Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

Empowering Girls


The United Nations declared October 11 as International Day of the Girl Child. Canada led the international community in creating this day, along with the support of Plan Canada.


© ACDI-CIDA/Brian Atkinson

Throughout the world, girls can be powerful voices of change in their families, their communities and their nations.

Today more girls are enrolled in primary school than ever before. Despite progress, girls continue to face discrimination. In many developing countries, girls are more vulnerable to malnutrition, early marriage and gender-based violence.

Research has shown that supporting the right of girls, and investing in girls, is key to eliminating poverty and creating healthy sustainable communities. According to the OECD, none of the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved unless there is greater equality between women and men and increased empowerment of women and girls.

Improving girls' lives has a ripple effect. Girls who complete primary education find better jobs, marry later, have fewer children and are half as likely to have children who suffer from malnutrition or die before the age of five.

Canada's actions

Canada is committed to girls' empowerment and to advancing equality between women and men. Through its children and youth strategy, Canada works to increase girls' access to quality education and to protect girls from violence and abuse. Canada's maternal, newborn and child health initiatives are improving the lives of young girls by increasing access to health services, reducing preventable diseases and improving nutrition. Canada's investments are also helping to advance human rights, including those of girls and young women, and build democratic governments.

Canada considers the effect of all its development initiatives on women and girls in order to maximize the impact of its investments.

Some results

  • Canada supports the World Food Programme's (WFP) school feeding program to purchase, deliver and distribute nutritious food to school children, particularly girls, to help increase enrolment and attendance rates. For instance, in Haiti, Canada helped to provide 400,000 girls and boys with a hot meal every day of the school year to improve their learning. In 2011, Canada helped WFP feed 23 million schoolchildren, more than half of them girls.
  • In Afghanistan, Canada helped create more than 4,000 community-based schools, providing basic education to 125,000 students, approximately 80 percent of whom are girls.
  • In Honduras, Canada helped train 180 health workers in health care standards and adolescent counselling and 700 teachers in HIV/AIDS prevention and improved access to gender-sensitive sexual and reproductive health services for 30,000 youth at the community level.
  • In Bangladesh, Canada helped 85 health facilities provide adolescent-friendly reproductive health counselling services to more than 30,281 young men and women, as well as their parents, helping to reduce harmful practices such as early marriage.
  • In Jordan, Canada helped fund leadership and decision-making training sessions that enabled more than one woman to create positive changes in her community and ensure that girls had equal access to science classes.
  • In Tanzania, Canada helped 47 percent of women of reproductive age get access to contraception by 2012, up from 20 percent in 2004
  • In Mali, Canada helped increase access to primary education by 9.4 percent for girls between 2008 and 2010.