Girls Belong Here: Young leaders ignite change ahead of International Day of the Girl

Plan International Canada’s signature youth leadership program celebrates eight years of connecting girls with decision-makers all over Canada

TORONTO, September 26, 2023 – For the eighth consecutive year, global development and humanitarian organization Plan International Canada is launching its Girls Belong Here program, which provides unique professional development opportunities for girls, young women and gender-diverse youth from all over Canada. These young individuals ages 14 to 24 – students, changemakers, activists and advocates in their communities – step boldly into high-profile leadership roles such as CEOs, corporate executives and politicians, breaking barriers and showcasing their inherent power to lead.

“As determined optimists, we’ve intentionally designed this program to unleash the boundless potential of young changemakers and foster a more equal and just world,” says Anjum Sultana, Plan’s Director of Youth Leadership and Policy Advocacy. “Girls themselves illuminate the path to a brighter, more equal future. We’re here to support their incredible journey as they lead the way. We will continue to champion their leadership until we are all equal.”

Through Girls Belong Here, Plan has already facilitated almost 160 mentorship and skill-building experiences for close to 200 young Canadians. These have involved leaders from corporations, government, civil society organizations and academic institutions. Young people exchange knowledge and ideas with these leaders, providing their perspectives on various organizational strategies and initiatives to advance gender equality.

This remarkable program demonstrates the powerful difference girls can make when they can access equal opportunities. It affirms the invaluable contributions of young women and gender-diverse youth to our society.

“Girls Belong Here isn’t just a program; it’s a powerful movement,” said Yllka Bojku, 25, a Plan Youth Ambassador. “My experience in the program last year ignited a profound sense of confidence in my potential to break barriers and forge a world where every girl knows she belongs.”

The Girls Belong Here program occurs twice per year – in the fall to celebrate International Day of the Girl (October 11) and in the spring to celebrate International Women's Day (March 8).

For the fall 2023 edition, Plan is proud to partner with the following organizations:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)
  • Blackline Safety
  • Results Canada
  • Canada’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York

While the World Economic Forum estimates that achieving gender equality may take as long as 131 years, Plan firmly rejects five more generations of girls being denied their basic human rights simply because of their age and gender. Instead, Plan calls upon everyone to unite in a race against time and inequality to “Beat the Clock.” In alignment with the organization’s pursuit of a world 'until we are all equal,' the Girls Belong Here program inspires collective action in support of girls' rights. The program is dedicated to amplifying girls’ voices, advocating for their rights and elevating their standing in society.

Support today’s young leaders as they break barriers, advocate for equality and ignite change. For more information on how to get involved in this exciting initiative, please visit: You can also watch the 2023 Girls Belong Here Highlight Video.

Follow @PlanCanada and the hashtag #GirlsBelongHere on social media to see the journeys of our program participants as they #BeatTheClock to make gender inequality a thing of the past.

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 we will continue to persevere until we are all equal.

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