On October 11 we will mark the International Day of the Girl Child, by acknowledging the value and contribution being made by some 1.1 billion girls, who form part of the world’s population.

This generation of girls is growing up in a time of unprecedented social, political, economic and environmental transformation. Never before have we required such strong leadership and innovation, which incorporates the participation of people of all ages and genders.

In order to meet the global challenges being faced by our world, I believe that we must, first and foremost, remove the obstacles that are currently impeding our progress to achieve full gender equity and equality.

Achieving real opportunities for people of all genders is at the heart of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030, and its Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, SDG Number 5 pledges the international community to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, within our lifetimes.

However, there is currently no country in the world where men and women are truly treated equally. At the current rate of progress, according to indicators from the World Economic Forum, it will take an estimated 170 years to achieve full gender parity. We cannot afford to wait that long. I am certain that, in order to create a sustainable and long-term change, we must actively include the voices and experiences of our young girls. They are essential stakeholders in our journey towards positive change. We must set our girls on a trajectory in which they are given the same opportunities to thrive and to reach their full potential, just like our boys.

Girls must be assured of equitable access to opportunities in all facets of their lives, from education through to employment. When we respect the full dignity and well-being of women and girls, and the value of their contributions, that we can make a real difference in our communities and our society.

We must raise our daughters to think of themselves as potential leaders and innovative thinkers, with a worthwhile contribution to make to our society

For this reason, we must continue to promote active processes of child participation, which recognise children as social agents in their own right. We must raise our daughters to think of themselves as potential leaders and innovative thinkers, with a worthwhile contribution to make to our society.

There is an urgent need to widen the opportunities open for children, and lift up our young girls in particular, by empowering them to become women who lead. It is for this reason that I am a proud patron for the #Girl2Leader campaign, launched by the Women Political Leaders Global Forum.

The #Girl2Leader campaign seeks to overcome dangerous forms of gender stereotyping, and create an environment which encourages and supports young women to consider the possibility of a career in politics and leadership.

I would like to acknowledge a number of individuals and organisations, both locally and internationally, who are helping us to share the message that underpins the International Day of the Girl Child.

In terms of the #Girl2Leader campaign, we have received valuable support from MEPs Marlene Mizzi, Francis Zammit Dimech, Miriam Dalli and Alfred Sant, each of who have committed to support a Maltese delegation of young women to be present in Brussels on Wednesday, for the official launch of the #Girl2Leader campaign.

This important initiative is being coordinated by my foundation, that is, the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, which has organised a number of other initiatives to mark the International Day of the Girl Child. Representatives from Google have visited Malta to share their #IAmRemarkable programme. Along with the Women Political Leaders Global Forum, trainers will engage in workshops with female students, to stimulate further discussion and create opportunities for the empowerment of female students.

On Wednesday, which is the International Day of the Girl Child, the #Girl2Leader campaign will be launched in Brussels. Locally, a parallel event to mark this UN day will be held at the University of Malta, in collaboration with KSU. The day will also mark the official launch of emPOWer, a Platform of Organisations for Women, being facilitated by my foundation. This platform also aims to encourage more women to participate in positions of influence and leadership.

A panel discussion will then be held, posing the question of how we can collectively contribute towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal Number 5 on gender equality by the United Nations’ target date of 2030.

If we hope to overcome the many challenges facing our world today, while also promoting positive peace, holistic well-being and social justice, then I am certain that cannot afford to leave half of our human family behind.

Our country, and our world, needs inspiring role models and strong strategies for shared leadership. The world needs the precious participation of all our women and girls, alongside men and boys.

In this way, we shall be creating the kind of future that we will be proud to hand down to future generations.