Globally, girls and women are missing from positions of leadership and influence. Too often gender stereotypes and society’s archaic perceptions of what girls and women can or cannot do, create invisible – yet very real – barriers to equal participation and representation at home, in the community, at work and within government.
“Girls and women are rising up to shatter unfounded gender norms, and make history!”
But, times are changing. Girls and women are rising up to shatter unfounded gender norms, and make history!
From Malala Yousafzai becoming the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 2014, to Hillary Clinton recently becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major American political party, to the fact that 193 countries have committed to the Sustainable Development Goals, which specifically targets achieving girls’ and women empowerment through leadership and decision-making – it’s clear, the world wants to see more girls and women lead!
And this progress is not limited to the global stage! Around the world there are girls and women who don’t make the headlines but who are equally critical leaders, championing change locally and proving to their families and communities that girls and women have it in them to lead, and lead well.
Leading the fight to end child marriage: Tionge, Malawi
Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 46% of girls married before the age of 18. Determined to protect girls’ rights, 24-year-old Tionge joined a group of youth activists working to end child marriage.
Although child marriage was outlawed in 2015, a section of the country’s constitution still permits early marriage if the parents’ consent to it. Tionge is speaking out and has become a fierce leader on the frontlines, calling on government officials to amend the constitution and protect girls from forced marriage.
“A woman needs to be ready physically and mentally for marriage, it’s not something an 11-year-old girl can, nor should deal with, it’s just not fair,” shared Tionge. “This is what motivated me to do something about child marriage. I’m breaking all the preconceptions of what a girl should be doing – together with Plan International I’m talking to government officials and campaigning to try and make a change.”
Not only is Tionge making a difference by advocating for an end to child marriage, but she’s showing everyone the impact girls and women can make when they take a stand and lead!
Protecting children’s rights: Hope, Zimbabwe
In one of Zimbabwe’s biggest and most impoverished slums, children are unfortunately more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and neglect. However, Plan International is working in this community to break the cycle of poverty, and provide programs that empower children and youth, like Hope.
Hope has become a youth politician and representative at her school and within her community, whom children can come to for help, support and advice. Not just a listening ear, Hope is also about taking action!
“I’m not afraid to speak my mind,” said Hope, who takes issues the children of her community bring to her to local leaders. Hope is a leader who is making sure the rights of children and youth are getting the attention they deserve!
Amplifying the voices of girls: Nurfahada and Rose, Philippines
16-year-old Nurfahada and 19-year-old Rose are both outspoken advocates for girls’ rights. They raise their voices on issues like girls’ education, early pregnancy, and gender-based violence within their communities, and have joined Plan International at global conferences like Women Deliver, the United Nations General Assembly and the World Economic Forum to represent girls everywhere!
“What would happen to our community or country if there were no girls? Girls are important,” shared Rose. “If there were no girls, there would be no economic and social development. Respect girls and listen to their voices.”
Both Nurfahada and Rose are proud of the power their voices can play, and continue to take action in their communities. Rose is working with the local government on a project to protect the rights of girls, particularly those displaced by conflict, and Nurfahada continues to use her voice to speak out about gender inequalities.
It’s time the world recognizes girls like Tionge, Hope, Nurfahada and Rose as leaders because they’re speaking out, taking action, and making a difference! Girls and women are powerful forces for change, and tapping into their potential and leadership will create a brighter future for us all.
Spread girls’ empowerment!
Girls have a unique ability to change the lives of those around them – and the world! Unleash that power in girls across the globe by giving the gift of girl power through our Gifts of Hope program.