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Meet the brave girls and women taking on taboos around the world

Meet the brave girls and women taking on taboos around the world

Across the globe, shame, stigma and taboos are still stopping girls and women from achieving their dreams.

Whether it’s sexual health, female genital mutilation (FGM) or periods, a culture of silence prevents girls getting the knowledge they need and talking about the issues that affect their lives the most.

That's why, to mark this year's International Women’s Day, we're celebrating the brave girls and women around the world, creating the change they want to see in their communities.

In Tanzania, Melody was a member of one of Plan International’s youth groups.

Melody: the sexual health advocate

Just because I am poor, it does not mean that I do not get to decide when I'm ready to have children. Because I am poor, it does not mean that I must give up my right to an education and the right to decide my own future.

Meet Melody. She’s passionate about girls’ rights and ending the silence that surrounds sex, contraception and reproductive rights.

They’re all seen as taboo subjects where she lives in Tanzania – and as a result, sex education in schools has been non-existent. 

As an original member of one of Plan International’s youth groups, Melody used her love of drama to help girls and boys tackle gender inequality.

"Several of my friends dropped out of school because they were pregnant. This has inspired me to make a difference,” she explains.

“When we perform it encourages young people and their parents to talk about things they otherwise would not have discussed.”

Weyinitu is a member of the Uncut Girls' Club in Ethiopia.

Weyinitu: the Uncut Girls’ Club ambassador

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is often shrouded in secrecy within families and communities. As a result, girls can struggle to get the information they need about this hramful practice – or its risks.

At Weyinitu’s school in Ethiopia, which is funded by Plan International, this is where the Uncut Girls’ Club comes in.

"My FGM date had already been set when the project against FGM was launched at my school,” she explains.

“When I became educated about the consequences, there was only one thought in my mind: my FGM must be called off!”

Weyinitu was lucky. Her parents were supportive and she didn’t have to undergo FGM. Now she's working with the Uncut Girls' Club to keep educating her community, to help bring an end to the practice altogether.

Madame Agatha leads a Health Club, set up by Plan International, at her school in Uganda.

Madame Agatha: the period educator

If girls are laughed at in school, that can be a reason for staying at home. Then their future looks bleak. They may marry too soon and have a baby while still children themselves. And then there is less food for the family.

In Uganda, periods are often a source of shame and are still surrounded by myths and stigma, as teacher Madame Agatha explains.

“Some say that a menstruating woman should not walk in the garden because the harvest will spoil, or that she should not climb a tree, because the fruit will rot,” she says.

But at Madame Agatha’s school, things have been changing. She leads a Health Club, set up by Plan International, that is breaking down the taboos surrounding periods – and it’s working.

There are more girls than boys at the school, and girls are dropping out less and less now they know what their period is and how to manage it – giving them the chance to stay in school and create a better future for themselves and their families.

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