Girls worldwide want to take control of their lives, but violence and discrimination keep them suppressed and powerless, Plan International's latest report suggests.
Read the report: Unlock the power of girls nowBased on interviews with young people from Colombia, Uganda and Spain, Unlock the Power of Girls Now reveals that no matter how hard girls try to improve their lives, they are routinely beaten down by prejudice, aggression and misogyny.
Normalised violence is unacceptable
“The horrifying testimonies of girls reveal that almost every single experience for them – be it at home, school, on public transport, or on social media – is a reminder that they are judged to be inferior to boys,” said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International.
Governments and society are failing millions of girls by ignoring the realities of their daily lives.
“Violence, in particular, has become so normalised that it is seen by many as an accepted part of being female. This is just not acceptable in the 21st century. Governments and society are failing millions of girls by ignoring the realities of their daily lives.”
The report builds on research over the last decade which found girls are very often denied the opportunity, at home, at school and in their wider communities, to be heard and taken seriously. Their voices and experiences do not matter and they have no say in matters like leaving school or getting married. They remain invisible.
Attitudes must change - now
“No matter what their circumstances and what they are capable of, girls face a wall of resistance in their struggle to progress. We need a wholesale change in attitudes – and we need it now,” said Ms Albrectsen.
Plan International is proposing a number of urgent measures to ensure girls are treated equally to boys. These include dedicated public campaigns to fight gender discrimination and social attitudes that are harmful to girls.
A number of young people, interviewed as part of the research highlighted how girls face deep-rooted biases in every aspect of their daily lives.
“Presidency is not meant for girls. People say that a woman cannot rule a man because they assume we don’t have brains that can transform the country,” said Kiskaye*, a 17-year-old girl from Uganda.
“When a girl gets pregnant and the boy says he is going to be a father, people congratulate him and even give him presents, but girls are kicked out from their house and are verbally and physically abused,” said Luisa*,14, from Colombia.
Inequality often begins at home
Plan International is also calling for a radical review of laws and policies to eradicate gender discrimination wherever it exists.
People say that a woman cannot rule a man because they assume we don’t have brains that can transform the country.
“We know from our research that for many girls, the home is where their experience of gender inequality begins. This fact must not be overlooked, said Ms. Albrectsen.
“Governments have a duty to protect girls and currently, they are failing them. They must not shy away from tackling gender discrimination in the places where it is most deeply entrenched simply because it has proved so difficult to change in the past. It is only by addressing inequality head on that we will be able to achieve equality and justice for girls.”
The report highlights that despite the barriers and prejudices they face, girls are eager to lead the change they need and seek action and solidarity with others to achieve it.
“Governments, civil society, media, corporates, all leaders, schools, parents and girls and boys - everyone has a role to play,” said Ms Albrectsen. “The media alone can be one of girls’ most powerful allies. With its reach and influence, it can play a leading role in stamping out gender inequality. Our TV screens, radios, films, newspapers and social media all have the power to reach behind closed doors and influence attitudes and behaviours.”
#GirlsTakeover on 11 October
As part of its call for a radical shake-up of social and political systems, Plan International is organising a global takeover action on 11 October to mark the International Day of the Girl.
From Peru to Japan, hundreds of girls will take over Presidents, Ministers and CEOs across 60 countries to make themselves visible in places of power and influence where they are rarely seen or heard.
“Gaining legitimacy in formal public spaces continues to be a challenge for girls – too much power is still, at many levels, concentrated in male hands, said Ms Albrectsen. “Gender equality can power progress in all development goals – from tackling poverty and improving health, to economic development. When we value girls, advance their rights and invest in their futures, everybody wins.”