It was 25 years ago that 30,000 men and women from almost 200 countries gathered in China for the Fourth World Conference on Women. The outcome was one of the most comprehensive plans for the empowerment of women with one vital point being recognized: Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace.
In the years since, women have progressed the global movement of female equality, with issues from sexual and reproductive health rights, to education for girls, gender-based violence, and child marriage. The way these movements are happening is also changing. They’re being led and organized by adolescent girls who understand that the sexual harassment, gender discrimination and insecurity that girls continue to face should no longer be “normal.”
From climate-change activist to young Nobel laureate female-education activist Malala Yousafzai, there are girls and young women all over the world leading protests, initiatives, and inspiring change.
While it can be easy to look around and see the inequalities in the world around us, it’s important that we also look at our own communities to evoke change. In Canada, two thirds of Canadian girls under age 24 report having a female friend who has experienced sexual harassment (Plan Canada). 67% of Canadians know a woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse (Canadian Women’s Foundation). We still have a lot of work to do - both within our own community and around the world.
We believe that everyone has a role to play when it comes to ending violence against women and girls. Our work on educating the public and our own initiatives to help end this gender-based violence is one part of how we are working to change today’s climate as well as the future. Children who grow up in abusive homes are at a higher risk for depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug use, and behavioural problems. Young women who experience sexual violence face many of the same problems. Yet we also know that when girls come forward to report sexual harassment, they face barriers far too often. Whether it’s blame cast on them or disbelief from the system, these obstacles are preventing us from making the change needed.
It’s critical that we work to better the future for our girls and to invest in initiatives that are working toward both ending violence against females and improving communities for girls. We owe it to girls, to women, and to future generations.
On International Day of the Girl, we want to recognize the work that girls worldwide are doing to evoke change. To make the world a safer world free of violence and gender inequalities. To change what many have come to see as “normal.” By removing obstacles for females today, we are also creating a safer, more equal society for future generations.
When we improve the lives of girls, we also improve our communities as a whole. A better world for girls and women is a better world for all.