Celebrating 10 years of the International Day of the Girl: Meet the Young Leaders Joining CanWaCH For Girls Belong Here

Hosted by Plan International Canada, the Girls Belong Here initiative is part of a global movement to amplify girls’ voices, advocate for their rights and elevate their position in society. 

Through opportunities that range from seat shares, that allow youth ambassadors to step into the role of leaders, to speaker series, that allow youth to speak at conferences and townhalls, the initiative creates spaces for girls, in all their diversity, to share their voices, ideas and solutions with leaders and organization. 

A partner of the program, CanWaCH has welcomed inspiring young leaders in previous years, including Felicia Gisondi, the current executive director and founder of Sex and Self and a bursary recipient at the Equal Futures Network’s inaugural gender equality summit, and Arissa Roy, the founder of Project Power Global (PPG), who recently participated in the transforming education summit hosted during the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

This October, CanWaCH is pleased to welcome five youth ambassadors to our team through the Girls Belong Here innovation hub. The experience will see Ada Sampot, Amelie Gong, Cindy Zhu, Iqra Erum, and Sofia Tang share their unique ideas and insights to help shape CanWaCH’s youth engagement strategy and Equal Futures 2023, our next gender equality summit.

Meet the young leaders:

Ada Sampot 

Ada is a Filipino high school student who is always willing to participate and explore exciting new experiences. Actively involved in community, Ada has encountered multiple voluntary chances and taken them. These have included assisting with clubs in high school, such as Student Council and packaging essentials at Harvest for people who are less fortunate in Manitoba.

Ada is constantly aware of the issues around society and believes that joining opportunities like Girls Belong Here offer a platform to speak out for those who can’t. 

Amelie Gong

Amelie is a passionate, sociable and driven high school senior residing in Ontario. Enjoying a range of interests, Amelie finds joy in leadership roles that offer an opportunity to support others and share knowledge.

Amelie has participated in business competitions, mock trial tournaments, Model United Nations conferences, tutored math to students aged 10-17.

She also kickstarted a Greater Toronto Area branch of a nonprofit organization that has connected over 70 youth volunteers to pediatric cancer patients. Through Girls Belong Here, Amelie, is excited for the opportunity to be able to learn from professionals and other passionate youth!

Cindy Zhu

Cindy is a proud second-generation Asian-Canadian immigrant. Self-motivated, dedicated, and resilient, Cindy is constantly seeking for new ways to grow and give back to the world. Cindy has worked on the Vaccine Confidence, Social-Emotional Learning, and Parkinson’s Disease projects with the STaBL Foundation and McMaster Start Coding, divisions of McMaster University.

In these positions, Cindy worked to create new designs that can increase COVID-19 vaccination rates, gamify social-emotional learning for younger students, and program prototypes to assess and predict the likelihood of Parkinson’s disease in older adults. 

In the future, Cindy aims to one day combine the power of data and technology to develop an app prototype, using Augmented Reality (AR) to combat the current climate crisis, while also alleviating the impacts of climate racism and sexism, a phenomenon that occurs as climate change exacerbates existing racial, ethnic, and gender inequities. As a part of the Girls Belong Here program, Cindy hopes to acquire further insight from like-minded youth, innovators, and organizations, that will help progress these ideas and visions into reality.

Iqra Erum

Iqra is currently a Junior Product Manager at Publicis Sapient, a tech consulting company focused on digital business transformation. Alongside this role, Iqra works with a group of peers through the University of Toronto’s New Venture Program on a passion project called Being Seen.

Through this project, Iqra and the team aim to create a platform that allows for more connectivity between shelters and organizations that support those going through homelessness within Toronto. Iqra is a passionate advocate for Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health rights and seeks to engage with community to raise awareness of its importance. 

Sophia Tang

Sophia is high-school senior, innovator, social entrepreneur, and student researcher driven by a deep passion for tackling multi-layered problems that disproportionately impact women. Sophia currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of GirlTechBoss, a non-profit aiming to empower young girls in STEM. This role has seen Sophia lead large-scale events including the EntrepreneuHER Makeathon, a 2-day event of keynotes, workshops, and a culminating pitch competition with over 1,000 female and non-binary identifying attendees.

In 2022, Sophia co-founded Amali, a social enterprise aiming to reduce morbidity from female genital schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa. Sophia looks forward to pursuing a dual-degree program, exploring the intersection of life sciences and social entrepreneurship, and is committed to understanding the realities of people living in the worst situations and building frameworks to tackle those problems. 


October 11, 2022