4 in 5 young women witness backlash against female activists, new Plan International Canada survey reveals

Global girls’ rights organization spotlights troubling reality faced by young women activists

Toronto, ON, October 4, 2023 – More than half of young women in Canada (53%) say they fear for their safety when engaging in activism, including harassment, trolling, bullying, and physical violence, according to a new survey by Plan International Canada.

Ahead of the International Day of the Girl on October 11, Plan International Canada, a global humanitarian and development organization dedicated to advancing children’s rights and equality for girls, unveils startling revelations that shed light on the challenges young women activists in Canada face. The survey, titled Voices for Change: A Study of Activism Among Young Women in Canada, echoes the global phenomenon of discrimination faced by prominent activists such as Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg.

Key findings:
  • Determination: Nearly 63% of young women in Canada engage in various forms of activism.
  • Safety Concerns: Almost 40% of young women in Canada have faced harassment when engaging in activism.
  • Backlash Impact: An alarming 80% of young women in Canada have witnessed their female peers facing backlash or obstacles when participating in activism.
  • Discouragement: Sadly, 79% of those who witnessed this backlash say the experience discouraged them from becoming activists themselves, highlighting the urgent need for change.
  • Financial Barriers: One-third of young women in Canada (34%) have reduced their participation in activism due to rising living costs.
  • Active Engagement: Despite the challenges, almost 40% of young women in Canada believe their activism efforts make a difference in their community, and over half (54%) are interested in pursuing or are currently in careers dedicated to addressing social issues.

“These numbers aren’t just cold facts; they’re a powerful wake-up call,” said Plan International Canada’s President and CEO, Lindsay Glassco. “They remind us that we all have a part to play in backing young women everywhere as they courageously drive change toward an equal world. It’s not just about girls; it’s about society missing out on their invaluable contributions if we don’t empower them to lead and be heard.”

Furthermore, gender equality and tackling gender-based violence top the list of issues for girl activists worldwide, with 60% naming these as their primary concerns, according to Plan International global research.

While the World Economic Forum estimates that achieving gender equality may take as long as 131 years, Plan International Canada firmly rejects five more generations of girls being denied their fundamental human rights simply because of their age and gender. Instead, the organization calls upon everyone to unite in a race against time and inequality to beat the clock.

Girls’ leadership redefining the future

For the past eight years, Plan International Canada has inspired almost 200 girls aged 14 to 24 in Canada through its Girls Belong Here youth leadership program. The program amplifies girls’ voices, advocates for their rights and elevates their standing in society.

“In today’s world, where challenges can seem insurmountable, we, as girls, are raising our voices and standing up. We refuse to be quiet anymore,” said Maya Kinsley Brown, Girls Belong Here Youth Ambassador. “Our determination is our superpower, and together, we’re not just shining a light; we’re doing our part to beat the clock to close the global gender gap and make equality a reality for our generation and all the generations of girls that will follow in our footsteps.”

Plan International Canada encourages everyone in Canada to join the movement this International Day of the Girl to support girl and young women activists until we are all equal.

  • Learn: Visit plancanada.ca/DayOfTheGirl to learn more about becoming a champion for girls’ rights.
  • Get involved: Be part of Plan International Canada’s Game for Girls’ Equality online initiative, Mission: Beat the Clock. Host or join a live stream on Twitch, YouTube, or Facebook from October 11 to 13, 2023, to raise awareness and create safe spaces for girl changemakers.
  • Connect: Join the conversation with us online on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook using the hashtags #DayOfTheGirl #BeatTheClock and #GirlsBelongHere

About Plan International Canada

Plan International Canada is a member of a global organization dedicated to advancing children’s rights and equality for girls. Plan International has been building powerful partnerships for children for over 85 years and is now active in more than 80 countries.

We stand with children, especially girls, wherever they are oppressed, exploited, left behind or not equally valued. We’re determined optimists and will continue to persevere until we are all equal.

Visit plancanada.ca for more information.

About International Day of the Girl

Plan International Canada led an extensive two-year campaign in 2009 that engaged thousands of Canadians in a call for an International Day of the Girl, a global initiative to recognize girls’ rights as human rights. In December 2011, with unanimous all-party support, the Canadian government led the United Nations to officially declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl.


These are the findings of an online survey conducted by Paradigm PR from September 15 to 19, 2023 among n=350 women in Canada, aged 18-24, who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The survey was conducted in English and French. For comparison purposes only, a probable sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 5.24 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.


Plan International Canada. Voices for Change: A Study of Activism Among Young Women in Canada, October 2023.

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Plan International Canada
PR & Communications

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