Skip to main content

2030: a girls' world

15 January 2016
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International talks about the role of the SDGs in creating a safer, more equal and just world for girls.

Girl stands in front of a temporary learning space in Nepal

If we want to end poverty in our lifetime, we must release the potential of girls. It’s that simple. When girls are educated, empowered and treated as equals, they hold the key to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty and driving progress for everyone – themselves, their families, communities and countries.

Yet today, too many girls are denied this opportunity, facing double discrimination from being both young and female. Too often they are held back by early marriage, female genital mutilation, early pregnancy, sexual violence and the unequal burden of domestic chores. They are voiceless, powerless and invisible.

Today, perhaps more so than ever before, we have the opportunity before us to change the world for girls.

Many girls struggle to speak up about the barriers they face, worried about the punishing consequences – and understandably so. Malala was shot in the head because she dared go to school. Maria*, 18, from Nicaragua, was raped when she was 13 and sent to live with the 48-year-old perpetrator, because her mother felt she had no other choice.

No girl should be considered less important, or less capable, just because she is a girl. No girl should live in fear, or be denied her right to speak out. No girl should be forced into a life that she has not chosen for herself.

Today, perhaps more so than ever before, we have the opportunity before us to change the world for girls.

The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will guide all our efforts towards creating a safer, more equal and just world which leaves no one behind – and that includes girls. These goals challenge us to think and act differently, to move out of our comfort zone and go beyond business as usual.

No goal or target can be considered reached until it has been reached for all – including girls.

It is imperative the spotlight is shone on girls’ rights and empowerment across all 17 of the Global Goals, not just the goal dedicated to gender equality. From access to education, to decent jobs, climate change and peace and security, every goal has an important part to play in transforming girls’ and women’s lives. No goal or target can be considered reached until it has been reached for all – including girls.

Although heartening progress is being made in the fight for girls’ rights and gender equality, there is much unfinished business. There is still no country in the world which is truly gender equal. As Jacinta, 16, from Kenya, rightly says, ‘We need to be valued as much as boys, and families must invest in our education. Girls have been denied their rights for too long and it’s high time we let world leaders know we are ready to fight for them.’

If we are to realise the ambition of the SDGs, girls must be at the forefront of all our efforts.

But it’s not just up to girls like Malala, Maria and Jacinta to make their voices heard. We must stand beside them every step of the way. As CEO of Plan International, I am committed to ensuring that these goals work for girls and that we reach the most marginalised girls and young women through innovative, transformative programmes. We will work hand-in-hand with them to ensure their particular rights and needs are being met. But we cannot do it alone; we must work in partnership with communities, local leaders, peer NGOs and national governments. If we are to realise the ambition of the SDGs, girls must be at the forefront of all our efforts.

We owe it to these young women to do everything we can to achieve gender equality and end poverty, so by the time 2030 arrives it finally is a girls’ world.

 

By Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International
This article was first published in the Girls' Rights Gazette, produced by Plan International EU Office for the European Week of Action for Girls 2015.

*Name has been changed