The She Leads programme

Through the She Leads programme, Plan International is working across Africa and the Middle East to empower and equip girls and young women to speak up for their rights and lead change in their communities and beyond.

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She Leads Youth advocate Margaret from Kenya is passionate about making sure girls and young women in her community know about their rights.

The context

Worldwide, we are witnessing a rise in girl-led and youth-led activism that challenges gender inequality, exclusion and injustice. Every day, courageous girls and young women come together to claim their right to be included. The global increase of young people’s involvement in civic space accounts for many breakthroughs worldwide.

Girls and young women’s rights to engage in public decision-making and to freely express themselves are enshrined in international agreements. However, most African and Middle Eastern governments exclude girls’ and young women’s voices from the political domain. Girls and young women advocates confirm that engagement in decision-making spaces remains extremely challenging, even more for girls and young women who experience intersecting forms of discrimination.

With the worldwide trend of closing and changing civic space, it is becoming harder for girls and young women to express opinions, assemble and associate. State and non-state actors increasingly intimidate and attack critical actors. Particularly in Africa and the Middle East, threats by traditional, anti-rights and fundamentalist forces concern girls’ and young women’s security, particularly those that conform the least to ruling gender ideology. In conflict and humanitarian contexts, girls and young women actors risk additional security threats as easy targets of militarised and extremist forces.

The programme

She Leads is a joint programme from Plan International Netherlands, Defence for Children – ECPAT the Netherlands (DCI-ECPAT), African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), and Terre des Hommes the Netherlands (TdH-NL). Equal Measures 2030 is a technical partner. The She Leads consortium, which runs from 2021-2025, aims to increase sustained influence of girls and young women on decision-making and the transformation of gender norms in formal and informal institutions. The consortium will achieve this goal by working through 3 interrelated domains:

  1. Civil society domain: the enhancement of collective action of girls and young women in a gender-responsive civil society
  2. Socio-cultural domain: support by increased acceptance of positive social gender norms
  3. Institutional domain: enabling meaningful participation of girls and young women in political and decision-making institutions.

The geographic focus of the programme is East Africa (Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya), West Africa (Ghana, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia) and the Middle East (Lebanon, Jordan). In addition to programming in these countries, a considerable part of the programming is done at regional level (beyond the programme countries), targeting regional institutions and other stakeholders operating at regional level.

Our work at the UN

The She Leads programme is represented at the UN by Plan International’s UN Team in Geneva and New York, as well as by its consortium partners. Together, we ensure girls and young women and the organisations they lead can access influential global decision-making spaces, such as the UN General Assembly, UN Commission on the Status of Women, UN Human Rights Council, and others. We also influence UN policy to make sure girls’ and young women’s right to meaningfully participate is well reflected and strong.