Canada recently took part in celebrations marking the first International Day of the Girl Child in New York and at the United Nations Headquarters. Canada, along with Peru and Turkey, led the resolution that called for the creation of an “International Day of the Girl Child” that was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 December 2011. Since then, many organizations and countries have raised awareness and promoted issues of concern to girls worldwide.
To celebrate the adoption of the resolution, Canada, Peru and Turkey, hosted a panel discussion entitled “Ensuring Bright Futures.” The purpose of the panel was to discuss issues that girls face, particularly violence in and around schools, the role of education in helping girls find their voice, and ways to advocate for better and safer opportunities
The panel filled the UN’s Dag Hammarskjöld auditorium to capacity, and was attended by many ambassadors and girl youth ambassadors. The clear highlight of the panel was a speech given by Fabiola, a youth activist from Cameroon. Fabiola spoke passionately of her desire to go to school, to be a leader in her community, and to represent girls from across her country and the world:
"Because I am a girl, people think I should wash babies' napkins, rather than hold a computer mouse. Because I am a girl, I will cook while my brothers do their science homework. Because I am a girl, I should stand behind and watch the boys use the computers in the science lab. Because I am a girl, I may be forced into early marriage instead of being able to pursue studies in science and technology. But because I am a girl, I will fight for my rights. I will make known to my society that I exist. I will change the world into one where everyone is treated equally, regardless of gender, race, language, culture or religious perspectives."
The panel was facilitated by Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. A webcast of the panel discussion is available on the United Nations website.
Also present was Alaina Podmorrow, Canada’s honorary Youth Ambassador and vocal supporter of girls' rights in Afghanistan. Alaina is a strong advocate for girls’ rights in Canada and around the world.
At just 15 years of age, Alaina Podmorow is living proof that a little inspiration can lead to great things: Journalist and human rights activist Sally Armstrong's 2006 speech on the plight of Afghan girls and women so inspired Alaina that she founded Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan to support education projects in Afghanistan. She was only nine years old at the time.
Alaina dedicates herself to the organization, which has raised close to $400,000, and now has 10 chapters in Canada and the United States. Alaina speaks to audiences across Canada, sharing information about the importance of education as a key tool in peace-building.
The UN Department of Public Information hosted a panel presentation entitled “The Girl Child: Protection from Violence, Exploitation, and Abuse.” Minister Ambrose spoke about her role as a woman leader, and expressed her hope that the day would help to raise awareness for girls’ issues worldwide. Dr. Changu Mannathoko, the Senior Education Advisor to UNICEF, gave a moving speech on the need for girls' schooling, and Muslim women’s activist Raquel Evita Saraswati spoke about the many challenges that Muslim girls face including access to education.
In addition, Plan International organized a launch event for their visionary Because I am a Girl campaign aimed at raising awareness of girl’s rights around the world. As Ms. Ellen Margrethe Loj, Chair Members’ Assembly and International Board, Plan international eloquently put it: “Girls are among the most marginalized and discriminated against groups on the planet. We know that empowering girls to secure their rights is also one the best solutions to sustainably reducing global poverty.”
Minister Ambrose met with Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women and former President of Chile to discuss violence against women. Minister Ambrose spoke to Canada’s efforts in engaging men and boys in preventing violence against women and about Canada’s commitment to ending child marriage.
For more information about how Canada supports the International Day of the Girl, visit the Status of Women Canada web site.
For additional information on programs supporting girls, visit: