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Challenge Accepted! Canadian leaders to give up their seats to acknowledge that ‘Girls Belong Here’ on International Day of the Girl

Girl ambassadors from Plan International Canada will be in the seats of political, business and education leaders to change perceptions and inspire girls’ leadership

TORONTO, ON, September 28, 2016 – Canadian leaders have accepted the challenge to give up their seats to girls for a day to mark the 5th International Day of the Girl. Leading up to International Day of the Girl on October 11th, across the country, a diverse group of remarkable Canadian girls will fill these high profile decision-making seats to illustrate every girl’s right to equal opportunities – seats such as those of the Honourable Ministers Marie-Claude Bibeau, Patricia Hajdu, Carolyn Bennett, Catherine McKenna and Bill Morneau; NDP Whip, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet; Conservative MP for Lethbridge, Rachael Harder; Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations, Michael Grant; Director of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Dr. Jennifer Adams and many other distinguished Canadian leaders.

Plan International Canada, the team behind the groundbreaking Because I am a Girl movement, is supporting this groundswell of girls who are declaring that #GirlsBelongHere in the seats of political, economic and business leaders in Canada and globally.

”We can realize the world that we dream of – but only when half of the population is no longer left behind. We keep telling girls that they’re capable of anything, so let’s truly give them the opportunity to be seen and heard,“ said Caroline Riseboro, President and CEO, Plan International Canada, who is one of those giving up her seat for the day. ”We are impressed that so many Canadian leaders believe in these girls and have stepped up to provide these powerful opportunities for International Day of the Girl.“

Globally, millions of girls still bear the brunt of poverty, are denied an education, forced into marriage and face violence because they are young and female. The majority of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty are girls and women. More than 62 million girls around the world remain not in school. Each year, 15 million girls under 18 will be married and 16 million girls ages 15-19 will give birth. Worldwide, the proportion of women in parliament is only 22 per cent. Girls know that these barriers that prevent them from realizing their inherent potential to lead need to be torn down.

Marie Claude Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of International Development and La Francophonie said: ”The International Day of the Girl marks a unique opportunity for young women leaders of tomorrow to add their voice and play an important role in our collective efforts, as a government, to achieve gender equality. I look forward to listening, debating and exchanging on some of the most pressing challenges faced by women and girls. At home and abroad, Canada is committed to the empowerment of women and girls and to supporting their full participation, leadership and decision-making in all aspects of society.“

The Canadian #GirlsBelongHere initiative is part of a global movement, with over 150 leadership roles being filled by girls in over 50 countries; including positions such as the President of Nepal and the Mayor of Paris. The girls who are involved are making their voices heard and while in their seat will contribute to meaningful decisions that affect everyone.

”I believe wholeheartedly that girls and women should have the tools to be the best versions of themselves. My passion for gender equality started when I was young, seeing and learning about the power imbalance between men and women,“ said Jathusha, 17, a girl who will be working with The Honourable Patricia Hajdu’s role as Minister of Status of Women Canada for International Day of the Girl. ”When I volunteered abroad, I saw the struggle of young girls due to female genital mutilation, health accessibility issues, poverty and lack of empowerment and it has pushed me to look at gender issues through a global lens. I am proud to be here today, making my voice heard.“

Girls and women belong in the seats of classrooms, boardrooms, senates, courtrooms, press rooms and corner offices. They belong on the playing field, in the film director’s chair and in laboratories. #GirlsBelongHere and everywhere else where decisions are made.

Here is the full list of Canadian leaders who are giving up their seats for International Day of the Girl:

  • Caroline Riseboro, President and CEO of Plan International Canada
  • The Honourable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance
  • The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie
  • The Honourable Minister Patricia Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women
  • The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
  • The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
  • The Honourable Bardish Chagger, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism (Waterloo)
  • Michael Grant, Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations in NYC
  • Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, NDP Whip
  • Rachael Harder, Conservative MP for Lethbridge and Critic for Youth and Persons with Disabilities
  • Pino Buffone, Superintendent of Instruction, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
  • Dr. Jennifer Adams, Director of Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
  • Robert Witchel, Executive Director of Jays Care Foundation

Canadians can follow the conversation on social media using the hashtag #GirlsBelongHere. Read more about the girl ambassadors here.

About International Day of the Girl

In 2009, Plan International Canada led an extensive two-year campaign that engaged thousands of Canadians in a call for an International Day of the Girl as part of the Because I am a Girl, a global initiative to end gender inequality and recognize girls’ rights as human rights. In December 2011, following unanimous all-party support of the Canadian Parliament and support from the United Nations, October 11 was officially declared the International Day of the Girl.

About Plan International Canada and the Because I am a Girl initiative

Founded in 1937, Plan International is one of the world’s oldest and largest international development agencies, working in partnership with millions of people around the world to end global poverty. Not for profit, independent and inclusive of all faiths and cultures, Plan International strives for a just world that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. Because I am a Girl is Plan International’s global movement to transform power relations so that girls everywhere can learn, lead, decide and thrive. Visit and for more information.

Media contacts

Kaili Colford
Senior Media and Public Relations Manager, Plan International Canada
T: 416 920-1654 ext. 350 | C: 647-459-7557 |

Irene Whittaker-Cumming
Senior Manager, Communications, Plan International Canada
T: 416 920-1654 ext. 549 | C: 647 284-9575 |