Statement by Minister Paradis: International Day of the Girl Child

October 11, 2013

History shows that it has never been easy to be a girl. Although we have seen steady improvement in the treatment and status of girls, they still face disproportionate inequalities worldwide.

In many countries, girls do not have access to quality education, nutrition, and basic health services. They are also more vulnerable to poverty, violence, and discrimination. Over the next decade, more than 140 million girls will be forced into early marriage—most of them before the age of 18.

The restrictions placed on many girls in the developing world are disturbing in their own right, but even more so when we consider the impact strong, healthy, and educated girls have on the economic prosperity of their families and communities.

Girls' rights are human rights, and improving their lives creates a safer and brighter future for everyone. Access to quality education is one of the best tools we can provide. Educated girls are healthier. They marry later and they are more likely to plan their families.

The Government of Canada puts significant emphasis on the rights of girls, and makes a considerable effort to support the empowerment of girls in developing countries. All of our programs for children and youth have a particular focus on girls.

For example, Canada's programming in Afghanistan has provided basic education to approximately 145,000 children—80 percent of them girls. We have also helped train more than 8,000 Afghan teachers, a large percentage of them women. Through the Muskoka Initiative on maternal, newborn, and child health, we are also improving the health of mothers and children, with an emphasis on young mothers under 18.

On this day, I encourage you to learn more about the inequalities girls face, and how you can join the global effort to improve their lives.

Christian Paradis
Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie