NICOLA Sturgeon, Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale have backed a new initiative to “inspire the next generation of female leaders”.

Citizen Girl will see Girlguiding Scotland and equality campaigners Women 50:50 work to encourage more young women into politics.

As part of the move, the youth organisation will offer a new badge to its 50,000-strong membership as public and private bodies are encouraged to increase female representation.

Its launch today coincides with International Women’s Day and Sturgeon said: “Citizen Girl is an initiative that I warmly welcome. It will create new opportunities for girls and young women to shine.”

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Talat Yaqoob, who co-founded Women 50:50 with ex-Scottish Labour leader Dugdale, said: “By showing girls, early on, just how powerful their voices are, we can help create a more equal future for girls and young women in Scotland.

“We can’t wait to see what these inspiring young women achieve when they make their voices heard.”

More than half of females aged between seven and 21 told Girlguiding that gender stereotypes “impact some aspect of their lives”, affecting their ability to speak out, interact with their peers and even how likely they are to participate in class discussions.

Girlguiding Scotland volunteer Hannah Brisbane, 21, said: “With it being 100 years since the first group of women won the right to vote in the UK, it is disappointing that women are still underrepresented in the political process.

“Our research tells us that girls feel like politicians don’t listen and don’t understand their problems. Citizen Girl gives us an exciting opportunity to address these issues during this centenary year and Scotland’s Year of Young People. By empowering girls to use their voice we are creating a more equal future that is long overdue. Every girl deserves the right to have their voice heard.”

Meanwhile Sturgeon has launched a search for a new young woman to mentor through the First Mentor scheme for those aged 18 to 23. The chosen applicant will succeed Fife mum Charlotte Liddell.

Sturgeon said: “Seeing her grow in confidence and discover her potential in the past few months has been a truly enriching experience, and she has also taught me a lot by giving me a new perspective on the many issues affecting young people.”

Liddell said: “I’ve been given opportunities that I had only ever dreamt of.”