Girls in Canada subject to dating violence, self-harm, low self-esteem, racial discrimination

Thursday, March 7 2013

National report shows that while girls are gaining ground in education, challenges remain

Montreal - February 28, 2013: On the eve of International Women’s Day, a new report, Beyond Appearances:  Brief on the Main Issues Facing Girls in Canada, uncovers the real story of girls’ lives in Canada. The never-before compiled information reveals that girls still face many hurdles despite gains in education and legal equality.

What It Means to Be a Girl: The Canadian Context

Despite advances over the years, girls in Canada face pressures—new and old—that limit their potential. Canadian statistics and research findings prove that the real-life challenges of girls have not been addressed - particularly for girls who are marginalized, such as immigrant, Indigenous, racialized, or rural girls.

Canada’s nearly 3.6 million girls  are important contributors to our country’s well-being and overall success. Girls already contribute to the quality of life in their families, schools and communities. Girls will soon grow into women whose leadership, choices, work, and care for family will have a significant impact on Canadian society. By starting early to support girls to fulfil their potential, Canada will be closer to reducing the gender gap.

Today’s girls receive conflicting messages. They are supposed to be both liberated and traditional, a contradiction that produces tension in their daily lives. Many girls in Canada grow up being told: “you can be anything you want to be”. While education and career opportunities have improved greatly over the past decades, gender stereotypes persist and young people in Canada still face considerable pressure to conform to traditional male and female roles.  Girls today also feel increasing pressure to do everything and please everyone.. 

In addition, girls are impacted each day by systemic barriers caused by factors such as poverty, rural location, racialization, immigration and the colonization of Indigenous communities. These social and cultural influences form the backdrop to girls’ experiences with education and career prospects, violence, and mental and physical health.  

What Are the Issues Facing Girls in Canada?

Harnessing never-before compiled information and drawing on national and provincial surveys of youth, the in-depth report Beyond Appearances: Brief on the Main Issues Facing Girls in Canada, identifies key areas that require attention (see FACTS on page 2 for statistics):

While there are many commonalities among experiences of girls in Canada, some groups of girls face multiple barriers and carry specific strengths, including the following:

What Do Girls Need to Succeed?

When girls receive the support they need, a dramatic ripple effect can be created. Girls and young women have the potential to be leaders and change-makers. They are resilient and innovative; they can grow up to improve their own socio-economic situation and that of their communities. They can help build a stronger economy, environment and society.

Key factors that facilitate girls’ development include:


Mental health: Patterns and Trends in Girls’ Lives

A key finding of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s 2011 report, The Health of Canada’s Young People, was that: “Girls consistently report more negative emotional health outcomes than boys. Mental health suffers as young people move through Grades 6 to 10, especially for girls.”

Physical Health: Patterns and Trends in Girls’ Lives

Education and Career Prospects: Patterns and Trends in Girls’ Lives


Girls Action Foundation is a Canadian national charitable organization that has been advancing girls’ empowerment since 1995. Girls Action Foundation leads and seeds girls’ programs across Canada. The organization builds girls’ and young women’s skills and confidence and inspires action to change the world. Through its innovative programs, research, and support to a national network of over 300 partnering organizations and projects, Girls Action reaches over 60,000 girls and young women. The organization prioritizes the involvement of girls and organizations in marginalized communities, including indigenous, racialized, rural, newcomer and Northern communities.

To arrange interviews with Saman Ahsan, Executive Director of Girls Action Foundation, please contact:

Elvira Truglia, Communications Manager 
Mobile: 514.213.2876
Office: 514.948.1112


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