‘International Day of the Girl’ U.N. campaign aims to promote gender equality for girls

Lia Grainger
Shine On

Why do we need an International Day of the Girl?

How about the fact that only 30 per cent of girls in the world are enrolled secondary school? Or that one in seven girls in developing nations are married off before the age of 15? Or that more than 50 per cent of third to fifth grade girls worry about their appearance?

From gender stereotypes to economic disparities to genital mutilation, the issues facing girls today are uniquely challenging, and that is why last year the United Nations officially declared October 11th International Day of the Girl Child. On Thursday, girls and their friends and families around the world will come together to bring awareness to the challenges facing girls today, and their unique potential to change the world.

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Canadian celebrations and events are happening in large part to Plan Canada, whose two year participation in the Because I am a Girl initiative to end gender inequality has brought girls' poverty and human rights issues to the forefront of Canadian minds, coast to coast.

"Did you know that most of the world's population living in poverty is made up of women?" asks Alyssa Reid.

The 18-year-old Canadian pop music star was inspired to become an ambassador for Plan Canada and Because I am a Girl after viewing commercials describing the vast inequities that still exist between male and female young people.

"I've done a lot of charity work for leukemia and cancer, but those issues are more in your face — you hear about them everyday," say Reid. "The issues that Because I am a Girl works to address are often swept under the rug — people don't touch on them as much."

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Reid will be performing at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto on Thursday at 5 p.m. as part of the International Day of the Girl celebrations.

"This is a day to raise awareness of the problems we're facing, but also to highlight some of the amazing solutions we've already created," says Reid.

According to a press release from Plan Canada, the day became a reality because of the hard work from thousands of young girls and boys worldwide who signed petitions and spoke to politicians, as well as, the support of individual advocates, non-profit organizations and the Canadian government.

For Reid, it's an honour to be a part of such a powerful moment. She'll be performing her hit single Watch Me Soar, and all proceeds from the sale of that single will be donated to Because I am a Girl.

"This is the start of something historic," says Reid, "And to be a part of it from day one is amazing."