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Plan International Canada
The Canadian Women's Foundations' Girls' Fund will help one thousand Canadian girls reach their potential, from age nine to 13 via 22 organizations in 44 communities across Canada. One such organization is the Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton, where 17-year-old Nikki met Hailey, who would become her mentor and change the trajectory of her athletic life.
Despite my careful, concerted efforts to raise a son who believes in a just and equal world, the prevailing image he saw was that of the American president. He saw a president as a man. From Hollywood blockbusters to the daily news cycle to social media streams, the dominant image of power is male.
“Women and girls belong in the seats of classrooms, boardrooms, senate chambers..."
As a little girl growing up in the 1980s during the final years of Lebanon's 15-year civil war, my family often had to take shelter underground from these attacks. I can remember the sting of my fear, how I could almost smell it in my mother and father and siblings.
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.
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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.
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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.
October 11th marks the International Day of the Girl Child, a day to promote the rights of girls and address the unique challenges they face. It will also mark the 179th day since more than 270 Nigerian girls were awakened by gunfire and kidnapped from their Chibok boarding school by Boko Haram.
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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.
I think the perfect girl to focus on today is Malala Yousafzai. Malala is 16 years old. She's a girl from Pakistan who has always loved to read, write, and learn. Malala is an education and women's rights advocate, and she has been for much of quite a while.
I can't accept a world where girls have to worry about becoming a child bride, or being raped, or sold, or abused. I can't accept a world where girls aren't allowed to go to school, to become leaders in their community, to make choices and to be happy. Yet that is the world we live in.
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.