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Gender equality
& Inclusion

All societies are struggling for greater equality – at different paces, with different levels of progress and many challenges. There is no country in the world, where there is full gender equality in any walk of life. Gender inequality intensifies the negative effects of all other forms of discrimination and exclusion and is different and often worse for girls and women.

Girls often face the most significant barriers to exercising their rights and reaching their full potential, which is why gender equality and girls’ rights remain a distinct priority for our work.



girls are married by their 18th birthday each year; that’s nearly 1 every 2 seconds.

Women and girls represent


of all undernourished people in the world.



girls worldwide have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.

What does gender equality mean?

Gender equality means that all persons, regardless of their gender, enjoy the same status in society; have the same entitlements to all human rights; enjoy the same level of respect in the community; can take advantage of the same opportunities to make choices about their lives; and have the same amount of power to shape the outcomes of these choices. Gender equality does not mean that women and men, or girls and boys are the same.

Women holding a girl power sign

Women and men, girls and boys, and individuals with diverse gender identities have different but related needs and priorities, face different constraints, and have access to different opportunities. Their relative positions in society are based on norms that, while not fixed, tend to advantage men and boys and disadvantage women and girls. Consequently, they are affected in different ways by policies and programs.

A gender equality approach is about understanding these relative differences and intersecting identities, appreciating that they are not rigid and can be changed. It is important to keep these differences and intersecting identities in mind when designing strategies, policies, programs and services. Ultimately, promoting gender equality means transforming the power relations between women and men, girls and boys and individuals with different gender identities in order to create a more just society for everyone.

Why is gender equality important?

Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls is a fundamental human right and the proven pathway to sustainable development. Gender equality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but is also integral to all other 16 goals. All the SDGs depend on achieving gender equality.

Indisputable evidence shows that investing in gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls by amplifying their inherent agency and the personal, social, financial and physical asset of girls reaps tremendous rewards.

When girls have equal opportunity to reach their potential, they are powerful agents of change.

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For every extra year a girl stays in school, her income can increase by 11 percent.

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If all women completed primary education, there would be 66% fewer maternal deaths.

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If women equally participated in the global economy, they could generate additional GDP worth $28 trillion by 2025.

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When women are engaged in peacebuilding, solutions are more comprehensive and long-lasting.

Gender inequality anywhere leads to the subordination and exclusion of women and girls, sidelining half of the world’s talent, experience and knowledge, leaving societies operating at under 50 percent capacity. For development assistance to yield maximum impact, it is critical to go beyond improving the condition of women and girls to improve their social position by investing in girls and women and in bringing about a change in the external barriers that block their way to power!

Therefore, achieving gender equality, promoting gender justice, realizing girls’ rights and fostering an inclusive society are core objectives of all our work as an organization dedicated to child rights and equality for girls.

How does Plan International Canada
help advance gender equality?

Group of girls

Plan International Canada knows achieving the SDG ambition of ‘leaving no one behind’ requires transformative change. We confront and challenge discrimination and human rights violations based on gender. All our work- programming or advocacy - tackles the root causes of gender inequality and reshapes unequal power relations. It focuses not only on providing equal opportunities and outcomes for all, but on removing the barriers that keep girls and women from achieving their full potential and exercising their rights.

Our gender transformative approach is rights-based -- across our programs including education, health, economic empowerment, gender-based violence, child early and forced marriage etc. -- and works at multiple levels of change from the individual to the household, community and policies, laws and services so that everyone, particularly girls and women can realize their rights and reach their full potential and the change is sustainable. All initiatives are based on robust evidence of the context the programs are implemented in, based on which interventions are designed.

With women, girls, men and boys we:

  • Support girls and women in building their inherent individual and collective agency. This means the critical ability to make an informed choice and act on that choice in all matters that affect them. This is done by:

  • Support the creation of an enabling social environment for gender equality. This includes:

  • Support systemic change to make institutions and services more gender-responsive and adolescent friendly. This includes:

How do we measure success?

Gender transformative work is multifaceted, integrated and complex if it is to achieve its ultimate objective of realizing women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality by shifting entrenched and unequal social norms, attitudes and behaviours. These changes, especially in attitudes and perceptions, are difficult to measure.

Plan International Canada has developed a comprehensive girl/woman centric index – Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment Index- that measures changes in the root causes of gender inequality and captures the breadth and scope of gender transformative change.

Advancing Gender Equality in Canada

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Youth for Gender Equality (YGE) is a three-year initiative co-led by Plan International Canada and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF-FCE). The initiative engages youth throughout Canada to spearhead progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality.

It has resulted in the first-ever, youth-led Roadmap for gender equality in which youth from around Canada 20 immediate, actionable commitments that we can each make to advance gender equality in this country.

Download the Roadmap

Explore Plan International Canada's reports and publications on gender equality & inclusion.

 Read our gender equality & inclusion reports

Ways YOU can help advance gender equality

In addition to downloading the Roadmap and actioning the items youth in Canada have outlined for all of us, you can also help advance equality by supporting our global work.

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Gifts of hope

Shop to support real projects that help advance girls’ rights around the world. Gifts range from getting girls in school to improving their access to menstrual products.

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Sponsor a girl

Help a girl realize their right to live, learn, decide and thrive. Together, we can create a world where all girls unleash their full potential.

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