Faridah is 20 years old and lives in the Ugandan capital of Kampala. She’s a single mother with two children aged four and 10 months. Faridah sells nuts and chips at night by the roadside to survive, even though she knows she is not safe. “I have been assaulted several times. A year ago, when I was pregnant, I was walking in the street with a friend when we were attacked by drug dealers and she was raped and killed”. What Faridah witnessed, is shockingly not an isolated event. One in four girls across the globe have suffered sexual abuse.
Girls want a world where they can live freely without fear of attack, where they are treated with dignity and respect, where they are equally seen, heard and valued. That is what they all want. Yet for the the vast majority of girls this is a distant dream as they live in countries and communities where harmful gender norms and practices hold them back. Every day, the hopes and aspirations of girls the world over are being crushed by violence, poverty and discrimination.
Girls everywhere continue to be undervalued, undermined and underestimated. It’s unacceptable that they are still victims of violence and trapped by discrimination and outdated rules that deny their power and limit their freedom.
Today, on International Day of the Girl, the world shines a spotlight on these challenges that girls face, calls on decision makers to improve girls lives and encourages girls to put themselves at the heart of the change the world needs. This is incredibly important, but still falls short. At the current pace of change it will take 100 years to close the global gender gap. We must speed up. That’s why Plan International has launched a new global campaign - Girls Get Equal. This will be the world’s biggest girl-led campaign for gender equality.
Girls Get Equal comes in a year that has seen a tidal wave of awareness for gender equality through movements such as #MeToo. Yet despite this groundswell of change, girls everywhere continue to be undervalued, undermined and underestimated. It’s unacceptable that they are still victims of violence and trapped by discrimination and outdated rules that deny their power and limit their freedom. Girls Get Equal calls for a new world with new rules and urges supporters, world leaders and girl activists to unite to end the abuse, harassment and negative stereotyping of girls. Only then can their true power as leaders and drivers of change be unleashed, creating a world that is better for everyone.
Girls Takeover in global day of collective action
To kick start this campaign, yesterday at our Global Girls Summit in Brussels we brought together 500 of the world’s leading change-makers in the arts, business, government, entrepreneurship, science, sport and media to celebrate the potential of girls, call for urgent action to support girls’ power everywhere and commit to do their part. At the same time we are again unlocking the power of our #GirlsTakeover global initiative all over the world. Thousands of girls in 70 countries from El Salvador to the Philippines will stage takeovers today, becoming Presidents, Ministers and CEOs for a day. Girls belong in the spotlight and must become more visible in places of power and influence. These takeovers demonstrate a real commitment to the rights of girls as hundreds of leaders stand aside and stand up for girls.
We know that change is possible. Faridah’s story did not stop with tragedy and despair. She joined Plan International’s Safer Cities for Girls programme and became a champion of change in her community. She is working in her city to encourage government officials to make it safer for girls by improving lighting, cleaning up the streets and training local transport workers. Faridah has now taken her message to the world. Last month at the United Nations, where I had the privilege to meet her, she spoke to powerful politicians and policy makers about the urgent changes girls want.
Faridah will not be stopped. This movement will not be stopped. Now is the time for change and everyone has a role to play. Join us.
Girls can and will lead change, but they need allies. Will you join the call for equality?
Let this be the year the world truly wakes up to girls’ power. Show your support by joining us: