On International Women’s Day, people worldwide are celebrating the strength and power of women. Women they know. Women they are inspired by. Women leading the fight for equality. And the trailblazers who share their power by showing girls what they can become and giving them the opportunity to lead as well.
Women like Michelle Obama who is campaigning for girls’ education; 'Black Panther' star Letitia Wright and her mission to get more young women into science and engineering careers; or Mich Dulce who set up Grrrl Gang in the Philippines to create safe spaces for girls to advocate for change.
Inspirational women leaders
When women challenge the status quo, they can ignite girls’ own leadership aspirations. Female leaders who step aside for our Girls’ Takeover on International Day of the Girl send a powerful signal to aspiring young leaders. When Lorena, 13, took over from Colombia’s Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez in October 2018, it was an inspirational experience for her. Lorena was able to speak to the Colombian national media about girls’ rights and tell them, “We can achieve great things if we come together to change what is not right.”
The power of role models
"Young women and girls need to see confident and strong women leading in their workplaces, schools and homes. Positive female role models will inspire and motivate the next generation of young women, as well as give them hope that things can and will be different for them."
Aneeka, 24, Girls Get Equal peer mentor
All over the world Plan International is working alongside girls and young women who are advocating for change in their communities and countries – campaigning to end child marriage, get access to better health services, or have the voices of young people heard in their governments.
Yolande, 25, from Togo, told Plan International how she started campaigning when her 16-year-old cousin was married: “She was unable to choose her husband, continue her education or even simply enjoy her youth. My cousin’s situation led me to start fighting against child marriage in Togo and become a defender of girls’ rights.”
Girl and young women campaigners like Lorena and Yolande frequently come up against discriminatory attitudes that say, “This is no place for girls” – which will sound all too familiar to many women. They also tend not to be listened to because they are deemed too young or inexperienced. Young activists Plan International works with in El Salvador told us that being identified as “youth” separated them from older, more established feminist groups and the wider feminist movement.
Building collective power
In Latin America and the Caribbean, many of the activists we work with say allying themselves with women and the wider movement for gender equality has helped them to advocate without fear. In our School of Political Empowerment in Latin America, making the connections between younger and older generations of activists to support ‘collective influencing’ is seen as a key strategy to harness the power of diverse groups and movements.
Why we need mentors
"We’re focused on promoting girls leadership, freedom, activism and for that, it is critical how our powerful stories are portrayed and girls and women are represented. Mentorship helps in sharing the best with one another: knowledge, skills, values and ideas."
Chamathya, 25, Girls Get Equal peer mentor
Through setting up our global campaign, Girls Get Equal, we have recognised the value of connecting activists of all ages. Girls Get Equal was built with the help of a group of young dedicated male and female campaigners. This year, to make space for younger activists, 5 of those campaigners left the group. They are joining the Girls Get Equal Global Peers Mentors programme – launching on this year’s International Women’s Day – which will connect young with more experienced campaigners and promote young feminist leadership – a key goal of the campaign.
Celebrating women’s power and strength cannot be limited to just International Women’s Day. There are so many inspiring stories of how women and girls are standing in solidarity to overturn systems and structures of patriarchy. So today, and every day, we are calling for women to share their power and continue inspiring us all to fight for a just world where everyone, especially girls, gets equal!