Partnering with men and boys involves helping them develop a healthy, non-violent, and respectful outlook towards themselves and their relationships, and models of manliness where they are equals amongst their peers. Engaging boys and adolescents in the process at all levels is also key to empowering a generation of young people with the capacity to claim their own rights and respect those of everyone around them.
You might be wondering if calling our new anthem gender equal versus gender neutral is just a matter of semantics. Here's why it's not: using the gender neutral adjective in place of gender equal forces us to wade into the murky and benign waters of political correctness where gender is inconsequential.
I am calling on all Canadians to empower girls because we live in a globally connected world where rape and other forms of gender-based violence are pervasive. Canadians must realize that we are only as strong as our most vulnerable and that girls are among the most vulnerable population in the world.
Despite the fact that children themselves consistently prioritize education above all else, when asked about their greatest needs during times of crisis, less than two per cent of humanitarian funding currently goes towards education. There is still a very narrow perception that when a crisis hits, education is simply a nice to have, rather than a need to have. Food, water, shelter and sanitation always seem to take precedent. And although all of those things are essential, I reject the notion that education is not equally as important.
The painful fact is the first thing to be compromised during a humanitarian emergency is the integrity of girls' rights. The everyday realities of many adolescent girls -- which often include early marriage, discrimination and lack of access to education -- are made far worse in the wake of a major disaster.
This year, the World Health Organization is calling on the global community to "end malaria for good" by lowering the global malaria burden over the next 15 years, and reducing malaria death rates by at least 90%. We still have a long way to go, but the end of the malaria epidemic may finally be in sight, and could even be achieved within our lifetime.
Girls living in poverty across the developing world are also much more likely to be subjected to violence than their brothers. Many believe girls have no business being in school. Many are forced against their will into marriage and intercourse in their teens. Two out of three victims of child trafficking around the world are girls.
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.
The next global goals -- the SDGs that will take us to the year 2030 -- will need to build on the progress of the MDGs and go beyond them to reach the most marginalized and vulnerable population -- especially girls, and including people in the poorest and most remote rural communities, refugees, and women in minority groups.
Pregnancy is still one of the leading causes of death of girls in developing countries between 15 and 18. Worldwide, 16,000 children under five die every day. Girls and boys are left behind because of who they are or where they live. Women and girls from ethnic minorities have fared worst, and discriminated against because of their sex and race. Girls living in towns or cities are much more likely to have access to a skilled birth attendant than young women living in remote parts.
When men accompany their partners to prenatal visits and attend at birthing, the women report a much more positive experience, according to our commissioned study, Men Matter. When men share in the housework and rearrange certain duties or workloads to accommodate their pregnant or breastfeeding partners, the couple's relationship strengthens and the household becomes a happier place.
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.
This Saturday, June 20, is the UN World Refugee Day. It's a day set aside every year to recognize the plight of refugees and acknowledge the efforts of those who assist them, often in the face of life-threatening obstacles. We need to recognize realities but not despair. We need to focus the global mind on our collective responsibility. We need to roll up our sleeves and help those who are so deserving of our assistance while urging others to double and triple their efforts to end the underlying conditions that have created this unacceptable human catastrophe.