She made these remarks on Tuesday during the commemoration of the International Day of the Girl.
Dr Kanem said that too often, girls’ voices are silenced at home, school and in the public spheres.
She showed that the silence of millions of girls around the world is enforced through female genital mutilation, child marriage and other harmful practices.
“These practices do not only violate a girl’s bodily integrity and autonomy, but they also steal her confidence and ability to make informed choices about her life,” she said.
A study by the UNFPA and partners, Dr Kanen said shows that the COVID-19 pandemic could result in 13 million more child marriages and two million more cases of female genital mutilation between now and 2030, beyond the millions already expected to take place.
She noted that adolescent pregnancy is on the rise, adding that girls under lockdown and out of school are highly vulnerable to harm.
With the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda as a guide, she said there is need to do better to ensure that girls are not left behind, as they cannot allow the current crisis to derail the future of an entire generation.
She therefore urged all to redouble their efforts towards a gender-equal world, one where every girl has the power to make informed choices about her body and her life.