Adolescent girls’ rights are being ignored before, during and after disasters. That was the conclusion of Plan International’s 2013 State of the World’s Girls Report: Adolescent Girls and Disasters.
Since that report, Plan International has taken action to ensure more adolescent girls are being listened to in disaster situations, that they participate in disaster response and ultimately that their rights and needs are better catered for.
From the Ebola crisis in West Africa to last month’s earthquake in Ecuador, adolescent girls have been key participants in our emergency response – including raising awareness, distributing relief items, providing psychosocial support and gathering feedback from communities for action.
There is much more that needs to be done. This week, the first World Humanitarian Summit* is launching a new 'agenda for humanity', which recognises the needs, voice and role of young people in humanitarian action – including adolescent girls.
Plan International has signed the Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action (PDF), committing to transforming humanitarian action for and with young people. The compact has been created by government and non-governmental organisations attending the summit.
Girls step up to deal with crises
Vicky, Putri and Satta are among the Plan International-supported youth delegates speaking out at the World Humanitarian Summit.
Vicky, 19, from El Salvador
"Violence exists everywhere in the world, but in my country, we have one of the highest murder rates in the world. Last year 575 women were murdered – 3 women every other day – and just 11% of those cases ended-up in trial. When walking in the streets or even at school, the threat of being raped is omnipresent. The threat of being abused in school is so high that it is a barrier to education.
Saying the wrong thing, or even wearing the wrong clothes, can get you killed.
"But I try to be part of the solution by providing workshops in schools and communities and talking about human rights, protection, gender and participation as citizens. We show people in our communities how they can change their future and they have rights.
"However, I am always afraid when I give a workshop. I am afraid to be attacked by someone, because the gangs have eyes everywhere on their territories and know whenever someone comes in or out. Saying the wrong thing, or even wearing the wrong clothes, can get you killed.
"I am just one single girl from El Salvador representing thousands, and I feel I have the responsibility to say on their behalf that we want to be free. Free to go to school and study, free to walk and play in the streets without fear. We want to be treated as human beings, to feel that we are important and valued, that we really have a future. Most of all, we want to be the ones shaping that future and involved in the decisions being made that affect our lives."
Putri, 21, from Indonesia
"After the area where I live was flooded in 2013, myself and other youth mobilised to help those affected. I was really scared but I refused to only rescue myself from this disaster. We made boats from bamboo to evacuate people trapped in their homes and give them shelter. We provided food and water twice a day. We had received donations from Plan International and other organisations. We worked throughout the night to prepare packages of food, medicine and water and deliver them in 5 areas of Jakarta.
"We collected data on people’s needs and shared it on social media. We also shared updates on the support we were providing. People within and outside my community showed their appreciation and helped us. They gave food, blankets, cleaning materials, baby and women’s items, money, clothes. Once the floods subsided, we went back to clean people’s home. I was so tired, but I did it happily because I was doing it with my friends. Helping other people is the obligation of every human being.
"Young people should act when disaster comes to their country or countries around them. But young people need training before a disaster happens and support during a disaster to be able to help people affected by disasters."
Satta, 18, from Liberia
"During the Ebola crisis, members of my children and youth group took risks to go into affected communities. We informed people about the danger of the killer disease and how to stop its spread and carried out public campaigns on the radio. Eventually the numbers of cases started to decline.
"We also carried out research and identified that over 1,500 children in my county had lost their parents. I felt obligated to do something. The children needed families, hope and integration into society. A scholarship and fundraising programme was launched to supply school items, currently benefiting 500 students.
"Women and girls were at the forefront of the crisis. They were the ones taking a lead in caring for family members who were sick and could transmit the disease. In some cases girls had to trade their bodies to earn money for their families who were increasingly desperate.
"After the crisis the number of teenage pregnancies has increased. The Liberian National Children’s Forum, which I am a spokesperson for, is supporting girls and young women through peer counselling programmes. But young people from Ebola-affected countries need more support to build their capacities and development."
The World Humanitarian Summit takes place in Istanbul, Turkey, from 23 to 24 May 2016.
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