Girls face a range of dangers in the city. We face risks while travelling around the city and when getting to school. Yet our voices are often not heard by those who can help make the changes that will protect us.
Our dream is for cities in which adolescent girls can freely travel anywhere, at any time, without having to worry about their safety.
Around 10 million people live in Hanoi. It has developed quickly with good infrastructure, however, girls like us don’t benefit much. We don’t feel confident when travelling in public places for fear of being harassed or mugged. There is a lack of public spaces that are safe and friendly for girls - who often still face discriminatory attitudes that they shouldn’t be active and outdoors as much as boys!
We want those in power to know about the challenges that adolescent girls face while living in big cities and we want to contribute to building cities that are safer, friendlier and more beautiful. But we can only help if we are able to participate in city planning and community management and our voices are amplified by those who hold the power.
Speaking out about safety
Some girls talk to their mothers or teachers if they experience safety issues or harassment but many keep it to themselves because they think that it’s not worth telling adults. They think that adults either won’t care, or might blame them for getting caught up in it.
Before our participation in the Safer Cities for Girls project, our parents didn’t talk to us about safety, and we didn’t speak to them about it. We were afraid they might forbid us to go out. However, by taking part in the programme over the last year we have learned about gender equality and girls’ rights. We have been equipped with skills to raise our voice to teachers, parents, and local authorities.
This knowledge has helped us have more strength and confidence to protect ourselves, speak up for our friends and contribute to making cities safer for girls.
Our parents have started listening more and more, too. They totally support our participation and want to understand more about the issues so they can help if we’re ever in need. Instead of forbidding us to go out, they come with us!
Getting our voices heard
Armed with this newfound confidence, we attended the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur with Plan International who encouraged us to participate actively and raise our voices! It was the first time either of us had been abroad. We met boys and girls from all corners of the world, and spoke in front of many foreign people. It was an amazing experience for us.
Working with Plan International has helped us participate actively and raise our voices confidently.
'Cities for girls = cities for all' is our ongoing message. Our dream is for cities in which adolescent girls can freely travel anywhere, at any time, without having to worry about their safety.
The concept is that a city that is safe for girls will be safe for everyone. Linh shared this idea with 100 child representatives and about 60 development sector representatives at the Hard Talk session where children from around the world got involved in the serious and difficult questions at hand on the very first day.
Sharing safety solutions
Throughout the rest of the week, we received encouragement and appreciation from leaders and activists at the forum. They showed their support for what we have been doing to make our city safer and pledged their commitment to do more to make all cities safer for adolescent girls.
We met many high-level representatives, including Ms Maimunah Mohd Sharif, the new Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, who listened to our suggestions about girls safety and pledged their commitment to ‘cities for girls = cities for all’.*
It was fantastic to discuss safety in cities with girls from around the world and see that though we come from different countries, we face the same issues. Girls and women are so often left behind. However, working with Plan International has helped us participate actively and raise our voices confidently. So now what we want to say is that it’s time for change.
You’ve listened to girls' stories of harassment and abuse. Now it’s time to listen to girls’ solutions for safety, too.
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