Making history and space for girls to be heard

May 29, 2018
As part of Canada’s G7 Presidency, Finance and Development Ministers will gather May 30 -31 in Whistler, British Columbia, in the fourth and final meeting of the G7 governments taking place in advance of the Summit. Bringing together global Ministers to discuss issues that will impact the lives of millions of people around the world is an international necessity and key to the world’s commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Canadians can often feel disconnected from these meetings and their outcomes. That sense of exclusion is even greater for young people, who so often can feel their voices are not heard, or are ignored.

Today the world is witnessing the highest levels of refugees and displaced people since World War II. Globally we are standing in the wake of the largest wave of young people in history, with millions of children and youth out of school in crisis-affected countries. Far too many go their entire childhood living in uncertainty and are facing a future with no potential opportunities. For children around the world caught in conflict and disaster, education is a lifeline, especially for girls.

But no one is talking about it. The voices of these young people are not being heard.

In the coming years, the population under the age of 30 in the most fragile and unstable countries is going to spike. Adolescent girls in particular are in an incredibly important yet fragile position. They are deeply impacted by the decisions leaders make, yet often disregarded in important discussions. They are vulnerable to threats like gender-based violence, discrimination, child, early and forced marriage, early pregnancy and motherhood, and lack of access to healthcare and quality education.

Yet we know that when provided access to these services, when gender equality, quality education and empowerment for women and girls is prioritized, adolescent girls lift up their families, their communities and societies as a whole. Educated and empowered girls drive positive change.

Their potential is limitless and the results extraordinary.

So why isn’t the world doing more to include adolescent girls in key conversations?

As the CEOs of some of Canada’s leading development, humanitarian response, and citizen advocacy agencies, this is a question we often ask. Every day, everywhere around the world, we each witness from the work our organizations do on the ground the impact that adolescent girls can have. Their potential is unlimited, yet they are not often given the opportunity to shine.

Canada is about to change this.  And the need has never been more urgent.

This is why we are so pleased that the Canadian Government has made the historic and transformative decision to put adolescent girls front and centre at the Finance and Development Ministers meeting, including them in conversations with the Ministers and giving them the mic to speak up on issues that affect them, and to have their voices heard and considered in decision-making. By including them and having them share their opinions and concerns, Canada is creating real change in the way it is leading its G7 Presidency. It is shifting the power balance, forcing powerful leaders of nations to listen, engage, and dialogue with adolescent girls.

It’s a bold, necessary and game-changing decision. We look forward to this first-of-its-kind G7 engagement with adolescent girls from both Canada and from fragile and conflict-affected countries around the world.

We’re thrilled to hear their contribution to this conversation and know that with their voices front and centre, we all stand to benefit.

We know first-hand what adolescent girls are capable of. Now is time to let them speak-up. And Canada is leading the world in learning how to listen.

This blog is co-authored by:
Caroline Riseboro, President and CEO, Plan International Canada
Christina Dendys, Executive Director, RESULTS Canada
Kevin Frey, CEO, Right To Play International
Bill Chambers, President and CEO, Save the Children Canada
David Morley, President and CEO, UNICEF Canada
Michael Messenger, President and CEO, World Vision Canada