Posts Tagged ‘plan international’

11th October 2017 is the international day of the girl. 6 years ago, On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution adopting October 11, 2012 as the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.

The resolution states that the Day of the Girl recognizes: “empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community.”

The International Day of the Girl Child initiative grew out of Plan International’s Because I Am a Girl campaign, which raises awareness of the importance of nurturing girls globally and in developing countries in particular.

Each year’s Day of the Girl has a theme; the first was “ending child marriage”, then “innovating for girl’s education”, 2014 was “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.” 2015 was “The Power of Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030” 2016 was “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.”. This year’s theme is “EmPOWER Girls: Emergency response and resilience planning.”

Whilst the theme is about empowerment, we still have a lot of work to do to bring girls around the world onto the same level so that empowerment is standardised across the world.

According to UN statistics, there are 100 million girls missing around the world. Where have they gone? Many of them are left on the sides of roads, drowned, maimed and thrown in trash bins. But even more of them have been aborted. The reason? They were girls, not boys.

Sex-selective abortion, also colloquially known as “gendercide,” is a huge problem. For every 200 girls born, one is refused the chance to see the light of day just because she is a female. Over the last 14 years, there were an average of 4,575 abortions every day. That comes to about one abortion motivated by gender every 18 seconds. Which means that if you make it into the world as a girl you’ve already achieved something.

But that doesn’t mean you are safe. Global child mortality is at around 4% and studies show that infant homicide is still predominantly female. So being born and then staying alive after birth is also an achievement.

As a girl, you have less chance of being educated than if you were a boy. Twice as many girls as boys will never start school in countries all around the world. Girls are almost two and a half more likely to be out of school if they live in conflict-affected countries, and young women are nearly 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than their counterparts in countries not affected by conflict. So being born, staying alive and getting to go to school is an achievement.

Then there is the struggle to stay in school as you get older and battle cultural and societal pressures.

  • Millions of girls are at risk of FGM
  • One in four girls globally are married before they reach 18.
  • Discrimination because of disability is real. The literacy rate for adults with disabilities is 3%. For women with disabilities the literacy rate is even lower, at 1%.
  • Each month, when you get your period you could be shunned from society. In some countries you’re seen as untouchable and forced to sleep outside.
  • As a girl, you’re at greater risk of HIV. Girls aged 10 to 14 are more likely than boys to die of Aids-related illnesses.
  • Worldwide, the biggest killer of girls aged 15 to 19 is suicide.
  • Teenagers are at more risk of having unsafe abortions than older women.
  • Maternal death is the second biggest cause of mortality for girls aged 15 to 19.

Making it through school is an achievement.
Growing up without being shunned for naturally occurring bodily functions is an achievement.
But guess what? If you make it through school, dodge early marriage and get into paid employment, the odds are you’ll earn less for doing the same job as your male colleagues. And then there’s life outside work. UN women estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives.

So how exactly can we empower girls with regards to emergency planning and resilience response when we are yet to bring girls around the world on equal footing? When it’s an achievement just to stay alive, healthy and educated? When will we be able to say that girls are just as equipped as boys to achieve their potential? That the path to success and empowerment for girls is as obstacle free as for boys?

It’s a long slow road to success but it hasn’t been in vain. Studies by the UN show that when girls are given an opportunity to learn, they learn at a faster rate than boys. Governments and organisations are working together to eradicate infanticide and child marriage. To raise awareness and educate men, boys, families and socieities. To ensure the safety and well-being of girls within and outside the home. When more women work, economies grow. Studies show that an increase in female labour force participation results in faster economic growth. Evidence from a range of countries shows that increasing the share of household income controlled by women, changes spending in ways that benefit children.

World leaders have set targets and made promises regarding female health and education. Globally companies and organisations are working hard to bridge the pay gap and create gender friendly environments.

But until a father provides his daughter with the same opportunities as his son, until a mother supports her daughter’s dreams of education and professional experience, until a brother fights cultural prejudice and oppressive practices to ensure his sister is safe – there is no end to the suffering of the girl child. Change begins with me. With you. With the support you give to the girls and women around you.

Girls of the world are watching. We will speak out, we will support our fellow girls and women till all of us are able to achieve more than that which is a basic human right. Give us opportunity and watch us soar.



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In preparation for the #GirlsTakeover Parliament Program as part of Plan International’s global #GirlsTakeover initiative, we all participated in a 2 day training weekend to prepare for the takeover.

Day 1 was full of introductions and hesitant smiles which quickly turned into insightful discussions sparked by a speech by the Deputy Commissioner Operations in the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Leanne Close, who shared her experience of her 26 year career as well as the leadership qualities she’s learnt and looks for when recruiting.

Leanne’s tips for leadership qualities are:

  • Be inclusive in your thinking so that you are generating a wide spectrum of ideas
  • Seek feedback from those around you – higher or lower in the hierarchy
  • Develop people – learn who they are and be invested in their success
  • Understand not only your strengths and style but that of others
  • Build confidence within yourself and others
  • Become a global citizen by reading and building awareness
  • Anticipate and build for the future by thinking about the impacts of now

To do this:

  • Know your job well
  • Try new roles and opportunities
  • Seek opportunities for personal development
  • Understand your team

Following Leanne’s speech was Speaker Training from TedxCanberra’s Ingrid Tomanovits. Ingrid is the ACT’s consummate learning and development specialist and is now the Licensee of TEDxCanberra. Her session was such a privilege to be part of because through her two exercises she drew out from a group of 20 odd women such personal anecdotes, life stories and insights that made me proud to realise I was in the company of such inspirational women. Some tips I took from Ingrid’s session spoken by either Ingrid herself or women in the group are:

  • Public speaking is answering the questions:
    • What do you want people to know
    • What do you want people to feel
    • What do you want people to do
  • Say your name and why you are here to establish for yourself and the audience that you are relevant to the conversation
  • It’s normal to become anxious, have dry mouth and a rapid heartbeat before you speak. It shows you care and that you are invested in what you are doing. Own it.
  • Any strength overplayed becomes a weakness
  • Drink water 48-72 hours before your speech to avoid dry mouth
  • Include everyone in the room and change the dynamic (if you feel people are not participating or active listening)
  • You don’t have to be the expert, guide the conversation by telling your story
  • The congruence of the words you use, what you say and the way you say it is the sweet spot for good public speaking.
  • If you become overwhelmed when speaking, pick a point to focus on and think about the negative emotion then look to your peripheral vision and the emotion will dissipate.
  • Be memorable for the right reasons, saying your name is one of the ways to help people connect to the points you are making
  • Watch Social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TedX talk, Your body language may shape who you are

After a lunch break of delicious pide from Yarralumla Turkish Pide House we were back. This time Saul took us through the findings of the “She Can Lead” report that Plan Australia commissioned Essential Research to do on the potential of girls to lead. We will be using the findings of this report to talk to members of Parliament.

Saul Zavarce is a Venezuelan Australian media professional currently studying a Masters of International Relations. He is the Media Officer at Plan International Australia and Head of Advocacy for Venezuelan Australian Democratic Council. Some takeaways from this session was:

  • Don’t mansplain and say you are trying to learn, if you genuinely want to learn – Google’s free.
  • 13 years of mandatory secular education (primary and high school) do not equip you to identify women’s sexual organs, issues, health concerns and discern between facts and fiction
  • Re: female sexual education – “Get a mirror, get acquainted” – Adriana
  • Animalistic male desire won’t stop you from becoming president but a period will – Saul
  • Women find it harder to negotiate remuneration and will more often than not settle for minimum wage or less than they deserve
  • Not only is there a disparity between the entry rates of men and women into professional fields, but the attrition rates are disparate as well with a huge number of women leaving the professional fields as the rank becomes more senior
  • Quotas are the demise of mediocre men
  • Women who infiltrate the boys club is either sexualised or ‘one of the boys i.e non-threatening’ or not part of the club and ostracised which has impacts on career development
  • We need education about what consent looks like to address the issue of victim blaming which is bigger than just the issue of consent. We need to address the social, cultural, religious and classist prejudice that implicitly and explicitly allows victim-blaming
  • Call out gendered language and behaviour to boys and girls. I.e. telling boys to ‘man-up’ if they cry or telling girls they need to look pretty rather than be smart.
  • As a youth, you can say radical things. Lobbiysts make deals. Your job as an advocate is to voice radical ideas
  • Venezuelan constitution states stay-at-home motherhood as an occupation in its constitution, which entitles housewives to wages and social security from the Government.

Recommendations that would make it easier for women to be leaders:

  • Gender studies in schools
  • Education regarding cultural concepts of love, relationships
  • Ban sexist advertising prohibiting public advertising that undermines the equal status of women
  • Job skills and negotiation training
  • Removing pictures and CVs from recruitment processes
  • Mentoring and support to provide more leadership opportunities
  • Remove gendered school uniforms
  • Address the gender pay gap by raising the minimum wage in public sector and providing incentives for private sector

Then we had a quick session on Media Training and how to have a successful interview.

  • Acknowledge a questions no matter how difficult
  • Bridge the gap to a topic you are comfortable with
  • Deliver your key messages succinctly.

Quick fire mentoring from:

  • Corporate: Rosanne Brand
  • Artist: Ruth O’Brien

The end of day 1 was celebrated by watching Bend it like Beckham and eating pizza.

Bring on day 2!

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Last month, I was browsing Facebook in bed at 11:30pm before I went to sleep and came across a post about a competition being held by Plan international called #girlstakeover. The brief was to write 200 words on what you would do if you were Prime Minister for a day. I had never heard about either the organisation or the initiative but it seemed to fit in with my passion of women’s empowerment so I applied a minute before the deadline with the response below:

If I were to be Prime Minister of this great nation for a day, I would focus my energies on the past, present and future. I would acknowledge the reality of Australia’s history and the rights of the original occupants of our wide brown land by ensuring indigenous people are recongised in social, economical and politcal forums and their opinions are heard with regards to domestic and international policies. I would ensure the present generation of women and children are protected from abuse, violence and vulnerability via displacement by providing shelter and education to those at home and those that come across the seas to our boundless plains. For our future, I would seek to address the refugee crisis and climate change. Two giant issues that have no easy solution by making educated and informed decisions based on expert opinion. To do all this I would spend my day as an inclusive and open leader, hearing all voices regardless of gender religion or race.

A week later I found out I had made it into the #girlstakeover Program so I thought I should find out what I had gotten into! It turns out I had gotten into something pretty awesome!

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. They strive for a just world, working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners. Each year they hold a global event where young women are chosen, given training and support and then take over parliament in their city for a day.

This year I am part of a group of young women in Canberra participating in the #GirlsTakeover Parliament Program, part of Plan International’s global #GirlsTakeover initiative. As part of the commemoration of International Day of the Girl on 11 October 2017, 600 takeovers in 60 countries will take place across the world. Canberra will be one of the locations where this action is occurring.

This initiative is great because it creates a platform in a space young girls often have difficulty accessing. In Canberra, this activism will be occurring in both the Legislative Assembly and Federal Parliament. The program is being led by two awesome local young women – Caitlin Figueiredo and Ashleigh Streeter – who signed up local members of Legislative Assembly and members of Federal Parliament to be involved and commit to a multipartisan message that our Local and Federal Parliaments are “committed to defending the rights and potential of young women and girls.”

On 11 October, we will take over the offices of local representatives from across party lines. On 18 October, we will enter Federal Parliament and occupy the offices of 19 Parliamentarians from every political party. During this time, we will shadow the politicians for the day and present these representatives with Plan International Australia’s national report on how to increase the participation of young women in political decision-making.

I am so please to have stumbled across this program and will post about our training weekend and the actual takeover soon. Till then, you can read about the initiative here and follow it using #girlstakeover as well as follow Plan international on social media or their website.


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