Celebrating real life heroes on World Humanitarian Day
Today is World Humanitarian Day. Each year, it is marked across the globe to remember those risking their lives in humanitarian service. We are celebrating the real-life heroes who have committed their lives to helping others in the most extreme circumstances: meet Juliet, working to ensure girls’ voices remain at the heart of our coronavirus response.
This year, the coronavirus crisis has been the biggest challenge to humanitarian operations around the world.
Not only is it the most critical health emergency we’ve ever faced, it also threatens to derail years of humanitarian progress.
Coronavirus is having a devastating impact right across the world, but for the millions of girls already living through conflict, displacement or natural disaster, it is a crisis on top of a crisis.
In my role as Project Manager for the Girls Advocacy Alliance at Plan International Uganda, I have worked to promote empowerment for girls and gender equality for the last two years. I ensure that girls’ voices remain amplified and impactful, to inform response and management development plans at local and national levels.
I am very passionate about promoting equal rights and opportunities for girls and women, as an outspoken advocate and women’s rights activist.
I enjoy my job because it unlocks children and young people’s hidden potential to create social justice, social transformation and prosperity, through inclusiveness and effective participation in the development arena.
The coronavirus crisis has created a new context for continued advocacy.
During coronavirus, many of the girls I work with, especially those living in refugee camps, told us that social distancing was impossible. They are living in cramped and crowded conditions and health centres and water points are very overcrowded.
Girls have also spoken of a sharp increase in the scale of gender-based violence, as a result of both living in lockdown with abusive family members and being forced into sexual exploitation to pay for basic necessities.
Many girls are saying they are only eating once a day. Many also told us that child marriage and teenage pregnancies were increasing. The lockdown also means they are no longer able to access health centres, so are unable to get any sexual health information or contraceptives.
Girls said that with the rise in prices, purchasing period products is no longer possible, making menstrual hygiene management an uphill struggle. The closure of schools has caused a great deal of stress with many girls saying they didn't think they would be returning when the schools open. For most, access to online learning is not a possibility.
UK aid has been vital in supporting communities like ours in Uganda. During the global pandemic, it's more important than ever to ensure UK aid supports the world's most vulnerable.
Girls are among the worst affected in any crisis – their voices often the least heard and their rights and needs left unmet. We know girls are the experts in their own lives. That’s why we partnered with over 150 young people to create Our Vision: A Call to Action by Girls in Crisis, an eight-point plan outlining young people's demands for change.
We need to ensure their voices are heard and that we continue to listen to girls. However, just at the time when girls living through humanitarian crisis need UK aid and action more than ever before, the UK Government has re-organised how it will engage with the world.
Right now, they are putting plans in place for a new Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office. We must act now to ensure girls living through crisis are not forgotten.
That’s why, this World Humanitarian Day, Plan International UK is asking as many people as possible to contact their MP to call on the government to ensure this new department listens to girls, especially those living through crisis, and continues to put girls and women at the heart of its global action.
I hope every girl in the world will one day be empowered to stand amidst any crisis and emerge stronger than ever before.
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