The Future of EU International Cooperation? Make Sure Girls Get Equal | Plan International Skip to main content

The Future of EU International Cooperation? Make Sure Girls Get Equal

Last week was a historic week for girls’ rights and for Plan International. On the eve of the International Day of the Girl, global leaders, celebrities and young activists gathered here in Brussels to launch Girls Get Equal – the world’s biggest girl-led campaign for gender equality. Our message was simple: that we will not stop until every girl is equally seen, heard and valued. That together, we will champion the power and activism of young people to advance girls’ rights and gender equality around the world.

Girls are our urgent inspiration. Every day, the hopes and aspirations of girls are being crushed by violence, poverty and discrimination. At the current pace of change it will take 100 years to close the global gender gap. For girls all over the world today that is too little, too late. Girls Get Equal is mobilising young activists globally to shake up slow progress on gender equality in their communities. They will confront and tackle the stereotypes that hold girls back, demand freedom for girls to move safely in public spaces and seek equal representation of girls and women in positions of power. No single issue defines a girl – whether it be child marriage, lack of education or life as an asylum seeker.

What does define girls and young women is their power to make change and their value as leaders and decision makers.

Girls do, can and will lead change, but they need allies. When I returned to Brussels this week to speak at the European Parliament on the future of EU international cooperation, my aim was to put girls’ rights at the top of the agenda. None of the negative things that affect girls are an accident, but the result of specific actions by people in power. Therefore, powerful institutions like the EU must make girls’ rights central to their agenda if we are to help girls succeed in changing the world.

2019 is a critical year in the EU cycle. It’s all change for the top brass in the European institutions. Perhaps it is time for female Presidents of the European Commission and Parliament? The EU should be seeking to achieve gender parity in the composition of all its institutions and there’s no time like the present. 2019 is also the year when the next 7-year EU budget will be agreed – a key moment for it to demonstrate its commitment to sustainable development and human rights. What the EU decides to do will make a global impact given its role as the single biggest development aid donor, and we want the EU to do at least three key things. First and foremost, to live up to the commitments it made when it signed up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Second, to prioritise achieving gender equality, both within Europe and beyond its borders – achieving gender equality and eradicating violations against girls and women are central tenets of the 2030 Agenda. Third, invest in girls. This means implementing gender transformative policies and programming that are EU-wide and beyond, safeguarding civic spaces and promoting equal representation within its own institutions.

For too long have girls been spoken over, abused and ignored. It’s time we started listening. Let this be the year the world truly wakes up to girls’ power.