GIRLS can do anything. This was the view of UNICEF representative to the Pacific Island countries Karen Allen as the Fiji Girl Guides marked the International Day of the Girl in Suva yesterday.
Speaking to young girls and their families, Ms Allen said despite living in the 21st century, millions of girls around the world were still denied their basic rights.
"They live in families, communities and countries where boys are given all the advantages," Ms Allen said.
"We need to raise awareness that girls have the same rights as boys and girls deserve equal attention."
She said the International Day of the Girl, celebrated around the world on October 11, was a day to promote the rights of girls so the world could realise their full potential.
"Unfortunately in the Pacific there are fewer girl leaders than anywhere else around the world and yet everywhere around me I see tremendously impressive girls in the Pacific smart, dynamic, with great ideas and ready to take on leadership roles.
"Girls can do everything. Don't be afraid to stand up, to let us hear your voices.
"Let us support girls because it will be the benefit for everyone, male and female."
UN Population Fund executive director Dr Osotimehin Babatunde in his message marking the International Day of the Girl said while the gender gap in primary school enrolment had narrowed, girls were still more likely to be out of school than boys among primary and lower secondary-age groups.
"Too many girls, especially the most marginalised, have never seen the inside of a classroom, or they go to school only sporadically, never getting the opportunity to acquire the skills they need to reach their full potential," Dr Babatunde said.
"For those in school, challenges like teacher shortages abound, making learning difficult even for the most motivated student.
"Girls are also less likely to complete primary and enrol in secondary schools, and have lower literacy rates than boys."
He said if a girl was educated, healthy, safe and skilled, she would invest in herself and her present and future family, charting a new course for the common future.
The Girl Guides celebrated the day with speeches from young girls and a photo exhibition which was facilitated by Mere Nailatikau and Jeremy Duxbury.