1. Sustainable Development Goals reinforce child rights
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by 193 UN member states in September, are a new set of universal goals and targets for the future for people and the planet. They will replace the Millennium Development Goals once these expire at the end of 2015.
Plan International has worked to influence the SDGs since 2011, ensuring they truly represent children’s rights, especially for the most marginalised.
As a result of targeted advocacy with our partners, children and young people were recognised as ‘critical agents of change’ and ‘torchbearers’ in the SDGs. We also achieved commitments in the goals to end child marriage, to ensure schools are safe, free and of good quality, to sexual and reproductive health services for all, and to end violence against all children.
We are now focusing on the implementation of the SDGs at national level to ensure commitments are translated into robust actions for children's rights.
2. Plan International girl advocates meet world leaders
Child participation is central to our approach, and Plan International has been working with girl advocates to ensure their rights are a priority in the international agenda and in the development of the Sustainable Development Goals.
As a result, Nurfahada, 16, from the Philippines, joined the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, on stage at an event in New York on 29 September, to demand education for all teenage girls.
Kenyan girl advocates approached their country’s First Lady, securing a meeting where the First Lady agreed with them to lobby on behalf of the girls.
In Pakistan, girl advocates held an event attended by their president and First Lady, attracting national media coverage where they spoke about the power education has to transform girls’ lives.
With inspirational girls like these taking the initiative across the world, girls’ rights are sure to feature more prominently than ever in 2016.
3. Rebuilding education after the Nepal earthquake
In April, 2 earthquakes and numerous aftershocks devastated Nepal. Nearly 9,000 people were killed, 8 million were impacted and nearly 1 million children did not have a school to return to.
Plan International supported children through the provision of emergency shelter, food and water and immediate access to temporary learning centres and safe spaces. We have focused on those from marginalised communities who live in remote and hard-to-reach communities.
In the first 6 months of the response, we supported more than 255,120 individuals, including 106,739 children. As Nepal moves into the recovery phase, we are appealing for an additional €20 million to meet the long-term needs of education and protection for children affected by the disaster.
4. Plan International and Nickelodeon campaign together
From June to November, Nickelodeon’s Together For Good campaign, in partnership with Plan International, set out to find children from around the world who are transforming their communities.
The campaign ran in over 35 countries with nearly 1,000 children telling Nickelodeon and Plan International how they’re making a difference.
The power was then handed over to the viewers of Nickelodeon to vote for the story that meant the most to them. Esteban from Guatemala’s story of supporting doctors to deliver medicine and help sick patients to get proper care resonated most with children around the world.
Esteban was awarded an all-expense paid trip to New York in November to attend The 2015 Halo Awards as a VIP guest.
5. New Plan International CEO champions change for all
Top UN executive Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen took over as the CEO of Plan International on 1 September.
After taking up office, Ms Albrectsen stressed the need for change within the development sector if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be truly transformative. She said, “We have to fully embrace the universal nature of the SDGs. We need to ensure that development addresses growing inequality within and between countries, is inclusive and reaches the most marginalised.”
In the case of Plan International, we will look at working more with the excluded, including children with disabilities, young mothers, young people living on the streets and those affected by disaster. “It will mean working in new communities where inequalities are extreme, and exiting others,” she said.
6. Supporting Syrian children’s rights to education and protection
The plight of Syrian children and their families has dominated global news as they have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and across Europe.
Plan International is helping Syrian refugee children and their families who have fled to Egypt with education, child protection and psychosocial support. In Syria we have worked through partner organisations to provide child-friendly spaces, support to enable education to continue, back to school kits, psychosocial programmes, and food and medical assistance. We have also helped survivors of gender-based violence and are meeting the urgent needs of vulnerable women and children.
We are also working through partners in Iraq and Lebanon to provide health services, psychosocial support and to tackle gender-based violence.
Many refugees are heading to Germany, where Plan International is working with Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe (St. John Accident Assistance) to ensure vulnerable children receive the support and care they need when they arrive.
Please support our Syrian refugee crisis appeal so we are able to help even more children.
7. Plan International and Chelsea FC partner for gender equality
Plan International’s global partnership with Chelsea Football Club launched in September to use the power of football to help some of the world’s poorest children fulfil their potential.
As one of the world’s most high-profile football clubs, Chelsea’s partnership will help us reach new supporters and work with groups of young people who are traditionally difficult to engage.
Together, we are developing a football-themed programme, Champions of Change in Colombia to teach both boys and girls about equality, respect and tolerance, with an ambition to expand this innovative approach to other countries.
Recently, former Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini visited a football-based project run by Plan International Ghana. “What’s particularly inspiring is to see the reach and power of football to transform lives,” said Carlo. “That’s what this winning partnership with Plan International is about.”
8. Global celebrations mark International Day of the Girl
This year’s theme of the International Day of the Girl, 'The power of the adolescent girl: vision for 2030', highlighted the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, which make an historic commitment to address the pressing issues facing girls.
A week of celebrations culminated in an event at UNICEF in New York, where many civil society organisations came together to showcase the power of girls.
Plan International also used the occasion to launch the latest in the series of reports on the State of the World’s Girls. The Unfinished Business of Girls’ Rights brings together 14 prominent voices – including former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard – hailing progress, but highlighting the huge challenges girls still face.
9. No more girl brides in Guatemala
On 5 November, after 3 years of advocacy efforts by Plan International and partners, the National Congress of Guatemala approved a law establishing 18 as the minimum age for marriage.
The previous law had allowed girls to get married at 14 years old, and boys at 16. Between 2009 and 2013 more than 80,000 girls under 18 got married; the majority with men three times their age.
This new law will protect girls against sexual abuse, teen pregnancies, trafficking and physical and emotional violence. Child brides are often pulled out of school – now girls will be able to continue their education and fulfil their potential.
10. Sierra Leone declared Ebola free
After a year and a half of the Ebola outbreak, which killed 3,955 people in the country, Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free on 7 November.
Since the start of the outbreak Plan International has responded by working with communities to raise awareness of the virus and how to prevent it, supporting health centres, water and sanitation in schools, implementing child protection measures and the provision of psychosocial support.
As Sierra Leone moves into the recovery phase, Plan International is focusing on child protection, quality education and contributing towards rebuilding national health systems and socio-economic resilience to prevent outbreaks and protect the future of children.