Meet the young delegates
March 2013: Meet the Plan-supported girl delegates from El Salvador, Finland, Norway, Uganda and Vietnam who are speaking out for girls’ rights at the 57th Commission on the Status of Women* (CSW) at the United Nations in New York.
Marcela, aged 17, sees gender inequality and discrimination against girls as a massive problem in her community, which is just outside El Salvador’s capital city, San Salvador.
Gender-based violence, child marriage and early pregnancy are just some of the challenges facing girls and young women in a society that maintains very strict understandings of the different roles and expected behaviours for men and women.
However, Marcela is a committed to making a difference in her community by challenging some of these gender norms and assumptions that can often have such a negative impact on her peers.
Marcela is part of a project called ‘Cultura de Paz’ (Culture of Peace), where she has been trained to raise awareness among other young people in her community on social issues and challenges. Through a project called VOCES (Voices), Marcela communicates information on the rights of children via media such as radio and video.
While there is still a long way to go, Marcela says, “I learned that being apathetic to everything happening in the community did not contribute to [improving] gender equality. I began to demand my rights and tell others that they are our rights, no one can remove them".
Arawela, aged 16, has been a member of Plan Finland’s children’s board for one and a half years now where she has become a committed advocate for girls’ rights - in particular the right to be free from gender-based violence in and around schools.
She has been part of a campaign to end violence against children, using media and other public engagement techniques to tackle bullying in schools, family violence and cyberbullying.
Arawela is well aware of the discrimination and bullying girls can often face in and around her community, especially as some of her friends have been the victims of sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
Arawela is looking forward to advocating on behalf of girls in Finland and around the world at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, where she will speak out on issues of gender-based violence and promote girls’ and women’s empowerment.
Vilde, aged 19, is a junior advisor for media and youth culture for Plan Norway’s children’s advisory board, where she works with social media and other platforms to raise awareness and engage the public in Norway on child rights issues.
Vilde lives near Oslo with her mother and father. She is a passionate advocate for girls’ rights and gender justice.
She believes that coming from a country that has achieved a considerable measure of gender equality, it is incumbent on her to speak out in solidarity with those women and girls who live in countries where gender-based discrimination is still a major problem.
However, despite Norway’s reputation for gender equality, Vilde believes sexual violence aimed at girls has been a big problem in her community. Many of her friends experience fear of returning home alone at night, where they are vulnerable to assault or harassment.
Hakima, aged 13, is the chairperson of several projects, including a disaster risk reduction project school club and an anti -violence and child protection club in her community.
She is also active in a project called ’promoting urban cities free of gender-based violence’, which aims to make cities more inclusive for girls by tackling gender-based violence and gender inequality.
Hakima lives with both of her parents and more than 10 brothers and sisters. Fortunately there is enough money, through her father’s trading business and her mother’s grocery store, to ensure all children in the family can go to school.
Many other children in her community are not so fortunate, and it is common for children to drop out of school due to an inability to pay school fees. A high number of girls are also victims of gender-based violence and sexual abuse, with many becoming pregnant - forcing them to drop out.
Hakima believes the work she is doing through her projects and clubs is bringing about positive change. Equipped with important skills and knowledge of her rights, Hakima has become a confident and powerful advocate for girls’ rights.
Huyen, aged 16, is from a small village in the suburbs of Hanoi, Vietnam. The village is close enough to the countryside to still rely on farming, but close enough to the bustling city that many - especially girls and migrant women - find work in nearby factories.
Son preference is very strong in Vietnam, and according to Huyen, boys are often spoilt at home while girls, including Huyen and her sister, are expected to complete all the house work - such as cooking and cleaning - while her brother either studies or goes out to play.
At school, Huyen says girls are often the victims of bullying, while migrant women working at the factories in her community are often harassed - especially as they come home late in the evening from long days at work.
However, Huyen has been participating in a programme aimed at building safe, accountable, and inclusive cities with and for girls. Through this programme, Huyen has worked with her peers to find solutions to increase neighbourhood security for girls and is now working with local authorities to make them a reality.
Linh, aged 20, is from Hanoi, Vietnam, where she is a passionate advocate for girls’ participation on issues of safety and protection.
For Linh, girls face numerous forms of discrimination in Vietnam due simply to their age and sex. She experiences gender inequality every day and at every level in society – including within her own family.
Describing a typical family gathering, Linh notes that women and girls are only permitted to eat once the men have finished eating, and are expected to prepare all the food and clean up afterwards. She has noticed that Vietnam’s deeply patriarchal culture often means women are not able to advance professionally.
She also notes that girls in Vietnam are often forced into domestic servitude, or early marriage and are often subjected to sexual violence - particularly in rural areas and minority populations.
Linh says: "...sharing my knowledge about children’s rights with my family, my friends and acquaintances, has made them change their attitudes gradually. Now not only me but also my girlfriends know that we have rights to invest in education and to speak up for our rights to study, to protect ourselves from violence and to participate in making our own decision.”
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