EDITORIAL: International Day of the Girl

Change starts with empowering youth

A couple of years ago, newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was questioned why his cabinet was half female.

“Because it’s 2015,” was his simple retort. The PM was both praised and mocked for his answer, but the sad truth is while we still have a long way to go in terms of empowering females in Canada, the situation is far worse in many countries and cultures around the world.

Change especially needs to start with the young. That’s why International Day of the Girl, celebrated for the sixth year on Wednesday, was so important. Girls who grow up healthy, safe and empowered become empowered women, able to fulfill their dreams and bring change.

It was also 2015 when world leaders signed on to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and made a promise to empower all girls.

“No society will flourish and no peace agreement will be lasting without empowering girls in peacebuilding and reconstruction,” said Irina Bokova, director-general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “It is time to put this imperative at the heart of all of our efforts in addressing fragility, conflict and violence.”

There has been progress but more awareness and support is needed for this drive to create a world where girls around the world don’t have to fight for their freedom.

Huge challenges remain: child marriage, access to education and threats of violence to those who demand what should be basic rights, like Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in 2012 for not only daring to go to school in a Taliban-controlled area but speaking out about it.

Yousafzai, now 18, survived her attempted execution and continues to advocate for access to education and remains an example of what an empowered girl can achieve. The world needs more like her.

Why? Because it’s time.

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