Raising voices for women and girls

Extreme poverty leaves young girls and women at risk of sexual and gender-based violence.

Girls' Empowerment-Self Defense program, girls and young women are taught how to defend themselves in Nairobi, Kenya.

Girls and women are particularly vulnerable in communities plagued with poverty and instability. In developing countries one in nine marries before the age of 15.

Providing support through education

Not having access to a proper education limits the potential of these girls and leaves them without many options to pursue a happier, more productive life.

Canada is active globally to improve the lives of these young girls by supporting efforts that educate them, their families and the communities. This information teaches girls that there are other options apart from marriage at a very young age. Awareness also helps young girls better defend themselves against sexual and gender-based violence.

Reaching vulnerable youth

In many developing countries, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia, young girls’ choices, such as going to school or getting married, are not in their own hands. These choices are limited because of poverty, local customs and limited access to education.

Girls who marry at a young age are more likely to experience domestic violence.

In the slums bordering Nairobi, Kenya, for example, one in four girls between the ages of 14 and 19 is sexually assaulted each year. Canada, intending to improve these odds, is working with a local partner, Ujamaa, to end sexual and gender-based violence and prevent radicalization of vulnerable youth.

Developing programs to build community

Through this initiative, the Girls' Empowerment-Self Defense program, girls and young women are taught how to defend themselves by learning techniques and combat skills.

It is also important to teach boys to stand up to sexual assault and harassment in their communities. A parallel program for young boys in the same area, called Your Moment of Truth, teaches boys about the differences between right and wrong and how to say no to drugs. These skills help them understand the importance of staying in school and saying no to becoming involved in terrorist organizations.

Statistics show the success of these projects. Since the beginning of these programs:

  • the incidence of rape in these communities has decreased by 50 %
  • there has been a 47% decrease in teen pregnancy
  • 75 %  more boys than before say they would intervene when they saw someone being assaulted

Photographic exhibit shows lives of girls forced into early marriage

Canada is proud to partner with Girls Not Brides to host Girls Voices: Speaking out Against Child Marriage, a global photographic exhibit that tells the stories of girls, some as young as 10, forced into child marriage.

These girls were brave enough to share their own stories on behalf of the 15 million other young girls who are forced into marriage each year.

Collectively, these girls speak out to put an end to child marriage on a global scale. Early marriage has a profound effect on the lives of young girls and their families. The exhibit portrays the consequences of this widespread and harmful practice and the steps being taken to end it.

Changing attitudes so young girls can reach their potential

Raising awareness among girls and boys, women and men about sexual violence and child, early and forced marriage is critical to changing attitudes. This in turn helps to end practices that harm vulnerable youth in developing countries.

Canada’s efforts to empower young girls represent Canadian values. It is part of a global commitment to protect human rights, support education and improve health and wellness for women and girls. Achieving these goals gives girls the hope of a brighter, more productive future.

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