Every child should be free to pursue their dreams and live a life that allows them to become the best version of themselves. However, the social realities that come with living in a patriarchal society that discriminates against girls have kept them from achieving their full potential. Girls around the world continue to be punished simply for being girls, carrying the weight of gender-based discrimination as they grow into womanhood.

Despite the progress we have made through the years in the struggle for gender equality, we are yet to eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls, along with the negative cultural attitudes and practices that enable it. Discrimination against girls in education, health, and labor continue to persist, which then limits their social, economic, and political participation.

Today, on the International Day of the Girl Child, guided by this year’s theme “My Voice, Our Equal Future,” we remember how the voice of every girl must be heard if we are to build a better future for them. As we work together towards a future that recognizes the rights of all, we must open up spaces for girls’ participation and amplify their voices that would otherwise be left unheard. Girls around the world have already planted their feet firmly on the ground as they stand at the frontlines of fighting for girls’ rights everywhere, standing in solidarity with other vulnerable sectors who are also fighting for their right to be heard and recognized.

But Covid-19 has only further widened the gaps we need to bridge in order to make this possible for girls. As we fight to end this global pandemic, we must consistently promote and protect the rights of girls and increase awareness of their needs and potential while we continue to work in eliminating discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training.

More than ever, we must eliminate discrimination against girls while ensuring safe and relevant access to basic social services. As public servants, we now have the unique opportunity to reimagine our ways of governance in order to address structural inequalities that have persisted through generations of gender-based discrimination.

We owe this much to the girls who are fighting for their future as they fight for survival during this pandemic. On the International Day of the Girl Child and every day moving forward, we must act on our commitment to ensuring equal rights for all by fighting for the rights of every girl, everywhere.