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How Young People Changed the World for the Day

How young people changed the world for the day

This weekend I attended Plan International UK’s Youth Action Festival. It’s an annual event where young people who are passionate advocates come together to campaign against gender inequality, discuss key issues and learn a variety of important skills. Working with young people is a vital part of Plan International UK’s work because as young people we know the issues that affect girls more than anyone else.

The start to a bigger movement 

With people shuffling into their seats and settling down, the Youth Action Festival had finally begun - an event we (the Youth Advisory Panel at Plan International UK) had been preparing for months for.

What an enthusiastic atmosphere! The hosts – Georgie, Evie and Kinza - started off the event with a call and response, which was successful in waking up the budding girls’ rights activists at approximately ten in the morning. Young people from all over the UK (and two from Japan!) came to the event for a day of invaluable knowledge. Jessie (a member of the Youth Advisory Panel) posed some very stimulating questions for an interactive question and answer session with the audience.

First Panel Discussion: Media representation of girls and young women

I was a member on the panel, along with Youth Advisory Panel member – Rosa. Along with us on the panel were three other empowering women who work in the media: Martine Croxall - a presenter at the BBC who chaired the discussion, Josie Verghese, a school reporter at the BBC and Jess Southgate – a freelance gender and rights blogger. 

My main role on the panel was to share some experiences and opinions, to help the attendees think about the trolling of girls on social media and self-confidence. Rosa talked to us about the representation of male and female identities in adverts. She provided us with an in-depth insight into how the media uses gender roles to “sell everything from food to cars” and how certain standards are set for girls and women by television. 

The audience was then able to ask us questions based on what we all talked about; they were all such an inquisitive group of young people, asking questions from the role boys play in gender equality to how an increase in female CEOs could change the media representation of females. 


At the Gender, Sexuality and Stereotypes workshop discussions around the lack of sex education were prominent. Participants were quick to admit that representative sex education and information regarding sexual orientation is not at its best, whatsoever, in the United Kingdom. However, Alessandra stated that:

Social media is slowly becoming a place where these resources [on sexuality] can be accessed.

At the How Can We make our Cities and Towns Safer for Girls? workshop the global issue of the sexual harassment that girls face on a daily basis was raised.

When asked about why it is important to involve girls in programmes such as Safer Cities, Flavia from the Getaway Girls made the point that:

She [a girl who has experienced sexual harassment] knows what it [sexual harassment] feels like, it’s her voice.

Participants were asked to think about how stereotypes play out in different environments such as home, work, school and in relationships. Becky, 20, said: 

Instead of asking women why they are in an abusive relationship ask men why they are abusive.

Another point stated by a participant regarding helping women subjected to abusive relationships was that: 

Women in abusive relationships have nowhere to go.

It is important to recognise that boys, men, peers and families can be part of the solution to the problems of gender roles, abusive relationships and the struggle for equality. 

Second Panel Discussion: The role of men and boys in the gender equality

On the panel was: Georgie (chair of the discussion) and Michael – Youth Advisory Panel members and Mike Thiedke – Director of Public Engagement at Plan International UK. 

Both Michael and Mike made some extremely valid points on how important it is boys are fully involved when it comes to campaigning for gender equality. 

Georgie also asked what gender equality means, and Mike responded with:

Choice, opportunity, no judgement.

The audience was also stunned by the statistic that 44 per cent of boys in El Salvador believe that being violent is a part of a man’s nature. 

So how can we make a difference for girls?

There were so many great suggestions for how we can make a difference for girls - here are just a few things the young people said: 

solutions for girls rights

The best on social media

from the Youth Action Festival