls (many more than boys) don't attend school. Removing barriers to education, health care and other rights isn't enough. We need to focus on how girls can move beyond merely surviving, to thriving.
In September, I take up my new responsibilities in Geneva, Switzerland as Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations and the Conference on Disarmament. The UN reflects the dreams and aspirations of not just Canadians but of the world. My new role will allow me to address global challenges from a different perspective than I've had at Plan Canada, but as I prepare to leave I reflect on a few proud accomplishments that bolster my confidence and hope for the future.
In a new global report conducted by Plan entitled Hear Our Voices, we spoke with more than 7,000 adolescent girls and boys from 11 countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America. We wanted to learn more about what issues and concerns adolescent girls faced and how boys felt about those issues too.
Why is it, everywhere you turn these days, there's a story, post, blog or tweet about women having babies, trying to have babies, or what to do now that said baby is born. And why is it, when we've come so far from the burning of the bras, that the conversation has only shifted from stay-at-home mums to having-it-all mums?
While it's always good practice to stop and celebrate our achievements and accomplishments, we still have a long way to go to truly empower girls. The non-profit organization, Girls' Inc. coined the term "supergirl dilemma" in a 2006 report to describe the pressure on girls to be everything to everyone, all the time.
On October 11, 2012 the world marked the first-ever International Day of the Girl. The celebration was bittersweet, though, given it occurred against the backdrop of worldwide shock and headlines concerning 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a young activist from Pakistan, shot in the head by a Taliban member because of her ongoing work and advocacy to ensure more girls get to go to school.
This fall, we released a report from this study called, Hopes and Dreams, which provides a detailed look into the girls' lives at the tender age of five. There was good news: the majority of the girls in our study have parents who have high aspirations for them and who promote gender equality in their households.