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Five ways we’re breaking the barriers for girls

Five ways we’re breaking the barriers for girls

Five years ago, we celebrated the very first International Day of the Girl.

It all started when Plan International asked the United Nations to support a day dedicated to girls. 

Today, we’re joined by colleagues, ambassadors and organisations around the world on 11 October, when we celebrate the achievements of girls everywhere – and highlight the urgent change we need to make happen, to end gender inequality for good. 

This year, to mark Day of the Girl 2017, find out how we’re helping to #BreakTheBarriers for girls around the world. 

  1. We’re standing with girls to say NO to child marriage

Every year, child marriage robs millions of girls of their childhood. That’s why we’re working with girls around the world to lobby governments, to amend national laws and to protect girls from early marriage. And we know it works. In 2017, with your support, our incredible youth campaigners in Malawi were able to secure a change to their constitution, making child marriage illegal.

Working with a Plan International youth group in Malawi gave Hilda, 16, the courage to leave her marriage, which was arranged when she was just 14. Now she’s helping other girls understand their rights.

I have helped save three girls from child marriages. Being able to help other girls means everything to me.

Hilda, 16, in Malawi.
Hilda, 16, is now living with her grandmother in Malawi.

2. We’re changing relationships and sex education in the UK

In 2016, our research revealed that girls in the UK are suffering harassment at school, don’t feel safe online and are scared on the street. When we asked what would improve things, one answer was clear: relationships and sex education in schools.

With your help, we took that message to the UK Government – and they listened, pledging to introduce statutory relationships and sex education across all secondary schools and statutory relationships education across all primary schools in England.

The members of our Youth Advisory Panel were huge supporters of our campaign. As Rosa, 18, explains:  “I’ve never once been taught about sexual violence and sexual assault. That’s why we need mandatory sex and relationships education to include consent and healthy relationships.”

Rosa is calling for mandatory sex and relationships education to end violence against girls
Rosa, from our Youth Advisory Panel.

3. We’re challenging expectations for girls’ futures

Unbelievably, 90% of countries still have at least one law that restricts economic equality for women. That’s why we’re supporting girls to stay in school, to learn new skills and to train for jobs that will give them and their families the chance of a better future – and close the gender gap in the workplace.

At 17, Binita had to leave school so she could help support her family. She signed up to Plan International’s masonry training course – enabling her to earn higher wages and help her brother and sister continue studying.

“Before the training, people did not think I would be able to build. But I felt confident and wanted to prove them wrong,” she says.

I am feeling proud to be a woman who supports her family and works as a female mason in the community.

Binita at work on a construction site
Binita at work on a construction site in Nepal.

4. We’re tackling the stigmas surrounding periods.

Around the world, girls face shame and stigma when they get their period. For many, a lack of sanitary pads or tampons means they have to make do with leaves, rags, or other materials. Meanwhile, not having clean water or a decent toilet at school – and the fear of bleeding in class – is enough to make girls miss lessons or drop out of school altogether. Together, we’re working with girls to put an end to period taboos. For good.

Growing up in a camp for internally displaced people can make getting your period even more complicated. That’s why Monica, 17, is a member of the children’s club – so she can support other girls to manage their menstrual hygiene.  

Today, she’s already helped hundreds of girls through the peer mentorship programme Plan International facilitates. “Our girls require a lot of attention,” she says. “Many of them do not know how to deal with their periods.”

Monica, 17, from South Sudan
Monica teaches girls in the camp about menstruation.

5. We’re transforming girls’ lives through child sponsorship

In 50 countries around the world, incredible people like you are helping to break the cycle of poverty through our child sponsorship programme. By becoming a sponsor, you’ll help provide communities with access to clean water, healthcare and education. And by exchanging letters and photos, you’ll see how your support is helping to transform your sponsored child’s life.

In Honduras, 12-year-old Katherine was born with a condition called clubfoot, which left her in pain and made walking difficult. As a sponsored child, Katherine received two of the four surgeries she needed from Plan International.

Today, she can run, walk and play hide and seek with her cousins – and her mum hopes she’ll go on to study, without letting her disability hold her back.

“She can show people if you want, you can do it,” she says.

Katherine is part of our child sponsorship programme in Honduras.
Katherine is part of our child sponsorship programme in Honduras.

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