Girls on a mission
Girls are on a mission to tackle injustice across the globe. From Egypt to Nicaragua, Bangladesh to Australia, they’re taking on the big issues – and they’re winning!
For International Women’s Day, we present the girl heroes who are fighting inequality today for the women of tomorrow.
Amel - fighting FGM in Egypt!
Nine-year-old Amel refused to be cut after a friend of hers bled to death. Now, she is spreading awareness of the dangers of FGM with the aim of eradicating the practice from the whole world.
"I want to eradicate FGM because it has many harmful effects on society. It hurts a lot of girls," says Amel.
"If one of our friends is due to be circumcised we advise her not to do such an operation...We invite the whole family to attend awareness sessions to raise their awareness and to understand the negative impact of the practice on girls."
Egypt has the third highest rate of FGM in the world, with 91% of girls being cut.
Brisa - tackling teenage pregnancy in Nicaragua!
An indigenous Miskito girl, Brisa has a radio programme that is broadcast on a local station and is proving to be hugely popular among her community. “From teen pregnancy to domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual and reproductive health – the show tackles a range of social issues affecting my people and community,” she says.
"A number of Miskito girls my age are already teenage mothers or pregnant. In the majority of cases it is not by choice. I want to change the lives of indigenous girls. I want them to have the power to say no, and to decide for themselves."
Nicaragua has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the whole of Latin America, with 28% of women giving birth before the age of 18.
Sazeda - stopping child marriages in Bangladesh!
16-year-old Sazeda has helped stop a whopping 107 child marriages in her community through her work with Plan International. At the age of 14 she was told by her parents that she would be married off, but she managed to persuade them to let her continue with her education and the marriage did not go through.
A highly motivated individual, she also tackles cases of street harassment and abuse and dreams of creating a better environment for girls in Bangladesh. Her goal is to raise awareness about child abuse, to support children to raise their voices, to increase access to sexual and reproductive health services, and to raise awareness about climate change so that her community is more resilient in the face of disasters.
“Say yes to organised children - they can build a new world!” she says.
Bangladesh has the fourth highest rate of child marriage in the world at 52%.
My - tackling harassment on buses in Hanoi!
“On the bus to school, people’s mobile phones often get stolen and girls get harassed. One of my friends was touched and, when she objected, she was thrown out of the bus and into the street. But the boys were allowed to continue with their journey,” says My.
To address this, she helped create four pocket-sized comic books that illustrate the different situations girls face on their way to school each day. Drawn in a Manga-style, they let girls know what to do if they get harassed, and how they can help others if they witness harassment.
They also urge fellow passengers not to keep silent if they see girls being harassed, saying that it is not just a girl's responsibility to protect herself. Rather, it is the responsibility of everyone to protect girls.
“We advise caution. And say that in emergencies, bus drivers and ticket inspectors must help. They are responsible for security in the bus – many people don’t know that,” she says.
My and her friends distribute the comic books at bus stops and ticket offices across Hanoi and have so far reached over 40,000 regular bus users. They have also trained nearly 5,000 bus drivers and ticket inspectors to stop girls being harassed.
Over 40% of girls feel unsafe using public transport in Hanoi.
Sophie - demanding better sexual healthcare for adolescent girls in Uganda!
Sophie was instrumental in a campaign to demand better access to sexual and reproductive health care in Uganda. She helped gather 39,000 signatures in support.
“While I was at school I saw many girls having to drop out as they became pregnant. I realised if a women is not informed, she is not empowered. I knew I had to do something,” she says.
Thanks to Sophie, the Ugandan Government has announced it will be training health workers on how to effectively provide sexual health services to young people so that girls can make informed decisions about their bodies and their future.
In Uganda today, 1 in 4 teenage girls are either pregnant or already mothers.
Aneeka - Taking over the position of CEO to help girls feel safer in Australia!
Aneeka, 23, became CEO of Metro Trains in Australia for International Day of the Girl 2017. As part of her takeover – alongside other advocates – she briefed Metro Trains' executive team on an idea for an app that would enable women to report incidents of sexual harassment.
As of 2018, the app is under development.
"This app will be beneficial to an entire city, and it is very exciting that this project and app development has stemmed from a group of young women and the power of their voices!" she says.
On 11 October 2017, girls like Aneeka took over the positions of over 600 of leaders in 60 countries in an emphatic statement of their power and potential for the International Day of the Girl.