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Girls are facing an uphill struggle

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A fortnight ago, a girl's voice stopped the world. In her compelling address to the United Nations, Greta Thunberg was the essence of "girl power". Yet her treatment was a stark reminder of the scrutiny to which women, including young women and girls, are subjected in public life.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

Thunberg was variously infantilised, her appearance and intellect mocked or questioned, she was patronised and her credibility and mental health debated. But her resolve was stronger than her critics and she took the disparagement as an opportunity to highlight the need for diversity and difference in public and political life.

Today we celebrate International Day of the Girl Child. Girls' rights charity Plan International Australia has launched new research revealing girls and young women see sexism as the biggest issue facing them (62 per cent), but they also feel that they are well placed to combat it and to achieve gender equality.

They are influenced by strong female leaders and activists, ranging from Jacinda Ardern and Julia Gillard to girls closer to their age: Greta, Malala Yousafzai and Emma Watson.

We need young women's and girls' voices. We need them engaged in leadership and decision-making. This is the only way to achieve prosperity for all. When I became a senator, I loved receiving........

© Canberra Times