Twenty-three girls symbolically took charge of 12 Embassies and High Commissions in the national capital for a day on the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child on Wednesday.

Such diplomatic missions included those of the Delegation of the European Union to India, Embassies of Spain, Sweden, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Slovenia, France and the USA besides the High Commissions of South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The event ~ organised by an NGO Plan India in collaboration with the Delegation of the European Union to India, the High Commission of Canada and other diplomatic missions ~ provided a platform to girls from “Plan India communities” to take over powerful positions for a day by stepping into the roles of Ambassadors, High Commissioners and top diplomats.

The initiative was part of Plan India’s efforts to strive to bring down barriers of discrimination that continue to hold girls back in society by supporting efforts for greater opportunities for girls and celebrating their power and potential.

The symbolic “takeovers” took place with the girls actively shadowing the Ambassadors and High Commissioners, and taking on their roles for a short period, chairing meetings and engaging with key staff members in their respective missions during the day.

The takeovers at different diplomatic missions concluded with a large gathering at a hotel this afternoon where selected girls and their respective Heads of Missions engaged in an open discussion on their experiences. A youth-led interactive art installation programme was also organised there.

Commenting on the initiative, Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director, Plan India, said, “Despite significant progress over the last several decades toward girls’ and women’s equal participation, gaps still remain. It is our responsibility to create an environment that will enable every girl to fulfil her dreams.”

Eighteen-year-old Babita from Delhi, who took over as the Ambassador of France, told the gathering, “I believe girls can do everything, but they need the support of everyone around to break down the barriers that stop them from achieving their objectives. The ‘girls’ takeover’ initiative will help build the confidence among girls like me to chase our dreams and aspire to change the world around us.”

Sonia, 22, who took over as the Ambassador of the Netherlands, said, “International Day of the Girl Child will help initiate discussions on the challenges faced by girls. The ‘girls’ takeovers’ will help in breaking the shackles by revealing new opportunities to many who do not believe these exist.”

A joint statement issued by 30 diplomatic missions in India to mark International Day of the Girl Child reaffirmed their countries’ strong commitment to promoting gender equality, empowerment of women and girls and the advancement of their human rights.

Plan India also released a report titled “Unlock the Power of Girls Now” on the occasion. The prevailing situation demonstrates clearly that gender inequality leading to aggression, prejudice and poverty is still very much a part of the fabric of our society, says the report.