October 6, 2020, Toronto, ON – COVID-19 is setting girls back – unravelling decades of progress on gender equality and girls’ rights here in Canada and around the world. In Canada, women’s employment levels have still not recovered from the lockdown, and women continue to be left out of the workforce as they care for children and family members during the pandemic. For young women, COVID-19 has hindered the way they learn and grow – impacting everything from their education and job opportunities to their ability to build professional networks.

To stop the setback, Plan International Canada’s youth leadership program Girls Belong Here is highlighting the power and potential of girls and young women through virtual seat shares throughout Canada.

Since 2016, Girls Belong Here has created opportunities for young women to step into high-profile, professional roles for a day to demonstrate that women belong at all levels of leadership. To adapt to our current reality, this year’s program is taking place digitally, with leaders sharing their role and creating space for our youth ambassadors to offer their voices, stories, ideas and solutions.

The following organizations have stepped up to participate in the 2020 program:

  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)
  • Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH)
  • Equitable Bank
  • EY
  • Jays Care Foundation
  • Pfizer Canada
  • RBC
  • Richardson GMP
  • The Body Shop
  • The Canadian Women’s Foundation
  • Twitter
  • Unilever

Plan International Canada recognizes the unwavering dedication of these organizations to investing in girls during this historic and challenging time — particularly the program’s executive sponsor BMO, who has stepped up as lead sponsor for a third consecutive year.

“Creating inclusive spaces for our customers, colleagues and communities, so everyone can reach their full potential, is core to our purpose commitment of a society with zero barriers – especially for women and underrepresented groups,” said Karen Collins, Chief Talent Officer, BMO Financial Group. “Throughout our involvement in the Girls Belong Here program, we've been impressed and inspired by the intelligence, resilience, and confidence of these young women, and we’re proud to partner with Plan International Canada to create clear paths for the female leaders of tomorrow.”

“As a young Black woman and new graduate interested in running a business one day – I am thrilled to be participating in Girls Belong Here and connecting with BMO who have demonstrated a real commitment to supporting Black entrepreneurs,” says Léandre, the youth ambassador who will be stepping into the role of Chief Information and Operations Officer for Capital Markets for BMO. “Girls Belong Here has fast-tracked my ability to meet senior leadership that can advise on making my dreams a reality, which is so critical at this time when there are so many increased barriers to women’s advancement in the wake COVID-19”

To mark this historic #DayoftheGirl Plan International Canada and Girls Belong Here partners are committed to supporting girls and women, so they can continue to harness their power and potential, pandemic or no pandemic.

Visit to learn more about this landmark program and how you can get involved.


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 Because I am a 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.

About Plan International Canada

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 70 countries.

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

For media inquiries please contact:

Leah Siversky
Plan International Canada | 437-828-8877