Young women challenge the leadership status quo with Plan International Canada’s Girls Belong Here program

Plan International Canada welcomes its largest virtual Girls Belong Here cohort yet

TORONTO, ON, September 14, 2021 – Plan International Canada celebrates the inherent power and leadership potential of girls, whose voices are needed more than ever to address global challenges, including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to shape a more equal world. From boardrooms to newsrooms and courtrooms, girls and young women deserve equal opportunities to swing the door open and take their rightful seat at the table.

As part of Plan International Canada’s longstanding youth leadership program Girls Belong Here, more than 40 trailblazing young women have teamed up with participating corporate partners and not-for-profit organizations to challenge what leadership looks like and to take action to ensure the future of leadership is diverse and equal.

In the lead up to the International Day of the Girl, marked annually on October 11, leaders will engage and connect with young minds with fresh perspectives on gender equality and recommendations on how to create enabling environments. On the other hand, young women will gain and learn vital leadership skills – they will lead meetings, participate in key conversations, present solutions, and discuss their own work and activism for gender equality.

“Girls and young women have endless potential to change the world – we know their voices are uniquely powerful. But when it comes to leadership opportunities, the odds are rarely stacked in their favour. Girls Belong Here calls for investment in girls and young women’s leadership and brings their ideas and solutions to the forefront, as they should be,” says Lindsay Glassco, President and CEO, Plan International Canada.

“Harmful gender stereotypes and discrimination are pervasive and hold girls back from rising to leadership positions. Organizations across all sectors have a role to play in removing the barriers girls and young women run into – listening to their solutions and perspectives is an important step in that direction.”

When girls have access to skills training and better opportunities, they can powerfully claim their right to a path of their choosing. This year, we have expanded our scope beyond leadership seat shares to include new avenues for engagement through Innovation Hubs and a Speaker Series. Innovation Hubs are a two-way learning opportunity and a unique way for partners to get youths’ perspectives on key company projects at a youth-led round table event, while our Speaker Series will engage youth participants in speaking opportunities at organizations. In addition to Canada, the program will also include youth leaders from Sweden and Switzerland who will participate in seat shares with this year’s Global Sponsor, AstraZeneca, and youth leaders from the United States will also partner with AstraZeneca and The Body Shop.

“Not a single country in the world has achieved gender equality. If girls and women continue to be held back, we will never get there. By participating in this program, my hope is to spark change and advocate for girls and women to be valued as equals in the workplace and beyond,” says Kenisha, 18, a youth ambassador paired with AstraZeneca this year.

“We can't influence the world's future unless we allow half of the population to feel empowered enough to change their own. We need to provide tools and opportunities for young girls like myself to be heard. But just having one girl at the table isn't enough. We must bring in more chairs for women and women of ethnic minorities to lead.”

Organizations participating in the Girls Belong Here program this year include:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)
  • IBM
  • The Body Shop
  • RBC
  • Jenny Bird
  • Twitter
  • Unilever
  • CanWaCH
  • Career Professionals of Canada
  • Canadian Women’s Foundation
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Jays Care Foundation
  • Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations
  • YWCA

For more information about Plan International Canada’s Girls Belong Here program and how to get involved, please visit:


In 2009, Plan International Canada led an extensive campaign that engaged thousands of Canadians in a call for an International Day of the Girl, a global initiative to end gender inequality and 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.


Plan International Canada is a member of a global organization dedicated to advancing children’s rights and equality for girls. We have been building powerful partnerships for children for over 80 years and are now active in more than 75 countries.

Visit for more information and follow @PlanCanada on social media to join the conversation.

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Plan International Canada
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